Voices: Jesus drives cell phone users out of the temple

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So, are you as tired of hearing cell phones go off in church as I am?

It seems as if every Sunday, either in the morning worship service or in my Sunday school class, I’ll hear a cell phone go off. It’s usually the case that the guilty party or parties get that “What, me worry?” look made famous by MAD Magazine’scover boy, Alfred E. Neuman. Then they rummage around, finally find the offending cell phone, and do whatever they have to do to get it to stop ringing, without in any way acknowledging their crimes.

To take it a step further, I’m particularly irritated by people who have set their phones on vibrate. These folk apparently believe that no one can hear a vibrating phone? And they also apparently believe that since the phone is only vibrating, there’s no rush whatsoever to turn it off? It’s prayer time; it’s offertory time; it’s one quiet time or another, and there’s that buzz of a vibrating phone. And these people usually don’t even have the decency to pretend they feel guilty.

OK, I’ll admit it; I turn and stare.

I reached a breaking point with cell phone use

A while back, I let all of this get to me, and I began to feel pleasantly angry. It’s true, I’ve never actually said anything to any of the individual violators, but the repeated offenses did get me thinking about an episode in the life of Christ, specifically, the time he was angry and drove the moneychangers out of the temple. So, I went back to the Gospels to read about that event, self-righteously certain that my anger would be OK.

I then did what no layman should ever do; out of curiosity, I looked up the Greek word for “moneychangers” to see where it appears in the New Testament. To my surprise, my online Greek lexicon showed that the word Kollubistes, translated in the King James Version as “moneychangers” or “changers,” appears only three times. It shows up once each in Matthew, Mark and John, and each usage is in telling that Gospel’s version of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple.

Finding biblical justification for my cell phone angst

Now stay with me because this is where it gets interesting. As I continued my research, I found an interesting variant translation of Kollubistes. You are not going to believe this, but Kollubistesis also the Greek word for “cell phone.”

And then it dawned on me. The King James translators made a mistake! Jesus didn’t cleanse the temple of moneychangers! He cleansed the temple of cell phone users! Evidence of this is in Mark’s Gospel. The very next verse (Mark 11:16) reads, “And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.”

Of course! “Vessel” is just another one of those archaic King James words. It means “cell phone” today! Jesus wouldn’t suffer any man to carry any cell phone in the temple. And we shouldn’t either.

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Taking matters in hand and a cell phone out of yours

I suddenly had my very first religious vision. I saw Jesus in my church’s worship services, I saw him in my Sunday school class, and he was driving the cell phone users out. I couldn’t wait to tell someone, and I emailed our associate pastor to tell him of my discovery. Just think: 2,000 years of church history, 400 years of the changing King James translations of the New Testament, and I—a mere layman—finally found the correct interpretation that eluded so many qualified New Testament scholars!

For some reason, our associate pastor was less than impressed with my scholarship. Just the same, the next time we met he had about 15 minutes’-worth of cell phone horror stories of his own to tell me, which took place in some of our Sunday morning worship services. I’ll spare you the details, but there were some doozies.

Honesty compels me to admit that I may—may—have exaggerated some parts of this essay for dramatic effect. Even so, my fellow Baptists, I implore you: silence your cell phones in church. It’s what Jesus did, and it’s what you should do too.

John N. Davis is an associate professor of management at Hardin-Simmons University. He and his wife, Connie, live in Abilene, where he teaches an adult Sunday school class at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church.

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