AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you're a good Christian who doesn't fit any of this description, then you've got no reason to be offended. This is written for stiff-necked people like me who could use a good religious kick in the rear sometimes.
I've been asked to tell the story of the prophet Hosea to a Sunday school class. My version of the first few verses of chapter six will be a little less like a blockbuster movie, and a little more in the style of Barbara McBride-Smith, the great teller of tales with a Texas accent, from the Azalea Storytelling Festival.
"Here I am, Lord, all ready to be your great prophet. Can't wait to speak to speak to God's people. It'll be like a great reality show: 'Preachin' to the Stars.'"
"That's great, Hosea. Glad yer all fired up about it."
"All I need is to get me a wife. I want one of those as loyal as a gal in a Tammy Wynette song. She'll shoot like Annie Oakley, cook like Paula Deen, keep the house in order like the Supernanny, ride a hog like a Duck Dynasty wife as we go from town to town, and give great backrubs like Helga the masseuse from the Bellagio after I've had a long day in the pulpit."
God smiled. "I got just the lil' lady for you, Hosea."
Hosea stumbled into God's office a week later. "Er, boss, I don't mean to tell you your business, but I think you should redo that SWF ad you placed, and pick a classier spot than Craigslist. I mean, her name alone is Gomer! She's no Sarah Palin-type. I feel like Hillary, stuck with Bill! She sneaks out on me all the time with other guys for money! This ain't the TV show I thought I was getting. I was thinking more of the wife like 'Touched By An Angel,' but you gave me 'Real Housewives of Atlanta!'"
"Actually Hosea, I know exactly what I was thinking. You weren't as ready for preaching as you thought you were. You just figured you'd be going out to some remote Third World village where they never even heard of me. They'd greet you like the Ewoks in 'Return of the Jedi' and put you on a pedestal and sponge up everything you'd say like it was laced with honey."
"Well kinda "
"No, Hosea, I wasn't prepping you for Mayberry. This is Gotham we're talking about -- the big leagues, not single-A ball."
"I get that, Lord. But why'd you give me Gomer? How's having her gonna help me? I feel more like I'm in an episode of 'Mad Men,' instead of 'Highway to Heaven."
"That's because you gotta know your audience, Hosea. They call themselves God's People, but most days that's as close as they'll ever get. On the outside, they're the cute little church congregation on the hill in New England, but deep down they're Vegas in their hearts. They walk around with a Bible everywhere, but couldn't beat an atheist in a religion quiz. They think 'weekly service' is going to hear the preacher for an hour on Sunday, but wouldn't help the least of my people unless there was a tax incentive. They can't wait to tell everyone else what to do, but wouldn't spend a minute figuring out what they're supposed to do themselves. They'd put a monument of the Ten Commandments on a public square, but completely ignore my two commandments from the New Testament. I'm way down on their worship list, below their Hollywood, homes, Facebook, guns, and credit cards."
"I think I get the message, Lord. You fixed me up with Gomer because being with her is like preachin' to your people. I think I'm redoing my Powerpoint presentation now."
"And buy back Gomer, this time for good. Love her like the woman she really is, instead of resenting what she did to make a living, and she'll stick with you for life, just like my people will come back to me because I'll finally have a televangelist with a clue."
John A. Tures, associate professor of political science, LaGrange College; email@example.com.