T HIS week, I am confined to a very interesting seminar on the history and theology of evangelism, which is keeping me occupied for 12 hours out of the day, every day (8 hours in the seminar, plus 2 hours travel there and back). Because of this, I will be taking the remainder of this week and sharing excerpts of some of the more interesting things that I have been reading of late, rather than the usual articles which I simply will not have time to write.
As yesterday was spent looking at the history of evangelism and many of the mistakes the church has made along the way (colonialism, anyone?), I thought I would share with you one of my favorite poems from the literary genius T. S. Eliot. The following poem is entitled ‘The Hippopotamus’ and it is a rather scathing critique on what Eliot, a Christian himself, saw at work in the church during his day. This poem was published in 1920, but I think the criticisms it embodies are still valid today. What do you think?
The Hippopotamus by T. S. Eliot
T HE broad-backed hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.
Flesh-and-blood is weak and frail,
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.
The hippo’s feeble steps may err
In compassing material ends,
While the True Church need never stir
To gather in its dividends.
The ‘potamus can never reach
The mango on the mango-tree;
But fruits of pomegranate and peach
Refresh the Church from over sea.
At mating time the hippo’s voice
Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,
But every week we hear rejoice
The Church, at being one with God.
The hippopotamus’s day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way–
The Church can sleep and feed at once.
I saw the ‘potamus take wing
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.
Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold,
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.
He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr’d virgins kist,
While the True Church remains below
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.
Do you think Eliot’s critique is still valid to the church today, nearly a century later?
‘The Hippopotamus’ by T. S. Eliot is in the Public Domain
Image Credit: Jinterwas