Below is an excerpt from a book I’m writing called Adventures in Fishing (for Men). The book is a satirical allegory about Christian attempts at evangelism. He who has ears to hear…
I wore my fishing shirt to the mall today, and as I checked out, the clerk behind the counter noticed my shirt, and said he was a fisherman too! It is amazing where you run into other fellow fishermen.
“Where do you attend a fishing club?” he asked.
I actually had never heard of a fishing club before, but didn’t want to appear stupid, so I mumbled something about how I am still looking for a good one.
“Oh! Well you should visit mine this week! We gather on Sunday mornings, and talk about all the best fishing spots and techniques. Sometimes we hear stories about great fishing trips of the past, and every once in a while, someone shares their favorite fishing technique or gives away their secret fishing hole. It would be a great way for you to fellowship with other fishermen!”
So I went. The meeting started at 10:30 AM on Sunday morning. The group met in a big, beautiful building, and when we walked in, a guy greeted us at the door and handed me a little pamphlet which explained what the group was going to do that morning.
The meeting began a little oddly, though. Someone got up and led us all in some fishing songs. I have never been much of a singer, but I did find myself tapping my toe along to a few of the songs. One of them almost brought me to tears when we sang about the suffering of a kingfisher.
After we sang, another guy got up, and he asked if there were any newcomers that day. I tried to huddle down into my seat so no one noticed me, but the guy who invited me raised his hand and pointed to me.
“We got one here!” he shouted.
“Well, stand on up, brother!” the man up front said.
Everybody cheered and clapped, and someone gave me a “Welcome Packet” which had useful information about what their club was all about, and why I should become a full-fledged member. There was even a gift-certificate for a free copy of the fishing club leader’s newest book, Your Best Fishing Now! It sounded good. I would definitely get a copy later.
After I got welcomed, another man stood up front and spoke for about half an hour from their Fishing Manual. He began with a story of a one-armed fisherman who miraculously got his second arm back so he could cast his nets on the other side of the boat. The story gave me goosebumps. Then he went on to tell us that emotionally and psychologically, all of us are one-armed fisherman, and if we follow three simple steps, we can get our arms back. This was really helpful information, and explained a lot about why I was having trouble fishing.
After the teaching, they passed around little brass plates. Surprisingly, as the plates went from person to person, people dropped money into them! As the plate got closer to me, I took out my wallet, thinking that I had to put some money in the plate, but the man who invited me whispered to me that I didn’t have to give anything since this was my first time. He later explained that these were their fishing dues, and all faithful and committed members of the fishing club are expected to put 10% of their income into the plate.
After the meeting, we stood around drinking coffee and I was able to talk to many other fishermen about their favorite places to fish. It turns out that not very many people in the club actually do any fishing. They just tell stories about friends of theirs who heard about a guy who caught dozens of fish on a stretch of a river in Africa, or another guy who pulled a fish so big out of a frozen pond in Minnesota that the fisherman had to make the hole in the ice bigger just to pull it out.
All the stories were very inspiring. Prior to attending this fishing club, I was feeling bad about not having caught any fish. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to catch a fish. But now that I met a whole bunch of other fisherman who had also never caught any fish, but who knew lots of amazing stories from people who had, it made me realize that this is just the way it is in fishing. Some people go fishing; others tell inspiring stories about fishing.
I really became encouraged after talking to one white-haired old-timer.
“How long have you been attending this fishing club?” I asked him.
“I’ve attended faithfully for 57 years. I missed one meeting back in 1973 when I caught pneumonia, but the club leader called me up to make sure I hadn’t abandoned fishing, and it was so encouraging to know that he cared about me so much that I haven’t missed a meeting since. I love coming every week to hear about the fish people are catching.”
“Do you have any great stories about the fish you have caught?”
“I have never actually caught a fish,” he said. “But as one of the great fisherman of the past said, ‘One baits the hook, another casts the line, and a third reels in the fish.’ I see my role as a baiter. Of course, I don’t actually bait any hooks either. That’s too dangerous.”
I nodded my head. I had already learned about the dangers of fishing hooks.
“I generously and joyfully support the work of other fisherman,” the old man went on. “I help them buy the bait.”
“Oh. So you don’t actually buy the bait either?” I was intrigued about this because although I had only been a fisherman for a short time, I had already bought some bait. It sounded like this old fisherman hadn’t even done that.
“Never!” he laughed. “You have to go through four years of specialized training in order to know what kind of bait to buy. I was never able to get that training. And of course, the ones who buy the bait don’t actually bait the hooks. You have to get more training for that. A third person has to be trained the cast the baited hooks into the water, and a fourth person is specially trained to reel in any fish that are caught. There’s a whole process here, sonny, and one person can’t do it all by himself.”
This was a real revelation for me, and explained why I was having so much trouble: I had been trying to fish all by myself! But now I saw that fishing takes a whole community of trained specialists. I now saw how foolish I had been to go buy bait on my own, or to even dream of catching fish without some specialized training.
It was also obvious that I was going to have to start regularly attending this fishing club. I told this to the man who brought me, and he beamed ear-to-ear as we went over to inform the fishing club leader of my decision.
“That is great news!” he said. “I have a six-week class that starts next week. If you want to become a fishing club member, you will have to attend the entire class. At the end of the class, you will have to sign our membership agreement and our fishing creed, start giving 10% of your income to the club as membership dues, and you will also have to get immersed into the fishing fellowship.”
“Immersed?” I asked. “I’m not all that fond of water.”
“Well, it is the first step in becoming a fully devoted follower of the fishing lifestyle. If you don’t get immersed, you cannot be a fisherman. But don’t worry, we use a bathtub filled with warm water. It’s just like taking a bath at home, only way quicker.”
“Do I have to be naked? I got arrested a while back for public nudity.”
“We all make mistakes in life,” the man assured me. “Now that you are going to get immersed, your entire life will never be the same. But to answer your question, no, you won’t be naked. We give you a clean, white robe to wear. It represents how pure and pristine your new life as a fisherman will be.”
That sounded just great, and I told him so.
“I might also have some difficulty with giving 10% of my income,” I told him. “My wife has been spending a lot of money recently.” Truth be told, our financial problems were my fault, because of all the fishing gear I had purchased recently and that big donation I had made to the TV fisherman. But my wife bought some new shoes recently which I didn’t think she needed, so I could blame her.
“There is a high cost to fishing,” the leader said. “Other fishing clubs hold to cheap fishing, but we believe in putting all the requirements on the table right from the beginning so that people know that fishing is costly. If you are not willing to pay the cost, then you might want to examine yourself to see whether or not you want to get in the boat.”
I told him that I had already bought a boat, and the most expensive fishing gear for my boat, and even installed a swimming pool for the boat. I knew full well about the cost of fishing. Who was he to question my commitment to fishing?
He was clearly impressed at how much I had spent on fishing. He went on to say that in cases like mine, the fishing club could temporarily waive the 10% fishing due requirement if I gave my fishing boat and most of my fishing equipment to the club in lieu of my fishing dues. If I donated my fishing gear, they would waive my fishing dues for one year. He went on to explain that as a fishing club member, I could still use the gear as often as I wanted; it just wouldn’t belong to me.
He told me a story about a fishing club from two-thousand years ago who had all their fishing equipment in common, so that no one had any needs. That is what this modern fishing club wanted to do too, but they needed generous donors like me to give all my stuff to the club so that it could be available to all.
This sounded like a good deal, and I took him up on it. One year of no fishing dues will give me some time to start paying off the loans for the boat and the pool. Also, my wife will be amazed at my generosity when I tell her I gave the boat, the pool, and most of my fishing rods away for free.