Dangerous Times

Dangerous Times for Gamblers and Preachers

Ed, my neighbor next door, calls me “the circuit rider preacher in a red car.” This happens if I leave on a Sunday morning with my briefcase and my alb. Yesterday, I rode my Pontiac to MacNutt and then Langenburg in the relentlessly falling snow. I left at 8:30 a.m. and got home just before 4 p.m., so Ed had to come over to find out where I had been all day.

The first question Ed asked was, “Who had to suffer through your preaching today?” Ed likes to claim that preaching is the safest job in the world for the preacher, but those in the congregation could die of boredom. Ed says that even in the old lawless West, sheriffs and gamblers got shot, but not preachers.

I told Ed that he should have studied history in Deadwood, South Dakota instead of gambling. Then he would know that there, in the gold strike’s early days, it was dangerous for preachers as well as sheriffs and gamblers. Preacher Smith, (Henry Weston Smith) recognized as the first ordained minister in the Black Hills, was a circuit rider preacher between the gold mining camps of Deadwood Gulch and Crook City. He worked at various jobs during the week. On Sundays, he spent his day preaching on the street corners of both mining camps.

He came to Deadwood in May 1876 after spending time at Custer City South Dakota. He preformed the first recorded marriage in Deadwood. On Sunday August 20th, he set out to preach at Crook City and was shot dead in the heart. Some said he was murdered by those who resented his preaching. Resentment, anger, hate and revenge easily become murder on a lawless frontier.

Ed commented that it was better even back then to be a gambler rather than a preacher. I reminded Ed of Wild Bill Hickok, who was so focused on his gambling that Jack McCall walked up within three feet of Hickok’s back, pulled out a pistol and shot him in the head. McCall claimed it was revenge for Wild Bill’s, killing of his brother. It was considered an acceptable defense and McCall was let go. Later, on March 1, 1877 McCall was hung for Hickok’s murder, because when drunk, he repeatedly bragged about murdering Wild Bill without cause.

In the Bible, murder goes way back to Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve. In anger, resentment and jealousy, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. In the Old Testament, revenge for a family member being harmed or murdered meant, “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

Jesus taught that the anger and hatred that is in our hearts is also murder. The Apostle John wrote that anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are not to take revenge, but leave it to God to avenge and repay others. If our enemy is hungry, we are to feed him. Most of all, we are to forgive our enemy whether he deserves it or not. We have been forgiven without deserving it by God for Jesus’ sake. Being forgiven, we forgive others.


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