Today we are blessed to have a word from Bro. KindofBored. Be sure to visit his book table in the back after the message.
As a youngster, I often heard the “Fence or Ambulance” poem as a cautionary tale against getting too close to the cliff of sin. The moral was that it’s far better to stay as far away as you could from sin, as an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure (a fence on the cliff is better than an ambulance down in the valley to spirit the careless and clumsy to the hospital). Doesn’t sound too bad, right? If your property is bounded by a busy highway, you don’t encourage your children to play on the curb.
As with many misguided fundyisms, though, a sensible concept has been taken and run with all the way out yonder past the Back Porch of Rational Thought and into the Briar Patch of Lunacy. Let’s follow the progression from sensible to nonsensical: Unless you’re a properly equipped BASE jumper, falling from cliffs is bad. Got it. To prevent this bad thing from happening, boundaries at the tops of cliffs can keep folks from slipping over the edge. So far, so good.
Here’s where it goes haywire:
1. The fundy leader gets to decide what constitutes a cliff.
2. One cliff-size fits all.
3. The fundy leader decides where the fence goes.
Ah. This is where the fun starts, as the fundy managawd has some serious leeway here. If he determines that the cliff is rock music, then the fence may be a prohibition on listening to anything thatâ€™s not a hymn. Or, it may be a demonization of guitars and drums. Or, that satanic alternate third beat may get tossed out the window.
If the cliff is alcoholism, then the fence will be the banning of all alcoholic beverages (and, if they really want to set a good fence, they’ll ban IBC root beer, what with the salaciously shaped bottles that just scream at you to drink beer).
If the cliff is immodest attire on women, then the fence is no pants, skirts-below-the-knees, no visible collarbone, nylons at all times, etc.
If the cliff is shameful long hair on men, then the fence is to have Mrs. Deaconswife taper the men and boys’ hair at least an inch above the ear and seven inches above the collar.
If the cliff is taking a brother before the law, then the fence is to make the victim of his sexual lust take responsibility for the rape and apologize to the church and his wife (and maybe move her out of state). Oh, wait — that doesn’t make sense. How did that get there?
You see, if you set the fence waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy away from cliff, then you’re fulfilling the mandates to “come out from among them and be separate” and “touch not the unclean thing” and “remove not the ancient landmark” and “a stitch in time saves nine” and “wait an hour after eating before swimming.” Such a testimony you’ll have with your community as your family parades around town in July with every square inch of your women’s bodies covered in a burqua — I mean, with long sleeves, long hemlines and high collars as the males proudly display their sunburned whitewalls.
Don’t agree with the fence that your managawd has erected in your living room? Think that he’s making a cliff where the Bible is silent (like that ever happens)? That brings us to the next point:
4. If you disagree, then there’s sin in your heart.
You see, in fundyland, there’s no room for Christian liberty. There’s only the slippery slope leading from the backside of the fence to the cliff’s edge. It doesn’t matter if the managawd sees fit to move the fences from time to time or if he sets a fence at differing distances for different people, as he’s still right with each placement; you’d understand if you prayed more or something. You’d better get your heart right, brother or sister, and bring yourself back into compliance with the pastor’s teaching on this vital subject. After all, becoming a shipwreck is a cliff, so get on the safe side of the fence by listening to your leadership and believing every little thing that falls out of their faces.
Note: if you try to use the concept of fences and ambulances to say that hard-core fundyism is a cliff well, then, brother, I’m scraping the dust off of my sandals as we speak. I might even hit you with a fence post.