The Modern Day Snake Oil Salesman

Here ye, here ye. Come one, come all to the town square and meet the man who can cure your every ailment, your every malady and sickness with just one spoonful of his special elixir being sold only today”. So goes out the edict from the town crier as yet another snake oil salesman comes into town.

A snake oil salesman is simply someone who deceives people in order to get a desired end. What comes to mind is the long covered wagon pulled by a team of horses which sets up in the town square in some rural town.  

He comes promising a desired end, and end to suffering and pain, to sickness and disease. He preys upon the opportunity the lack of adequate health care provides by offering the healing folks of the town so desperately seek. It doesn’t matter the malady, the affliction, the abnormality. Just one spoon full of this elixir from this bottle will cure it all. And that cure you’ve so long sought for can be yours for a low, low price of just a few pence. What these poor people get is not health but fraud. Its not wholeness they receive that they’ve waited so long for, but theft,.. theft of their money and eventually their hope.

Sad to say, in the current Methodist environment, we also have those around us selling snake oil, promising folks a hoped-for destiny while deceiving them into a desired end, the desired end of the one selling the oil.

And what is the cure-all elixir being solicited in the United Methodist town square? It’s a large amber bottle marked General Conference 2024. “Oh, if only you wait”, cries the slick salesman. “If only you put off that much needed to be made decision”. “If only you wait until the General Conference 2024, then you will see that there will be another exit ramp for you, with even better terms then those exiting under Paragraph 2553”. “If only you buy this ‘wait and see’ elixir, then all your troubles will pass you by”.

That’s the pitch being made. And the product is apathy, idleness, doing nothing but waiting because waiting somehow isn’t something we’ve been doing for decades now. And it’s worked so well that some have bottled it up in an attempt to sell it all over once again.

What the slick salesperson won’t tell you is that we don’t even know for certain if there will even be a 2024 General Conference. Variant #4729 of the Covid virus might kick off and close down the entire world again. And then we would be doing the 2020 GC in 2028 with then two more to catch up on before the 2032 GC. That we all don’t know for sure. But what the salesman does, or at least should, know is that many churches have left or are leaving under Paragraph 2553. And not only are they taking their churches and leaving but they are taking their traditional orthodox delegate voters to the 2024 General Conference with them. They should know, and most likely do know, that this will make the delegate pool far, far, more liberal and progressive-leaning during that 2024 conference. They will finally achieve a majority. And, they will finally achieve what they’ve so longed for these many years; a more progressive, inclusive and extra-biblical UMC. Call me a pessimist but I simply don’t think that another off ramp, or even simple grace toward churches wanting to leave, will be the highest priority, if prioritized at all. Nope, sorry, I just can’t buy that.

But what about Africa? What about a Methodist world morphing into an African, allegedly conservative, majority? Well, I can’t get in line to buy this product either. Africa is not a monolithic Africa. It is regionalized with dozen of regionalized priorities and although they tend to be in general more conservative, they are not lock, stock & barrel. And, in the coming 2024 General Conference, and frankly every GC thereafter, they face a litany of visa and travel issues.

But, you see, the snake oil salesman seeks an end where, after finally achieving a ruling majority, there will be still something to rule over. And your church’s untimely exit diminishes their dreams of a vast kingdom over which to rule. The ailment and malady that troubles you now is that you are painfully aware of you and your church’s desire to hold fast to that which was once delivered to the Saints. It’s your eagerness to remain faithful to His word and in a connectional relationship with others who are likeminded, and your realization that you simply can’t do that anymore in the current environment. They know that you know that. And so, they must sell the elixir that will put a reasoning mind to sleep. They must sell the empty promise of better things to come, “if only you simply wait…..just wait and see.”

Folks, everyday people make unnecessary purchases. They buy things that they don’t need, things that even are a detriment to them. Even I have bought the dreaded timeshare that you can never get rid of. But the elixir dripping from the bottle marked General Conference 2024 is so obvious, one just might have to be fully asleep to buy it.

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