JOHN ARMISTEAD: Religious concerns often depend on whose monument is gored

Lit Turgy had a swimming party at his mother's house the other afternoon. It had finally gotten warm enough for me to take my annual swim.

After I toweled off, I sat under the umbrella at the table with Nemo and Sissy. “Did I tell you all my 2-year-old grandson Ethan phoned last night?” I asked. “He said, Gramps, do you have a ghost?' At first, I wasn't sure I heard him right. Then he asked me again, and I said, Sure, we've got plenty of them. How many do you need?'”

“You're going to frighten him with silly talk about ghosts,” said Penny Kostle.

“No, I hardly think so,” I said. “He handled the phone to his father and went yelling around the house, wearing a sheet and chasing other ghosts.”

“Maybe he's just getting ready for Halloween,” said Gertrude Stein.

“I would hope he won't participate in the devil's holiday,” said the Rev. Bubba Voltaire. “Don't his parents know better?”

“They were raised to know it's all just a bunch of fun,” I said.

“I hope you also taught your son that people who think Halloween is evil are idiots,” said Gertrude.

“Surely, you don't mean that,” said Pharis Aical. “After all, even I believe celebrating Halloween is evil.”

“Case proved,” said Gertrude.

“I'm surprised to see you here,” Sappho said to Pharis. “I thought you'd be over in Montgomery with the rest of the Ten Commandment Protectors.”

“Did you know Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family has endorsed Judge Roy Moore's stand and is encouraging civil disobedience in regard to this issue?” Voltaire said. “He is asking his radio listeners to join in making a public stand to preserve the display of the Ten commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court Building.”

“Sorry, I'm late,” Japhy Ryder called out as he arrived at the pool. “I've been out at the mall collecting signatures, funds, and votes.”

“For what?” asked Dio Genes.

“I'm raising funds to have a monument made,” he said. “I think it ought to be displayed somewhere here in Mississippi. Maybe in the capitol in Jackson. I want it to be some place where people can see it when they walk in and be reminded this country was founded on religious ideals and principles.”

“Are you nuts?” asked Gertrude. “The courts won't stand for that. Don't you see what has happened in Alabama?”

Japhy nodded and gave a wry smile. “Well, I'm certainly not going to try to install the Ten Commandments, if that's what you mean,” he said. “It will not even specifically refer to Christianity, but it will symbolize the spiritual realm.”

“Do you really think you can do this?” asked Voltaire.

“I'm going to give it a try,” said Japhy. “All I need right now is enough money to get the project under way. I know a sculptor who can do the job.”

“I simply can't believe you're doing this,” said Sappho. “It's not like you.”

“You don t think so?” asked Japhy. “I think it's exactly like me.” He rubbed his hands together. “So, who wants to contribute?”

“I do,” said Pharis in a firm voice, picking up his billfold from a lounge chair.

“And count me in, too,” said Votaire. “Can you take a check?”

“Excellent,” said Japhy, handing Paris his clipboard. “And please vote for one and only one.”

“One what?” asked Pharis.

“I wanted something that would remind everyone of religion but, because so many folks feel Christianity shouldn't be shoved down people's throats, I thought maybe a stone carving of a sitting Buddha – you know, the smiling one? – or perhaps a carving of the Koran. So, you can vote for either the Buddha or the Koran. Personally, either is fine with me.”

Both Voltaire and Pharis stared at him with their mouths open, frozen in place like stone monuments.

John Armistead is the Daily Journal religion editor.

Click video to hear audio