The Ferndale Fortitude (Vol. 2 No. 5, September 12, 2022)
I’m given to believe that if we had a statue of Seth Kinman near Ferndale, there would have been great pressure to tear it down around the same time Pres. Mckinley’s likeness was removed from Arcata. Our frontiersman is everything the woke mob hates: a good-humored white man with an adventurist spirit and a gun he used to hunt bears and fight Indians. That we can still learn about him at the Ferndale Museum without some local journalist or nearby academic having given him the Howard Zinn treatment gives me hope for the future of our cherished community. Thankfully, Ferndale is not woke—not at her core, as you know.
One of his ol’ yarns came to mind this summer when not once, but twice it was suggested that I was “poking the bear.”
The source of the intimation? St. Mark’s sign, which is changed every Monday to reach passersby with timely messages derived from our traditional Christian worldview (click for This Week’s Sign archive). The bear-poking was connected to “Pride Month” as the church’s sign announced my four-part sermon series entitled “Rescued from Sin’s Rainbow,” and then continued to be used to speak God’s Word to a world besieged by LGBTQ sins.
The “bear” I apparently poked is the Leftists in and around town who would prefer Christians be seen and not heard. Historic church architecture is beautiful, but pastors who speak up, who engage sinners in the public square with the ancient truth of God’s Word, both His Law and Gospel? Well, now, we can’t have that, can we? As Charles Spurgeon once noted, “Wor dly wisdom recommends the path of… moderation…. [E]rror is not to be severely denounced… What’s the good of criticizing something when it is so fashionable and everybody does it?”
Or, to put it another way, what’s the point of poking the bear?
Seth Kinman provides an illustrative answer in Meetin’ the Grizzly Face to Face. We begin by first conceding the fact that there are bears, and they can be poked. Kinman came face-to-face with a grizzly. You and I engage with the woke mob, or more accurately, the spiritual forces that have taken human beings captive by evil powers and principalities (Eph. 6:12) and use those confused people to encourage sin, which will result in eternal death for them and those they influence (Jam. 5:19-20). Kinman’s bear was a cub by comparison, wouldn’t you say?
Old Seth’s story describes a time when he left home without his trusty “ol’ gun ‘Cotton Bale.’” He was such a prolific hunter that the bears knew when he had it with him and when he didn’t. On one such occasion, he was hunting small game with a shotgun. A “pesky grizzly heard it and he knew it wasn’t ‘Ol Cotton Bale’ and he came to see what it was.’”
Kinman took one look at the bear, which seemed to be as big as a rhinoceros, and he noted he was armed with nothing better than a child’s popgun.
In the story, our well-known hunter ditches the shotgun in the bushes and pretends to be a bear, his long hair and beard selling the ruse. He survived the day and vowed never to be caught with a toy gun in his hands. It’s Cotton Bale or nothing.
“But you know,” Kinman concludes, “I was terribly afraid [the bear would] find that shotgun, for I knew if he did, he would take me for a spineless city tender-foot who knew nothing about effective shooting and come clear back after me.”
Poking the bear?
Maybe it looks that way to some, but no, Christians don’t mess around with children’s popguns (Eph. 4:11-16). Seth Kinman hunted bear and that required the right armament. We’re face-to-face with godlessness. The Christian’s gun—our ol’ Cotton Bale—is God’s Word (Eph 6:17) and it fires both God’s Law and Gospel. What’s more, now that true Christian shots have been fired, the bears in our area know what our ol’ Cotton Bale sounds like, and they’d like nothing more than to find us without it, spineless and ineffective.
I suppose we could pretend to be one of the bears for a while and try to survive without God’s Word, but I think you’ll find that such encounters only happen in Kinman’s tall tales. In real life, the bear will eat you. The Christians at St. Mark don’t want to see that happen to you or yours. And thank the Lord, not one of them could ever be described by Seth Kinman as a “spineless city tender-foot.”
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Tyrel Bramwell
2 Corinthians 12:10