by David Sisler

The law suit did not settle the question of who has the "better ingredients" and the "better pizza," only who could not say they did. Pizza Hut sued Papa John's because of the latter's slogan, "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza." The penalty, announced a few days ago, declared that Papa John's must stop using the slogan and pay $468,000 in damages. The ruling, based on a claim of deceptive advertising, says it is okay for Pizza Hut to say that they have the "best pizzas under one roof." That, the jury said, is not a claim of superiority. You could have fooled me, but then a great many people would say that such an accomplishment is no great feat.

I was sitting a local breakfast joint, reading the paper, when a hand slapped me on the back causing me to spit hash browns into my black coffee.

"Whacha readin', Sisler?" a voice demanded. "How ya doin'?"

I knew who it was without looking up – Talmadge Haddon Barclay, scourge of the church. Tal can always be counted on to be solidly behind any position that is in total opposition to pastoral leadership. He can quote the Bible chapter and verse, but he never applies any of it to his own life. He will listen to your deepest secrets because he says he wants to make it a matter of prayer, and then makes it a matter of gossip. And if the church spreads a covering of mercy and grace over a fallen member, Talmadge will expose that transgression because "someone must uphold the standards of holiness."

(Talmadge Haddon Barclay is my creation, a personification of things not hoped for, the evidence of things we wish we did not see. It is with an acknowledged sense of irony that I chose his name from the names of three of Christianity's greatest preachers – T. Dewitt Talmadge, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and William Barclay).

"Been a long time, Sisler," he demanded. "Mind if I sit down?"

"Not long enough," I said. "And, yes, I mind."

He dropped onto the stool beside of me and snatched my paper across my plate, dragging scrambled eggs onto the counter.

"You reading about the law suit?" he asked.

"You always were astute, Tal," I replied, "especially since it is the only story on the page."

"We should sue someone. Make big bucks. Let's go to McDonald's. Go through the drive-up window and buy a cup of scalding hot coffee. I'll hold it between my legs, you hit a bump and we'll sue for damages when I burn myself."

"Only if you'd balance the cup on your head, Tal. Maybe the heat would unfreeze your brain. Besides, that has already been done, and that case should have been dismissed as an example of sheer stupidity."

"Oh, yeah," Tal mumbled through my last slice of toast. "Well, I have a sure-fired winner. We will sue God, and since he owns the cattle on a thousand hills, we are going to get rich.

"We'll start by deposing everyone who has ever sent money to a preacher because the preacher promised the giver would get rich. You know, ‘send me your money and God will bless you.' I know we can find people who mortgaged their lives to support the lifestyles of the rich and famous, received nothing in return and lost what little they had," he submitted.

"Tal, you twit," I said, "God's promises dealing with money do guarantee blessings in his kingdom, but never once do they support the greed of twisted theology."

"Next," he said, not losing steam, and not hearing a word I had said, "since God identifies himself as a healer, we'll bring in everyone who has been disappointed because they prayed for healing and were never healed. "

Again I pointed out the shaky ground of his position reminding him that not all prayers are answered right here and right now. "The oft quoted passage ‘and by his stripes they are healed' refers to spiritual healing as well as physical healing, and maybe even more so," I said.

"Finally, we'll get everyone who has died and gone to hell to testify that God is unfair, and that he uses cruel and unusual punishment," he said.

"You big dummy," I said, "you have forgotten John 6:37 – ‘He that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.' And John 3:16 – ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' You come. He saves. You stay away. He cannot save you. It is your decision."

But Talmadge had spotted another victim and with my newspaper tucked under his arm, he was off. But then he has been "off" for a long, long time.

"Toss out your law suits," I said to his departing back, "throw yourself on the mercy of the Court."


Published in The Augusta Chronicle 1/15/2000

Copyright 2000 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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