Lazy writing, uninspired preaching

Earlier today, I posted a note on Facebook concerning a Ralph Compton western novel I’m in the midst of.  Apparently the protagonist, a fellow named Nathan Stone, is riding a super horse.

The novelist has Stone leaving New Orleans heading toward “Indian Territory”–which must mean Oklahoma–and at the end of the first night, he beds down below Shreveport at Winnfield, Louisiana.  “Wait just a cotton-picking minute,” I thought and checked the google map.

From New Orleans to Winnfield is 250 miles.  Can a horse carrying a rider do that in one day?

The author had them arriving at their destination in two more days.

A few friends opined that this is a novel, it’s fiction, and the author can do anything he pleases. It’s called artistic license.  But not so fast…

We do require a little verisimilitude (been looking for a chance to use that word!) even in novels. (That is, it must look real at least on the surface.)  I’m recalling the Civil War novel in which some guy gets off the train in Birmingham.  That’s when I stopped reading and threw the book away.  Birmingham did not exist during the Civil War, was incorporated around 1870, and thus carried the nickname “The Magic City” for the speed with which it sprang up and grew.

One more?  In a previous book, author Ralph Compton (or one of his surrogates) has the same Nathan Stone in New Orleans and  “enjoying the cool breezes off the Gulf.” Had the writer bothered to look at a map, he would have seen that New Orleans is a hundred miles north of the Gulf of Mexico.

Someone on Facebook commented that this is why he preferred the books of Louis L’Amour.  I regret to say that L’Amour, celebrated for his realism and accuracy, may have been no better at getting the details right.  In one book, he has a bad guy killed, but later in the story that same fellow is alive and active.  When asked, L’Amour said, “My readers don’t care about that kind of thing.”

I beg to differ.  In the first place, even though I read practically every book of his when he was alive, I do not consider myself one of “his readers.” I’m a customer.  I bought his books and read them and enjoyed them for a time, until he became lazy and preachy and repetitive.

In the second place, he was dead wrong about what “his” readers expect.  Even readers of western novels want the author to get things right.  What L’Amour should have said was that he–not his readers– did not care about that sort of thing.  And that,  L’Amour customers  will recall, is directly contradictory to the biographical stuff at the end of each of his book where it is claimed everything he says is accurate. “If he says there is a stream there, there is a stream there.”

All of this is hardly important in the grand scheme of things.  But I’ll tell you what is…

We have a right to expect our leaders–government, political, educational, and ministerial–to speak truth.

After each presidential debate this year, the next morning we can look for articles claiming to be “fact checks,” in which the claims of candidates are examined and shown for what they were.  Rare is the candidate who deals carefully and conservatively with statistics and quotes.

I’m a pastor.  I’m far more interested in preachers getting these things right than politicians.

We are representatives of the One who said “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life.”

If we cannot speak the truth when we stand in the pulpit, we should stand down.

I cannot count the times I have heard over the years of preachers being called to account for their slanderous attacks on people from the pulpit. When it turned out they had their facts wrong and simply did not know what they were talking about, almost every one blamed someone else. “Well, I got this from Evangelist So-and-so.”  “I read it off a flyer.”

Sadly, many of our churches are filled with vultures.  They love to feast on dead carrion, on the rottenness in our society.  And some preachers know how to feed it to them.

I cannot stop them. But I can make sure I get it right.

I will maintain a high standard of faith and faithfulness.

I may not please the crowd that wants all the dirt on celebrities in my sermons, but I can please the One who sent me.  And I’d a thousand times rather do that.


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