The Lower Room daily confessional: Serapion and Taliban

III.2. When [Serapion] could not be brought to the path of correct faith... Photinus, a man of very great knowledge, happened to come along from the region of Cappadocia with the desire of seeing the brothers who resided in that desert. The blessed Paphnutius welcomed him with great rejoicing...

III.3. Then he explained... Thereupon [Serapion], moved by the many very powerful statements of that most learned man, was finally drawn to the faith of the Catholic tradition.

III.4. When he gave his unconditional assent in this regard, Abbot Paphnutius and the rest of us were filled with joy.... But the old man... suddenly broke into the bitterest tears and heavy sobbing, and, throwing himself to the ground with a loud groan, cried out: "Woe is me, wretch that I am!

III.5. "They have taken my God from me, and I have no one to lay hold of, nor do I know whom I should adore or address."
-St. John Cassian, The Conferences
This is a story about James Pennington, a man whose betrayals were so sudden yet inevitable that even his friends nicknamed him "Taliban." I have no hesitations about using his full name, because he's dead.

James was dying when I met him; partly AIDS, partly a truly impressive refusal to abandon the habits that were killing him, like smoking anything that would burn, or inhaling his medications rather than taking them in the original capsule form.

This was before we moved a few years ago; I don't remember what the context was, but James brought up the Rapture, in a way that made it quite clear that he believed in it. And I, courtesy of following Slacktivist's takedown of Left Behind for all those years, couldn't let the opportunity slide.

As gently as I could, I lanced that theological boil of his. I told him that it simply wasn't in the Bible, at any rate not the Bible of the first eighteen centuries before Darby wrote it in. I told him that it was unbiblical, a subversion of the actual hope of the Gospel. I'm not sure how much else I told him; it was a few years ago, and the entire exchange didn't take more than a minute or so.

I remember Taliban's eyes being ever so slightly watery when he heard that. It's a bit late to ask now, but sometimes I wonder whether I lanced more than I thought.

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