An American Frog Fable

by WALT BRASCH

The First United Church of the Knowledge of Universal Truth decided last week not to ordain any frogs. To find out why, I visited the Rev. Matthew Mark Johnson.

I approached him as he finished blessing the ceremonial offerings plate. "Rev. Johnson," I asked, "the frogs-rights groups are upset with your Board’s decision. What are your reasons?"

"The Bible tells us that frogs are nothing but problems."

"The Bible tells you that?" I asked suspiciously.

"Right there in Exodus. God said he’d smite all of Egypt with frogs if the Pharaoh didn’t let the Jews be free. It proves that God was so ticked off he had to find the most loathsome creature he could to punish the Pharaoh. Do you know how bad it must be to be smited by, of all things, frogs?"

"But God used the frogs to help the Jews. It’s not that the frogs did anything God didn’t want to be done."

"Bad is bad," said the Rev. Mr. Johnson. "Turn to Revelations," he commanded. "John says that he saw three unclean spirits that looked like frogs come from the mouth of the dragon. That proves it! Not only are frogs loathsome creatures, they’re also unclean."

I tried to interrupt, but the anti-frog minister wasn’t about to let another view meddle in his logic.

"Even Shakespeare hated frogs. Right there in Macbeth. The witches brewed the most horrible concoction they could. What do you think was in it?! Eye of newt and toe of frog!"

"This is ridiculous," I said. "Are you sure there’s nothing deeper to your decision to ban frogs from the ministry?"

The Rev. Mr. Johnson cleared his throat, looked at me carefully, then somberly explained: "They’re green."

"They’re green?" I asked incredulously. "That’s it? Because they’re green!"

"Green conflicts with our basic color scheme. It’s not as if we’re the only religion not to like color. For the longest time, a lot of churches didn’t allow anyone who’s black to be ordained, let alone be a member, so I guess that green is just as good a reason as any." He thought a moment, then added, "Of course, I guess there might be another reason."

"I thought so!" I said, now writing furiously in my note pad.

"Frogs also have webbed feet. It’s against the laws of God for ordained ministers to have webbed feet."

I stopped writing. "Now, let me get this straight. You don’t want to ordain frogs because they’re green and they have webbed feet?"

"That’s right. Webbed feet is not God’s wish for humanity. Webbed feet is a sign of breaking with God’s world of five-toed feet. It’s immoral and a sin. A sign of willful rebellion."

"Shouldn’t the Church recognize that even frogs have faith?" I asked.

"The Bible tells us to love all creatures, and that we are all part of the Lord. But, nowhere does it say that frogs should be ordained."

"But what about their knowledge of Scripture or whether frogs have the ability to lead people? Shouldn’t that count for something?"

"You think that frogs can lead people? Have you ever seen a frog walk? There’s no one who’s going to hop to church on Sunday mornings."

"But, most frogs seem to be so much more respectful and honest than many of your own parishioners," I pleaded in the frogs’ defense.

"I agree," said the minister, "and the ministry should offer models of integrity, morality, and honesty–if at all possible. And, I do admit that some ministers do stray from the paths of righteousness on occasion. But, at least they’re not green, they don’t have webbed feet, and they never smited anyone!"

Forgetting my role as an objective reporter and lapsing into an impassion plea, I cried out, "frogs are wonderful creatures who should be given a chance to preach the will of God!"

The Rev. Matthew Mark Johnson looked at me sharply. "You ain’t a frog in disguise are you, boy? You ain’t trying to take over this here church, are you?"

"Oh, no sir!" I said. "I’m just trying to find out why frogs can’t be ordained if they have every other ability."

"You’re trying to cause us serious trouble," said the Rev. Mr. Johnson, "and I don’t care to discuss this issue any more. Now, if you’ll leave me alone, I have to go watch an important television show. Never miss it. Even better in re-runs than first time I saw it."

"What show is that?"

"The Muppets."

WALT BRASCH is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, a former newspaper reporter and editor, and author of 12 books. His latest book is Sex and the Single Beer Can; Probing the Media and American Culture.

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