Every so often, a story circulated around Message churches. Our pastor related it with a twinkle of humour in his eye. The precociousness of little children was always a failsafe source of amusement in a world that afforded so many sinful entertainments. Children quoting scripture were even better. Out of the mouths of babes, it was oft repeated, the Word of God was made perfect. And so, it was with paroxysms of mirth that the following anecdote was passed around.
One day, a minister’s wife was out doing the grocery shopping with her family. Her youngest boy, then only four or five, spied a worldly woman in the supermarket. With frank and immediate assurance, he called out, “Hello, Miss Dog-Meat!” He looked up innocently to his mother for approval, who could not correct him – after all, the words he’d spoken had come from the prophet. Surely God would use the boy’s words to convict that woman of her immoral lifestyle. Her son had spoken the Truth – the Word of God was a seed, which would surely bring forth good fruit in the woman’s life if she but yielded to the chastisement of the Holy Ghost.
What was wrong with this woman to draw such censure from a small child? What aspect of her appearance instantly gave away the grave moral deficiencies of her character? She had been wearing eyeshadow.
William Branham taught that there was only one woman in the Bible who had worn makeup, and that woman was Jezebel. In 1952, he preached about an encounter between Ahab and the prophet Elijah,
“The old king down there went and married a little old painted-up Jezebel, enough paint on her face to make… The only woman in the Bible that ever painted her face. And you know what God did to her? God fed her to the dogs. That’s the only one I know. You see a woman with a lot of paint on her face, you know what you can call her? Say, ‘Hello, Miss dog meat.’ That’s what she is, like dog meat. Oh, my. Listen, brother, I just turned back from Africa. That stuff come from the strain of heathenism. The heathens paint themselves.”
Did he ever anticipate that children, hearing his words, might do just as he said?
I could never laugh with the rest of my congregation when I heard this story – and I heard it several times over the years. It frightened me then, and still does. I immediately sympathized not with the little boy who tried to obey the prophet to the letter, nor the flabbergasted mother caught between etiquette and the Word of God, but with the poor woman in the supermarket just trying to buy her groceries. Don’t you realize she’s a person, too? I would think, every time the story made the rounds afresh. If you really think she’s going to hell, shouldn’t your hearts be filled with searing pain at the thought of the destruction of her soul? Is she not a child of your Creator, too? Is she not your human sister?
It horrified me to realize that, to many Believers, the unsaved were undeserving of our empathy. It seemed that we were to delight in their judgment as it affirmed our own salvation. When we were caught away in the Rapture and the world plunged into Tribulation, should not the thought of the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” below cast pallor on our joy? What comfort could I take in my own salvation if so many others, just like me, were perishing in agony? How could we, taught from the cradle to be selfless and to live for the salvation of others, possibly take pleasure in the knowledge that we were saved and they weren’t?
The story of the little boy in the supermarket horrified me, because I knew that I could so easily be that woman – all it took was a little crayon at the corner of my eye, and suddenly I’d become dog meat. Suddenly I was no longer a human being worthy of respect. Would I have changed so much with that tiny touch of makeup?
Can I trust the families in the Message now to raise their little boys with the understanding not to loose real dogs on worldly-looking women? Knowing nothing of my life or character, a mere passing glance in the supermarket is enough for them to consign me to thousands of years in hell followed by total annihilation.
Is it such a stretch to believe that children raised on such teachings could commit lynching or stoning in the name of God? Where basic respect for the humanity of others is replaced by the militancy of “us” and “them,” what is protecting those of us who want to live our lives differently?
Sierra is a PhD student living in the Midwest. She was raised in a “Message of the Hour” congregation that followed the ministry of William Branham. She left the Message in 2006 and is the author of the blog The Unspoken Words: A Non-Prophet Message.