Some people go on vacation to sit on the beach or balcony and look at the ocean or the mountains while sipping wine, then going out to eat for every meal.

Susan and I have a different philosophy. We enjoy the scenery, but we prefer to hike through it rather than just admiring the view. And, though we provide local restaurants a modicum of business, when we stay somewhere with a kitchen, we cook.

Sometimes the two activities happily combine. One of our favorite hiking trails in Northeast Georgia is both wooded and interspersed by small creeks, an ideal habitat for mushrooms, including golden yellow chanterelles.

Wild chanterelle mushrooms sitting on a table.

(Photo: Tony W. Cartledge)

Chefs love the delicate flavor and pretty color of chanterelles, but rarely offer dishes that include them, because the mushrooms are particularly finicky about their locale. They need to be near the roots of certain trees and in particular types of soil if they are to thrive, which makes growing them commercially prohibitively expensive and time consuming.

So, whatever chanterelles chefs manage to get their hands on have been foraged from the woods and then very carefully cleaned, which makes them an expensive menu item.

Fortunately, foraging on public land is legal within reason, so we enjoy collecting a bagful and then adding them to our menu.

A destroying angel mushroom in the woods.

(Photo: Tony W. Cartledge)

It turns out that the same conditions that support chanterelles are also hospitable for the Amanita verosa mushroom, also known as the “Destroying Angel.” Ingesting a single ounce is enough to kill an adult. We took pictures of those (or possibly one of its less potent but similar cousins) but left them where they were.

Both good and bad flourish in the same environment: one of them attractive and nutritious, the other appealing but deadly.

The metaphor is obvious: we live in a world where both good and evil can thrive. Making right choices about our own actions is crucial for personal as well as community wellbeing.

We also live in a world where obscenity masquerades as righteousness, a reminder that many people can and do twist biblical teachings to serve their own ends, however nefarious or selfish they might be.

Various columnists at Good Faith Media have been writing for years about the serious dangers of so-called “Christian” nationalism, often a front for a white supremacist agenda. On July 24, CNN ran a well-written article by John Blake on the same subject, observing that “an ‘imposter Christianity’ is threatening American Democracy.” It’s well worth reading.

The article mentioned efforts of BJC (Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty), now in the third year of a Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign.

Large-scale movements that support a perverted view of Jesus as an insurrection-supporting warrior are a matter of concern, but they are not the only disturbing claimant to Christianity. We’re also familiar with individuals who promote a warped version of the gospel for their own selfish ends.

Enter Lamor Miller-Whitehead, for example, a prosperity preacher in New York who delights in flashing his ill-gained worldly mammon by wearing designer-made suits and gaudy gold jewelry.

On Sunday, July 24, according to The Washington Post, as the self-proclaimed “bishop” was live-streaming a sermon to a congregation of 20-25 people, three armed men walked to the pulpit and robbed Miller-Whitehead of several heavy gold chains, his “bishop’s ring,” and other jewelry that he claims to be worth a million dollars.

Miller-Whitehead is now crying for the perpetrators to be caught and justice to be done. “I felt the demonic force,” he said. “I felt it push through the door.”

Speaking of ill forces pushing through the door, Miller-Whitehead himself has a history of convictions for identity theft and grand larceny.

The Root, an African-American oriented online magazine, reported on July 28 that Miller-Whitehead was sued during the past year by a woman who claims he grifted $90,000 from her, persuading her to transfer the money from her IRA to his personal checking account by promising that he would invest the money and buy a house for her.

Instead, he reportedly planned to use the money as a down payment toward a mansion for himself, which fortunately didn’t go through.

Claiming to be a follower of Jesus – pastor or no – while flaunting a million dollars’ worth of jewelry is an obscenity on the face of it, an ugly blot that obscures the truth of the gospel.

Fortunately, while the world and the woods are full of poisonous specimens, there are also plenty of good ones: both pastors and lay people who truly love God, seek to follow Jesus, and care more about helping others than about defending racial superiority or fattening their wallets.

Thank God for the chanterelles.

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