A (Troubling) Parable


A Parable
by Lee C. Camp
From his book Who Is My Enemy?

A king went out to conquer, amassing great wealth and power. There came to him a people who asserted that some other was king, whom they called “Lord of Lords.” The king replied: you may freely worship this one you call “lord,” you may freely build your buildings and write your books and seek your converts to this one you call “lord.” But I shall rule the marketplace, and the army, and the public square. He shall be your personal “lord,” while I am your public king. I shall make the laws, and you shall obey them. I shall tell you what enemies to kill, and you shall kill them. I shall give you a marketplace, and you shall seek to maximize your profits and keep all your profits, even at the expense of the poor, or the widow, or the stranger, and thence you shall pay taxes with which we shall wage war against all who threaten your freedom to worship your personal “lord.”

And the people replied: We shall gladly do as you say, O king. Indeed, we shall obey your laws. And we shall seek great profit and keep all for ourselves. And we will kill your enemies, for you, O king, have allowed us to pray to our personal lord in our houses of worship, in the privacy of our closets. Even more, O king, because you have allowed us to worship thus, we will denounce all those who do not exalt you, and we will proclaim that you have granted us the right to worship, and we shall profess that any who do not obey your laws or maximize profit or kill your enemies are no servants of the private Lord of Lords. We will hang your standard in our halls of worship, we will honor those who fight your wars, and we will celebrate those who heedlessly maximize profit. Oh, grant us such liberty as this, O king!

The king was pleased, and his new subjects served him well and were happy and satisfied.

(The artwork is a 13th century fresco of Pope Sylvester I and Emperor Constantine.)