A THOUGHT KEEPS PLAGUING ME: Could it be true that Dr. H. Mitchell Simpson, Ph.D., senior pastor of University Baptist, has called me a prophet? Unfortunately, it is reported by normally reliable sources that he did. Maybe even in public
I thought it was error enough when the state of North Carolina called me a "Statistician III" when I worked as, get ready for this, the Coordinator of Statistical Consulting for the Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
I was not, am not and, I can say with a high degree of confidence, never will be a "statistician," which point I can easily prove: I never took a single statistics course for credit. Ain't startin' now.
Further, in my view, statistician is parallel to engineer: someone who designs things. So, for example, an automotive engineer designs automobiles. Likewise, a statistician creates new statistical tests. I taught driver's ed.
But to the current point: I am not, I am relieved to report, a prophet. The last time I made a prediction that I was completely confident would come to pass was when I picked the Wildcats to win in the Kentucky versus Arizona game in my NCAA basketball championship bracket. Fortunately for me, the game didn't get cancelled.
I am not sure that the dear and kindly intentioned Dr. Simpson knew exactly what he was saying when he called me a prophet. I am concerned that he may have been tossing back a little too much of the communion grape juice.
This is what the Bible says about the presumptuous prophet, which is what I would be if I were a prophet, I presume. "But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die." (Deuteronomy 18:20)
Seriously, the Chapel Hill Herald does not pay me enough (or anything, for that matter) to justify my dying for my craft. Just to set Dr. Simpson straight (and God, as well, if necessary), when I quote God (or Jesus), I'm just kidding. I haven't actually heard directly from God (or Jesus). I just make the stuff up.
The way I figure it, I was made in the image of God. I have a sense of humor, so God must have one too. Just to be on the safe side, my jokes are never making fun of God. I assume, like everybody I know, He generally thinks my jokes are funny -- as long as they are about someone else.
Likewise, when I make up words and put them in the mouths of Roy Williams or Dean Smith, I want to make it clear that I am not speaking "in the name of other gods." I don't even really know who "other gods" are (although I vaguely remember something about Ahura Mazda from a Religions of the World class I took my sophomore year in at the highly esteemed and formerly marginally Baptist Furman University.)
In any case, Roy and Dean could not be considered "other gods" -- they are the primary deities here in Chapel Hill.
Anyway, if this "compliment" was Dr. Simpson’s way of fishing for an offer of my ghostwriting services to him, sorry, it ain’t gonna work. Communing with the spirits of the dead is what got ol’ King Saul in trouble with God, so I ain’t goin’ there.
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Speaking of prophetic voices
The world is just a little less today than it was just a few days ago. The print edition of the Weekly World News passed from this earth with its last hardcopy issue being sold last month. Nestled among the tabloids at the grocery store checkout, the Weekly World News never received its due as cutting edge journalism, as the harbinger of the future of news.
Before Janet Cooke of the Washington Post had her Pulitzer revoked, before Jason Blair fabricated story after story for the New York Times, before Dan Rather could be the dupee and would-be duper by passing along transparently phony documents over at CBS News, the WWN was there making up news from whole cloth.
Sophisticated readers and highly educated journalists like me mourn its passing.
While the WWN continues in its online format, I am sure we all agree that reading phony news on the web is just not as satisfying as it is when you are staining your fingers while reading ink on paper.
Gary D. Gaddy has twice attended University Baptist Church, once to see the "Cotton Patch Gospel" and once for the memorial service for John Lotz, who, if he wasn't a prophet, was one of the great evangelists ever to live in Chapel Hill.
A version of this article appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday October 4, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy