Once upon a time, many years ago, there lived a guy named Hank. He was a regular fellow, and at about thirty or so years of age, he lived in the poorer part of a small town in the mid West. Each day, Hank would sweep out the local grocery story, and when he’d finished his stocking chores, he’d shoot the breeze with his buddies in the local bar or at someone’s home, and they all drank lots of beer. Hank had a good flair for telling stories and weaving some homespun philosophy into them, and people listened to him, usually agreed, and they always looked to him as a local friend. We can all live in peace, he had said, and the folks all agreed. He never had a girl friend.
Hank was raised in a state orphanage, as no one knew where he came from or what his origins were. He didn’t learn much in the orphanage, but he did show a talent for woodworking and, in that orphanage, he learned to be quite skilled at practical first-aid. When Hank went out into the world and started to work as a stock clerk, he was simply regarded as a nice, peaceful guy . . . nothing much else.
One day, one of the local girls fell into a nearby lake. Since Hank was close by with some friends, they all went to see what happened when a local sheriff pulled the girl from the water. Since she was not breathing, everyone there concluded that she had died. But Hank remembered his mouth-to-mouth. He applied what he’d learned, the girl breathed, and Hank was suddenly a hero.
A short time after, a man in the local bar swallowed too many peanuts one evening. Hank and his buddies were there. They watched this man start to choke and turn blue. Hank remembered his Heimlich maneuver, applied it, and the man upchucked the peanuts. All his friends were amazed, and the word about Hank got around. People now listened to him whenever he spoke in the bar, and they took his homespun advice, no matter how trite or incorrect it may have been.
About a month later, a young boy suffered a snake bite in the nearby wood. He was woozy when he finally reached home, and Hank was immediately summoned. Once again, Hank remembered his first aid. He made the cut, sucked out the poison, spat it out, and the young man eventually recovered. Now, Hank had become the town’s healer.
Word spread abroad about Hank, and the local towns and counties brought their sick and wounded to him for healing.
“Hank just hugged his choking friend in the bar,” went the rumors, “It was just a big love hug, and the friend was healed.”
“Hank drank poison,” said others, “so that the young boy would live.”
“And he was not affected by the poison,” said others. “This is surely a man of God.”
“Hank breathed the breath of life into a girl’s lifeless corpse,” said one gentleman, “and gave her the gift of life. I know,” he added. “I was there and actually saw him raise her from the dead.”
But the more Hank tried to minimize anything he’d done, the more the word was passed around. It was not long before a trickling of people from all over the state had heard of this young prophet and healer, and of his great works and deeds. A pilgrimage was planned.
The night before the mass of people arrived in the town, Hank and his buddies were, as usual, in the local bar drinking. After a multitudinous number of beers each, they staggered out into the nearby woods to relieve themselves. Since they were all so inebriated, most of them kept on walking and staggering to find a convenient place, not realizing they were veering toward the major highway that ran through the area.
Hank drunkenly wandered onto the highway, still looking for a large tree, and he yelled, “God, I need to go. I’d give anything to go . . . ” He never finished the sentence as he was hit by a speeding semi whose driver yawned for a moment and never saw Hank. The driver felt a minor “blump,” and thought little of it. Maybe another deer? He kept on driving, and Hank lay dead on the road.
After some moments, his friends found him. In their condition, they’d not heard the semi, among other occasional traffic noises, nor could they put together what had happened. But they all heard Hank yelling his last words.
As they pulled his body from the roadway, one spoke. “I heard what he said. His last words were – ‘I’d give anything to go’ ”
“I heard that,” said another. “He did. He gave himself for us.” They all agreed.
The fact that the eventual official coroner’s report declared the cause of death as “hit-and-run” made no difference to the local people. But the day after Hank’s death, when the many folks, from near and far, came to town, the stories were already well under way.
Hank threw himself in front of that semi to save his friends, the rumors said. He gave his life for us, his buddies reported. In doing this, many voiced, Hank with this symbolic gesture, actually saved all . . . those who both loved and hated him. The last words of “I’d give anything to go,” it was speculated, simply meant that it was his time to leave, and surely he would come again. But the next time he came, it would be with majesty and power.
And as the years went on, the rumors grew. After about forty years, many were tired of the oral traditions about Hank, and several tried to write their own accounts of his life and (what was now called) his ministry. The problem was that they all differed. So a committee of religious folks – pillars of the community – got together to decide which writings were genuine and which were not. Since the committee obviously believed they knew the “plain truth” about Hank, it was up to them to interpret all the writings and pass on a final version for all to read.
No photos (only blurred ones) were available of Hank. So the artists from near and far drew their impressions of how he actually looked. The results were confusion. He had short hair, dark hair; light skin, dark skin; he was short, he was tall; he had a mustache, he had no mustache; he only wore jeans, he only wore shorts; he liked T-shirts, he liked tank tops; he had a beard, he had no beard; and so it went. The committee again intervened to decide exactly how Hank looked. They gave their version, their decision, and everyone said, “Amen.”
People all over the country were now receiving the official Book of Hank, his likeness, and his edited philosophy. Many chose to raise buildings, churches, yea . . . even cathedrals to his honor. Meetings were held weekly, hymns to Hank were sung, and great oratory was thundered from each pulpit which was derived from Hank’s teaching and dogma. Since they could not determine the circumstances of his birth, the committee therefore determined that he must have been born in mid-winter in the snow, in impoverished circumstances, and therefore, he surely must have been born in a barn among cows. No other scenario made any sense to them. And so, that seemed acceptable to everyone. Even the heavens, it was determined, gave special twinkles on the night of his birth. Since that time was now considered holy, worship was an expected duty, praises of “King” were offered to Hank’s name, and gift giving and Hank-like drinking and celebrating were deemed as an acceptable celebration.
And so, they celebrated Hank’s birth with great festivity. Images of his nativity scene were made . . . the manger, the cows, and Hank’s parents looking down lovingly at a laughing and almost naked baby Hank in a rough wooden box on this freezing winter’s night. Lights decorated the many scenes, special music was composed and played in every home, and people came from all around to look in awe at all the variations of the birth scene, and many knelt and prayed to Hank. The towns and cities were awash with lights, decorations and rejoicing, the good news was announced to all, and all the stores made a fortune by selling gifts.
And so, it came to pass that in time, Hank’s doctrines were spread abroad. Missionaries went to far countries to preach this good news of Hank and the imminence of his Earthly return. Laws, statutes and ordinances were preached to all. Churches were established, rules were enforced, and the legends grew, until the knowledge of Hank covered the whole Earth.
But it wasn’t long before other nations took exception and many disagreed with the standard version of Hank’s doctrines. They decided Hank’s dogma must have been different, and more to their own particular flavor and preferred customs. His teaching, they reasoned, must have been more to their own individual nation’s interest, and not another’s, and any celebration would not be at the old stated time of the year, but at another time, coinciding with their own particular nation’s holidays.
And so, a huge difference arose between nations, as each nation claimed that their version of Hank was better than the other. “My Hank,” it was said, “is better than your Hank.” Since each nation believed that it alone was better guided by Hank than any other, each nation figured they had the only “plain truth,” and it was the responsibility of each individual country to set things right. All this was done and assumed as correct after they’d offered prayers in the holy name of Hank.
And while some countries praised the Book of Hank, others decided to re-write it with more of their own slant and more toward their own image and likeness. The differences were discussed over the many years, but no agreement was reached. Each country had their own version of Hank, and each believed that they were correct. But when one such meeting broke out in a fight, it was time for all to get serious.
War was declared. Each country went to war to defend their own sayings and beliefs about Hank and the peace among men that he had once taught. They ravaged each other’s nations, they destroyed each other’s cities, and they slaughtered anyone who didn’t agree with their personal doctrine of Hank. Each group had a crusade, and each sought for many conversions to their explanation of Hank and his teachings. In each one’s crusade, they ransacked cities and massacred anyone who opposed them. Heretics and infidels were put to the bullet, threatened, and thus, millions were thereby “converted” to another version of Hank.
Each country burned books that didn’t agree with their version of Hank’s teachings, and the educated of each nation were the first to be slaughtered. Anyone who questioned this methodology was immediately silenced, then executed. There was to be total agreement or total annihilation. To die for Hank was considered an honor. Billions were massacred.
And it came to pass, that in the course of time and many years, the wars took their ultimate toll. Each country was now destroyed. The cities were leveled, the countryside scorched, and the ecology ruined. The sun looked like a reddish blur through the clouds in the aftermath of multiple atomic wars, and eventually, there was no life remaining on the planet. Silence was everywhere as the charred Earth finally settled down for its rest, and the name of Hank was heard no more.
And God said, “It is good.”