A Word of Encouragement (?) from H. Allen Smith
For those of you out there who don’t know the name, H. Allen Smith was a journalist and humorist of the 1940s and 1950s. I’ve admired him for years, ever since reading his book, Lost in the Horse Latitudes. However, in preparing this blog post, I learned a few new things about him, like the fact that his first name is Harry and his second middle name is, incredibly, “Wolfgang” (I’ll bet the kids in grade school had a field day with that one!).
It is probably safe to say that he was the epitome of the hard-bitten reporter, and almost everything he wrote was sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek. So when you read the following quote from him (you were probably wondering why I was talking about this guy, weren’t you?), you have to realize that he’s really just pulling your leg. So, here goes:
In America we know writers for what they are—insufferable troublemakers. Unless he can catch a lot of fish like Ernest Hemingway, a man who writes in America is a man who is incapable of making an honest living, a pantywaist sort of person indulging in a profession that is close kin to working in needlepoint, rug hookery and crying at weddings.
Aren’t you glad I warned you? Smith goes on to say that when he applied for a passport in New York, he made the mistake of identifying himself as a writer. While other professions were processed through quite quickly, he was cross-examined at some length!
Why do I call this a word of encouragement? Well, let’s look at the point of his comment. You have to realize he’s telling us not what he really believes (he’s a writer himself), but what society at large thinks of us writers.
I’d like to say that the church has a different attitude, but I’m not so sure about that! And maybe that’s to be expected. Christian writers often have a prophetic function in the church, and as Jesus said, we don’t like to listen to a prophet’s words until he’s safely dead, buried in his nice, tidy, whitewashed tomb.
Why? Because we’re troublemakers, that’s why. We shake up the status quo, butcher sacred cows and generally make a nuisance of ourselves. After all, what was the first thing nasty old King Ahab said when he saw Elijah? “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17). Elijah was called a troublemaker, so why shouldn’t we?
So let me, and H. Allen Smith, give you this word of encouragement: Go out there and stir up some trouble, in the spirit and power of Elijah!