The first ever Pastoral of New Luddle was a nice man called Father Mastiff. Trouble was, he had very little to work with, no bible, no perfunctory routines, no guidelines, no blueprint. Who knew when to genuflect, when to stand, sit, join in, keep quiet? Certainly not Father Mastiff. When starting off in an invented religion it’s very much a case of ad lib to begin with (the lesson learnt). Fortunately, Father Mastiff was a pretty good ad libber. One of the best in fact. His improvised metaphors and analogies were so convincing that, as with any good religion, they soon, with a bit of time, became truth. They became the belief. The guideline, the blueprint.
And God is watching us. Because he is all around. He is everywhere. And he can see us. All of us. With his eyes. His many eyes because each one of those tomatoes out there, each and every one of those are his eyes. Those are God’s eyes people. He is watching us.’Father Mastiff, Sermon 5, somewhere near the end.
This ‘tomatoes being God’s many eyes, always watching them’, at some point stopped being an inspirational and guiding metaphor and became a kind of transcendental truth that Ludlows actually believed. Only after years and years and after the religion was so cemented into the colony’s consciousness that it could never be ousted, did the odd young Ludlow begin to ask questions like, ‘hang on, isn’t that just a metaphor, the tomatoes on the plants aren’t actually God’s eyes are they? I mean not really.’ Some replied, ‘actually yes, they are actually God’s eyes, so you had better watch out young man.’ Others said ‘no, of course they’re not actually God’s eyes, but the process of transubstantiation would make them God’s eyes, so in effect they could be God’s eyes if you think about it.’ While some of the old sages of New Luddle would say, ‘it is not for us to understand, but for him to tell us.’
Once, a youngster asked the naïve question, ‘Why do we boil God’s eyes in water and make cakes out of them, if they are… God’s eyes, rather than tomatoes?’ After the initial laughter had stopped a rather long silence occurred. Father Mastiff stepped forward. He was coming to the end of his tenure and was by now a very old man. He’d been the Pastoral for over fifty years. With a reassuring smile, he explained that the tomtoes do of course stop being God’s eyes when they are picked from the plant: this is his gift to us. Everybody immediately nodded in agreement, breathed a sigh of relief and stared at the boy they felt had been made to look foolish.
And they believed it too. Even Father Mastiff, who had by this late stage in his life completely forgotten that it was only ever a piece of inspired improvisation that put the suggestion into people’s minds in the first place. Genius really. It will survive forever.
And so things carried on. Crosses made from fruit, tomatoes carried by children at offertory and a general consistency of hurried sermons not fought by the congregation who had by now let the personal importance of mere attendance and routine take over from any real desire for religious teaching. So, as you can see, The St Bernard Church for Pantheists became just like any other church. Well, sort of. Until the present incumbent had his little revelation. Yes, Father Lurcher changed everything. What with his gift and all.