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One day, the owner of a disreputable inn, The Dog-Fighter, approached a preacher. “Come and preach at my inn. I think your message is important and should be heard by more people.”

The preacher hesitated. “I am not sure. From what I have seen, the patrons of your establishment seem interested only in conflict, for the mere sake of it.”

“Forget about that. A message like yours is rare and hardly heard these days. Don’t dark places need light? It’s important that they hear it,” said the inn-keeper.

“But I have preached those messages to people prepared to hear, in more appropriate venues. I am uncertain if your audience will hear it.”

“Don’t be so pessimistic. Listen, just come and preach one of the sermons on how we should worship God and behave in this world. My patrons need to hear it.” The preacher reluctantly agreed.

On the appointed day, the preacher arrived and went to the mess hall where the patrons were seated around tables, mugs of mead in hand. The room was dimly lit only by a fireplace and by wax candles in wine bottles on each table. The barely visible floor was sticky, and the reek was momentarily overpowering to the preacher. As he made his way to the centre, where a space had been made for him, he felt the cynical gaze of the patrons and heard rough chortles that led to wheezy coughs.

He began his sermon. He kept his remarks short and pointed, and for a time, not much was heard except his voice. Upon the sermon’s completion, the preacher remained in place to see if there would be questions or responses.

The silence was finally interrupted by a large, disheveled man, who slowly stood up, mug in hand, and growled to the group, “Gentlefolk, and noble patrons of The Dog-Fighter, this man has just insulted us. He is here to exalt himself, and belittle us.” Nods and grunts of agreement began.

“Thatsh right! Nothing but scorn and contempt for peoples like us!” said another. A chorus of approval went up.

“He shouldn’t be allowed to preach!” screamed a third. A unanimous, drunken roar of resentment was now filling the inn.

By this time, pieces of food were beginning to be thrown at the preacher. When his arm blocked the first bottle, he decided it was time to go. Before he could reach the door, he had been jostled, punched, and dowsed with some mead. There was laughter and back-slapping all round, and songs with obscene lyrics were now being bawled in unison by patrons swaying with their arms around one another.

As he reached the door, he saw the inn-keeper leaning against the wall, dishtowel hung over his folded arms. He looked pleased.
“I thought you said your patrons needed to hear this!” said the preacher.
“They do,” smiled the innkeeper. “But this is The Dog-Fighter, you know.”

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  1. Avatar David

    Jay Sax

    I love this. Thank you, David.

    The question of ‘the right time and place’ often comes up in personal considerations of serious discussion. It’s hard enough to answer someone who is worlds apart in terms of assumptions, world view, etc, without spending far more time, and expecting far more patience and sympathy, than can be found even in most direct, person-to-person exchanges, much less impersonal, almost anonymous, electronic contexts.

    Responding to a twisting of the truth is so tempting though! It’s so hard to let these things lie. Most recently it was someone who defended man-man marriage asking how anyone could be against love, as if that simple query settled the question for all people and all time. The lesson of the preacher and the Dog-Fighter is perfect for that, and so many other cases.

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