“This is really unfair,” Clark managed to say. “I’m struggling with this, just like everyone else.”
“Yeah. The strugglin’s true. But you’ve got three churches in this city, and from what I understand, none of them get along. They talk about love and unity and truth and blah-de-blah. Fact is, they spend more time swapping disgruntled members and bad-mouthing each other than doin’ anything constructive. And all the while, the poor remain unclothed and the hungry remain unfed.”
Clark mumbled, “We have a food pantry.”
“Reverend Clark,” Beeko chuckled, “you have the largest church in town, and we’re here debating whether or not God can perform miracles.”
“Listen, I’m not about to start a praise-a-thon because of some freak incident.”
“Yes, well…I can’t blame ya. Still, it lends credence to the theory.” Beeko walked to the desk, leaned against it, and folded his arms. “They say something evil’s over at Stonetree–something ancient, unnamed. By inference, you are all under its shadow.”
Something ancient, unnamed? The doctor was as mad as Keen!
“They can say what they want,” Clark grumbled. “Nothings forcing me to believe what I do. Besides, I thought you were middle-of-the-road. You know, uncommitted.”
“Yes. So I am.” Beeko sighed and eased up. “You’ve got something there about not goin’ ga-ga over the unproven. Lotta bandwagon believers. But when it comes to religion, it’s not always cut and dried. When I was a boy, growing up outside Bwari, a traveling evangelist came to town and stirred up a bunch of hoopla. His tent meetings attracted big crowds, and many claimed to be healed. Newspapers and TV crews came askign questions, and all kind of wild stories emerged. ‘Course, none of it could be verified. Until one night a woman from the outback brought her dead son. Said the boy’d died that morning. She traveled all day to get there, and when she walked to the platform carrying him he started shaking and coughing. They said he came to life. Of course, nothing could be substantiated. Still, the crowds came, and the stories continued. The lady went back to her village and converted every last one of them. To this day that small village is a Christian village. And it can all be traced back to that one little boy and his mother. Did he rise from the dead? Was it a miracle or a medical curiosity? Perhaps they struck a deal with some tribal deity. Who’s to say? For me, I’ll stay in the middle.”
Clark shook his head. He’d given up trying to contain his skepticism. “Part of me wants to believe in miracles. Really. But there’s so much abuse. Heck, ninety-nine percent of what people label as miracles or healings is probably emotionalism or just wishful thinking.”
“Yeah, but there’s still that one percent.”
Clark looked at the floor. It was clean and cold–like him. He had no more rebuttals. The end of his rope was fast approaching.
“Look, Reverend Clark,” Beeko seemed to sense his turmoil. “There’s a lot of chicanery in religion. And mystery. Even in my field, with all its advances, some things still go unexplained. Maybe this is a case of hysteria. Or maybe someone made a mistake, and there’s a reasonable explanation. However, there’s another possibility which you and I must face–as uncomfortable and messy as it might be. Maybe–just maybe–we have a miracle on our hands. A modern-day miracle. If that’s the case, no word-swapping or mental gymnastics will change that fact. If something–someone–is invading the dead zone, we’d best stop debating and get out of his way.”
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