I’ll admit it, I have some very strange friends. Some of them are quite brilliant, but they can still be very, well, odd at times. One of them is an evangelist. You read right. An evangelist.

Now don’t you all go to jumping to conclusions here. It is not necessary to agree with someone in order to like them. All my friends have chosen to be my friend and none of them agree with me all the time. Some have never agreed with me about anything! And I don’t agree with him most of the time but I listen politely and when in Rome I speak Roman. And this fellow is brilliant. He can quote books that I think he and I are the only people who actually own them outside of libraries. And there is no way on this earth I would even try to argue the Bible with him. I’d get my head handed to me.

Besides, he likes my jokes.

Anyway, today he really threw me for a loop. He listed two people he admires, Jonathon Edwards, which makes sense for an evangelist and Girolamo Savonarola. Who does not make sense. I mean, let’s be honest, Savonarola is about two steps higher on the loony scale from William Jennings Bryan (who ran for the Presidency more times than Jesse Jackson and lost every time) as well as becoming national comic relief in the Scopes Trial. If you ever want a real good laugh, read his absurd, overblown “Cross of Gold” speech. The man was a nutcase on the order of Sarah Palin.

But I digress.

Savonarola was the 1492 equivalent of Billy Sunday. He arrived in Florence at the behest of the Medici, who undoubtedly had been out in the sun too long, and he preached up a storm. Well, maybe not a storm but the good people of Florence went nuts and had a huge fire in which they threw paintings and cosmetics and books by Jews (whoops, wrong fire, sorry about that) and all sorts of things they normally would have prized. And this went on for some months and suddenly they came to their senses! It was like a horrible, mental plague had passed and the Bonfire of the Vanities was followed by the Bonfire of Savonarola. The Vanities won! And Savonarola got barbecued.

And my friend admires Savonarola for making the attempt. Uh, failure does not count as virtue and Savonarola did more than just fail. Like Billy Sunday and William Jennings Bryan, the mere fact that he opposed something made it all the more desirable. He only managed to set off a reaction that destroyed anything he could have accomplished.

It is not good to admire would be reformers. They only make a mess of things.


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