Tawkin' Ta Dead FolkRUSSELL L. FORD
One fellow is a convict they call the Rite Reverend Doctor Elder Johnny Lee.
I do not know the figures, but I suspect the rate of functional illiteracy in Alabama’s prisons is at least thirty percent. This explains one reason why a state populated by three million people has approximately fifty thousand people under the authority of corrections and probation authorities. (That’s a whopping 1.6 percent of the population, folks!) It also explains some of the characters to whom I have introduced you over the years.
One fellow is a convict they call the Rite Reverend Doctor Elder Johnny Lee. The poor man can’t read a word. Even worse, he doesn’t seem the least interested in learning. I will give him credit where credit is due, thou. The Rite Reverend Doctor Elder has the capacity to commit to memory more Scripture passages than anyone I’ve ever known, and he is sincere in his zeal for his brand of Christianity.
Indeed, it was his zeal that forced our most recent debate. Thanks to the intercession of the poor souls in purgatory, the Holy Spirit has been sending us inquirers and catechumens in droves. The increased evangelistic activity has caused no small amount of alarm among the Fundamentalists. Every accusation Jack Chick ever leveled against the Church (and a bevy of others he would use if he knew about them) has been volleyed at our guys. But the problem is, the Fundamentalists direct them only to the convicts who don’t know how to defend the things they are being taught. They refuse to go to those of us who can offer a defense. No guts.
Well, I had had enough.
I told our boys what to do the next time they faced one of those ludicrous attacks: Grab the guy by the arm and pull him down to my cell. It was time for the mother lion to protect her cubs. It just happened that the Rite Reverend Doctor Elder was the first one snared while Bubba and I were discussing sacramental theology.
LEE: Lemme go! Quit! Ah don’t wanna in that!
BUBBA: Looky that, Bucket! Jim Ed done snatched ‘im a biggun! Whatcha got thar, Jim Ed
JIM ED: Ah gots me a orney cuss what won’t fight fair on that Cath’lick-ism stuff? Ah done what ya tolt me, Bucket Here he is.
BUCKETHEAD: (laughing) Hello, Johnny. How are you doing?
LEE: Kidnapped! Ah bin kidnapped! What’s goin’ on? Is ya fixin’ to sacrifice me er somethin’?
BUBBA: Sounds like a good idea to me! Whatcha thank, Bucket?
BUCKETHEAD: Down, Bubba. I think Johnny really believes we mean him harm.
BUBBA: Ya mean we don’t? At least lemme give ‘im some baseball bat therapy!
BUCKETHEAD: Bubba! Please shut up and sit down!
BUBBA: Ya want me to do both? At the same time?
BUCKETHEAD: Chill out, Johnny. We won’t hurt you. Surely, even you don’t think that badly of Catholics.
LEE: Ah dunno. Yall kilt ’nough of us o’er the years. Ah ain’t s’posed ta ‘spec’ any more from y’all what listen ta the antichrist.
BUCKETHEAD: Jim Ed, why don’t you enlighten us as to what’s going on here. Oh yeah, and put Johnny done.
JIM ED: But he might git away!
BUCKETHEAD: Jim Ed, when I told you to grab these guys by the arm and bring them to see me, I didn’t mean for you to take me literally. All I meant was for you to get them to talk to me.
JIM ED: Oh, sorry. (Puts Lee down)
BUCKETHEAD: Apparently Johnny was badgering you about the faith. What was it this time?
LEE: Ah tolt ‘im the truth! Ah seen ‘im fingerin’ that ros’ry thang an’ tolt ‘im he was worshipin’ MAY-ree! Shambalambaloo!
BUCKETHEAD: Yeah. Rama-lama-ding-dong to you too, Johnny. So what’s your problem? Is it because we pray to Mary?
LEE: Ya betcha! Ya ain’t s’posed to be prayin’ to nobody ‘ceptin’ God! GLO-ree! Testifyin’! An’ prayin’ to MAY-ree makes ‘er equal to God!
BUCKETHEAD: Bubba, run and get me a King James Bible real quick.
BUBBA: Oh, boy! This is gonna be great! (Bubba leaves.)
BUCKETHEAD: So, Johnny, are you telling me you have a problem with intercessory prayer?
LEE: Wi’ what?
BUCKETHEAD: Do you have a problem with us asking Mary to be a mediator for us?
LEE: Ain’t no mediator twixt God an’ man ‘ceptin’ JEE-zus. Hal-ay-loo-ya! Shammaloo!
BUCKETHEAD: So far we completely agree, Johnny. Jesus is our mediator between us and the Father. But is there any reason why we can’t ask Mary to present our prayers to her Son? (Bubba returns and hands Bible to Buckethead.) Thanks, Bubba.
LEE: Course not! Ain’t no Bobble teachin’ what says we need antone ‘cept JEE-zus.
BUCKETHEAD: Oh? Are you familiar with the story of Job?
LEE: Shore! What’s that gotta do wi’ anythang? Ya ain’t tryin’ ta trick me agin, is ya?
BUCKETHEAD: No, Johnny. All I want to show you is that the Bible does teach that we can have others present prayers on our behalf. Look at Job 42, verses 7 and 8.
LEE: Ya ain’t usin’ one o’ them Cath’lic Bobbles, is ya?
BUCKETHEAD: Johnny, you heard me send Bubba to get a King James, didn’t you?
LEE: Oh yeah. Well jus’ so’s ya gots the real Holy Bobble. If’n Ah cain’t use the one ol’ Paul used, then Ah ain’t usin’ nothin’!
