Grow your own

The parable of the allotments

By , Thursday 15 December 2011 12.53 EST

Last week I challenged the idea that religiosity is more about practice than belief with evidence that most religious people appear to have a large number of traditional beliefs which they take to be important. However, I suggested that there might be a response to this, and I’ve found a possible one in book 42 of the apocryphal Gospel According to Monty. Here it is:


1 One day as Jesus was walking through the marketplace, a scholar came up to him and asked: “Teacher, what should I believe?”

2 Jesus turned to him and said: “Once there were three neighbouring allotments, tended by three people, Thea, Alf and Flo.”

3 “There he goes off on one of his stories again,” whispered Judas to Peter. “Why can’t he just give a straight answer?”

4 “Ssshh!” Peter replied. “The stories are good. People remember them. And the faithful that follow us will make good use of their ambiguity as they adapt to new times and places.”

5 “One day, an environmental scientist walked past the allotments,” continued Jesus, a little miffed that not all his disciples were concentrating, “smiled happily at the enthusiasm and effort of the gardeners, and asked them why they were working so hard.

6 “‘Because the organic food we produce here is cheaper, healthier and better for the planet,’ they replied as one.

7 “At this, the environmental scientist’s face fell. ‘Alas, it is not true,’ he said, explaining at length that the small, inefficient nature of their endeavours did not result in cheaper or less resource-intensive food than could be bought in shops, and nor was there any evidence home-grown food had any significant health benefits.

8 “They continued to discuss this for several hours, after which, all were persuaded that their convictions had been wrong. They packed up their tools, went home and resolved never to return.

9 “A month later, the scientist was again walking through the allotments. He saw that Thea’s patch remained untended but Alf and Flo were both working their earth as industriously as before. ‘Did you change your views back after we talked?’ he asked them.

10 “‘No,” replied Alf. ‘We stayed at home the next day, but then we both realised that what we really loved about the allotment was the contact with the ground, seeing the food grow, being outside, watching the changing of the seasons, the camaraderie of our fellow gardeners.

11 “‘We sincerely thought that what we believed about organic allotments was the reason we came. But when that belief went, we realised it wasn’t about that at all,’ added Flo. ‘Although it was for Thea.’

12 “Several months later, the scientist passed by again, and this time he saw that only Flo was at work, and Alf’s allotment had become overgrown. ‘What happened to your friend?’ he asked Flo.

13 “‘He continued for a while,’ she replied. ‘Yes, he enjoyed all the things we said we enjoyed last time. But working an allotment is hard work and over time it transpired that these rewards weren’t enough. Without the belief that it really was healthier, greener and cheaper, he simply did not have a strong enough incentive to persist.’

14 “‘But you?’ asked the scientist. ‘For me, the activity is enough.'” Jesus fell silent and it was clear the parable was over.

15 “And the moral of the story?” asked the scholar. “There’s always a moral.” Jesus shrugged his shoulders. “People can be mistaken about how important their own beliefs are.”

16 “I see,” said the scholar. “So, metaphorically speaking, They all believed at the start that their ‘religion’ rested on a whole set of beliefs. For Thea, that was true, for Flo it turned out not to be. Alf agreed with Flo in principle but found that without belief he was not motivated enough to do the practice.”

17 Jesus nodded gently. “Do you think there are more Theas, Alfs or Flos in this world?” he asked.

18 “I don’t know,” replied the scholar. “But isn’t the main question not how many of each type there are, but which one I should be?”

19 “You can lead a man to gardens, but you cannot make him dig,” replied Jesus, and he set off on his way. “Hey!” Where do you think you’re going?” shouted the scholar. “I need a better answer than that! We all need answers!”

20 “Grow your own,” replied Jesus, without turning his head. or


Related Posts

Climate change in Arkansas ... The following was just emailed to John Lowery, a Democr...
Brobdingnagian quantity of evidence “Oklahoma City”: The Bubba job By Laura Miller, Sunday, Apr 22, 2012 03:00 PM CDT ... In the hours after the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal...
Coordinated, systematic racial discrimination Christians of the Holy Land By Ben White, 26 Apr 2012 06:36 ... A recent report by CBS show 60 Minutes on "Christians of the Holy Land" has r...
Indistinguishable from the lunatic fringe Satanazis III: Night of the Satanazis By Fred Clark, April 25, 2012 ... Don’t imagine you’re safe just because Pat Robertson, Demon Hunter, is ...
Disgusted and amazed Osama Bin Laden anniversary: Torture apologists try again to justify the unjustifiable By Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, 12:23 PM ET, 04/30/2012 ......
Catholic Church’s best ambassador After Vatican’s rebuke of nuns, time to hear Mary’s voice By Lisa Miller, April 26, 2012 ... Imagine the fury of the men of Galilee when a youn...
Stars of David. Everywhere. Being a Jew in Palestine By Beth Miller, April 20, 2012 ... The first people I told were Safa and Imad. Good friends, they lived near me  in ...
To kick at the darkness Speaking Out Is Complicated (And So Is Staying Silent) By Brian D. McLaren, 04/14/2012  6:40 am ... For 24 years of my life, I was a church pla...
Alternative to Futility Elton Trueblood on the Quaker experiment: a continuous ferment By Monsieur d'Nalgar ... (Note: this is adapted from an email to my pastor wri...
Happy Easter! 20 things Jesus never said Observations on the life of faith from a candidate for the Office of Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Apri...

Permanent link to this article:

1 comment

    • Mike Nunn on December 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Somehow I hear the sound of one hand clapping.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.