Trivial and Not-So-Trivial Thoughts

             My favorite game has long been “Trivial Pursuit” in its various versions. I love odd, random facts. My proudest moment in “Trivial Pursuit”, I think, was when I knew the answer to the question, “What was the name of George Smiley’s wife?” (It was Ann). People always tell me that, because of my love of trivia, I should go on “Jeopardy”, but I fear that on TV I would freeze as totally as Ralph Kramden did when he played the “chef of the future”.

             I thought I would share with you the most interesting bits of trivia that I know, and a little moral/spiritual thought that can be derived from each piece of trivia:

             What was the first thing Gutenberg printed on his printing press? We all think: The Bible. Well, the first document printed was a religious–but not a Bible, The first product of Gutenberg’s press was...letters of indulgence! The same sort of purchased forgiveness that Luther protested against about 60 years later! So the technology that made Luther’s Reformation possible–the printing press–was initially used to promote the very thing the Reformation was directed against, the selling of forgiveness! Moral: Technology–whether the printing press or the Internet–can be used for good or ill, for truth or for falsehood. It’s not the technology but the content that counts.

             What implement was used to kill Dracula in the original Bram Stoker novel, and where did the wielder of that implement come from? It wasn’t a wooden stake, nor was it the rising sun. Dracula in the original novel was killed with a Bowie knife–the huge knife invented by Alamo hero Jim Bowie. The Bowie knife gives away the origin of its wielder–the one who plunged the knife into the vampire’s heart was Quincy Morris, a Texan. Moral: It’s good to have a powerful weapon when facing evil–and we have the most powerful weapon of all: “The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

             Child actor Dickie Jones was guided by Jiminy Cricket when he played “Pinocchio” in 1940; what other cricket-related film did Jones make that year? Jones was in a film about early Mormonism, “Brigham Young” (Vincent Price played Joseph Smith!). In the film, the Salt Lake City colony is plagued by an infestation of crickets that eat up their crops. Dickie Jones is so wracked with hunger that he actually eats the crickets. (Not an unreasonable option, really). So in 1940, Dickie Jones had both a cricket for his conscience and a cricket for his lunch. Moral: It’s funny to think of Pinocchio gobbling up his conscience, but maybe the message is: When something points out our flaws–whether that something be conscience or the Word of God–we tend to resent it and lash out against it.

             Irish actor Barry Fitzgerald played the crusty Catholic priest Father Fitzgibbon in “Going My Way”. What was Fitzgerald’s religious background? Amazingly, Fitzgerald was an Irish Protestant. His brother, Arthur Shields, played the Protestant minister in “The Quiet Man”. Has any other pair of brothers played Catholic and Protestant clergy in film? That could be a trivia question all its own. Moral: The distance between rival interpretations of Christianity is not so great as we sometimes imagine. (I like the words of Robert Duvall’s Pentecostal preacher in “The Apostle” as he watches a splendidly robed Roman Catholic priest blessing the fishing fleet: “You do it your way and I do it mine, but we both get it done, don’t we?”)

             What book did Lyndon Johnson lay his hand on to take the oath of office as President after John Kennedy’s assassination? As with the Gutenberg question,, you would think: The Bible. Indeed, Johnson thought he was being sworn in on President Kennedy’s Bible. But in the pre-Vatican II days, Catholics didn’t commonly own Bibles, so what Johnson took the oath of office on was President Kennedy’s Catholic prayer book! Moral: Probably the same as the Barry Fitzgerald story–Christian traditions are closer than we sometimes imagine.

             In “Argo”, John Goodman plays legendary Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers. Besides his achievement in studio films, Chambers is widely believed to have participated in a famous “homemade” movie. What was the movie? The Patterson film, the legendary Bigfoot footage shot in northern California. Hollywood rumor contends that Chambers designed the Bigfoot costume in the movie. I don’t necessarily believe this; I’m still weighing the evidence. (By the way, it’s also kind of amazing that films called “Fargo” and “Argo” have both been nominated for Best Picture. If I were a director, I’d seriously think about making a film called “Cargo” or “Margo”). Moral: Think critically; unless something comes from the Bible, don’t automatically believe it. Examine the evidence.“Test everything; hold fast to what is good.” (I Thessalonians 5:21)

             Who invented Liquid Paper/white-out? The mother of Mike Nesmith of the Monkees. Moral: Our misdeeds need to be covered up–and the best way to do it is not with lies or excuses, but with the precious blood of Jesus.

             There actually was a game called “Bible Trivia” that was a lot of fun. But, in a way, the game is mis-named–because there is really nothing trivial about the Bible! The Bible is about very serious things–our sin, God’s grace, the love that He shows us in the crucified and risen Jesus. “Trivia” are things that are interesting but not necessary to know–that’s why they’re called “trivia”. It doesn’t change my life to know that Dickie Jones ate Jiminy’s cousin, or that Dracula was killed with a Bowie knife, or that President Johnson took the oath of office on a Catholic prayer book. It changes my life radically and drastically to know that Christ loves me and died for me. Trivia makes life more interesting, but the non-trivial truths of the Bible make life worth living!

             God loves you and so do I! 

Vol. 84 - No. 7
July 2013