BUCKETHEAD: One of these days I’ve got to have a long talk about that with you, Johnny. Let’s get back to Job. The passage says: “And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job has. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him I will accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.’” Did you catch that, Johnny? Not only did God command that Eliphaz and his two buddies get Job to pray for them, but he refused to accept their prayers!
LEE: Hmmm. Yeah, well, that don’t matter none. All that was afore JEE-zus come ta save us. Thank ya JEE-zus!
BUCKETHEAD: Okay, Johnny, then lets see what the New Testament has to say on the issue. Look here at Romans 15:30. Paul says, “Now I beseech you, brethern, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” Here the great apostle Paul is ordering intercession. This could be compounded in his own writings. Paul pleads for intercession in 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Hebrews, and elsewhere. Asking the saints to pray for us, then, is both pleasing and commanded. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write these things. If intercession is wrong, the Holy Spirit is wrong.
LEE: Ah gots no problem wi folks prayin’ fer each other. That ain’t what’s wrong. What’s wrong is y’all prayin’ ta dead folks. Them folks y’all call saints, like MAY-ree, is all dead.
BUCKETHEAD: All right, then, let’s go to 2 Corinthians, the fifth chapter. We’ll look at verses 1,6 and 8. Paul writes:” For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.... Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are home in the body, we are absent from the Lord... We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Paul is talking about preferring to live in heaven rather than on earth. God granted Paul’s and Jo’s prayers on earth. Paul prayed to Jesus with confidence. So what happens in heaven? Is Jesus supposed to say, “Hush, Paul. I heard your prayers on earth while you were a sinner, but now that you’re in heaven I won’t listen to you”?
LEE: Course JEE-zus hears Paul an’ others what’s in heaven. Y’all still wrong, though on accounts them folks cain’t hear yore prayers ta them!
BUCKETHEAD: Then explain Revelation 5:8: “And when he had taken the book the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials of odours, which are the prayers of saints.” There it is, Johnny. How would the elders be able to present the prayers of the saints on earth to the Lamb if they couldn’t hear their prayers?
BUBBA: He gotcha now, fat bo’! Ah jus’ love it when Bucket-head outsmarts one o’ ya good stupid—
BUCKETHEAD: Stop it, Bubba! Remember what Father told you about that. (Bubba grumbles.)
LEE: Ah dunno. All thank maybe ya done went to twistin’ stuff ‘round on me. But here’s one ya cain’t get outta. That ros’ry thang is jus’ repetition in prayer, an’ JEE-zus says that’s what heathens do. That means y’all heathen!
BUCKETHEAD: Johnny, in your opinion as a Rite Reverend Doctor Elder, can the Holy Spirit or the Bible ever be wrong?
LEE: Cain’t nothin’ wrong never come from the Holy Ghost or the Holy Bobble.
BUCKETHEAD: What about you, Johnny? Can you ever be wrong about a teaching from the Bible, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit?
LEE: Nope! Ah cain’t never be wrong, on accounta the Bobble cain’t be wrong, on accounta the Holy Ghost cain’t be wrong!
BUCKETHEAD: I submit, Johnny Lee, that either you are wrong about this or the Bible and Holy Spirit are wrong!
LEE: That’s blasphemy, Buckethead! Ya goin’ to hell, bo’! Ah’m tellin’ ya, ya goin’ to hell!
BUCKETHEAD: I’ll agree with you that neither the Bible nor the Holy Spirit can be wrong. You, on the other hand, can be and are wrong about this, Johnny. If I can prove you’re wrong, will you admit it and study the catechism with me?
LEE: Cain’t happen!
BUCKETHEAD: Let’s just see about that. Would you agree that the psalms are prayers inspired by the Holy Spirit?
LEE: Course they is!
BUCKETHEAD: Then let’s look at the Psalm 13 6. Did you see this, Johnny? No less than twenty-six times the psalmist prays “for his mercy endureth forever,” If repetition is wrong, then both the Bible and the Holy Spirit are wrong. The Holy Spirit needs to get its act together and fall in line with you, or you need to admit you'’e wrong!
LEE: That was Old Testament teachin’!
BUCKETHEAD: Then look in Matthew 26. Verse 39 says: “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.’” Then see what Jesus did in verse 42: “He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, ‘O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.’” Finally, verse 44 says: “And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.” See, Johnny? If you’re right, Jesus better get his act together, too! If this isn’t repetition in prayer, I don’t know what is. The problem, Johnny, is with vain repetition.
LEE: Naw it ain’t! Ah don’t know how ya done it, Buckethead, but ya done went an’ twisted the Bobble ‘round agin! It’s that of Cath’lic demon in ya! All pots to try to save ya! Shammaloo!
BUBBA: Ya put ta holt ta’im agin, Jim Ed, whilst Ah git mah baseball bat! He’s goin’ off!
As is typical of Fundamentalists of the thick-head school, the Rite Reverend Doctor Elder Johnny Lee wouldn’t let me finish. The reason he broke off the dialogue is the same reason such people always break it off: fear. People such as the Rite Reverend are afraid the Catholics could actually be right about something. Well, we are.
Ford, Russell L. “Tawkin’ Ta Dead Folk.” This Rock (November 1997): 20-22.
This Rock, the magazine of Catholic apologetics and evangelization, is published eleven times a year by Catholic Answers Inc., Subscription rates are $29.95 for one year. Subscription requests should be sent to This Rock, P.O. Box 17490, San Diego, CA 92177
Russell L. Ford is an inmate in an Alabama prison, where he engages in apologetics work.
Copyright © 1997 This
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.