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  • Willow Feller

You Might Be Infected With Politicism If... Your Bread Smells a Little Fishy

Apparently, odor-evoked memory research is a thing. It’s a field of study that includes using terms like “olfactory memory” and “olfactory cued recall.”

From what I read, these are just fancy words for describing the way certain smells are connected to some of our most vivid memories.

I suspect we don’t really need researchers to tell us this.

Olfactory cued recall must be the driving force behind one of my stinkiest childhood memories. That day is cemented in my mind, not because of the sound of our rural mail carrier honking in our driveway, or the sight of his angry look when he thrust a package at Mom through his open car window.

It’s the putrid smell of the small parcel that I will never forget.

That poor mail carrier had already been on his route for a couple hours with that little package stinking up his car. He had shared space with it for so long that he must have felt the way a person locked in an outhouse in August would feel—furious with whoever put him in that situation.

Mom identified our mail carrier’s jailer when she looked at the return address.

“Dad!” She was referring to our Grandpa Miles, her father.

She walked to the porch, holding the offensive mystery package at arm’s length. Even the great outdoors couldn’t dilute its rank stench.

“It’s addressed to Daddy—what in the world has Grandpa sent to your dad?” Mom asked my sister and me as if we could answer.

“Eww!” “Ick!” We yelled, holding our noses.

Our dog, Lady, jumped and sniffed around Mom wildly. She would have loved to ride with the mailman that day.

“We’re going to have to keep this outside until Dad gets home from work,” Mom said as she placed the parcel on a shelf in our carport beside the back door.

I was disappointed. Dad wouldn’t be home for another six hours, and the suspense of not knowing what the package contained hung in the air as thick as its odor.

Mom started to go back in the house, then stopped. “You know, I bet Grandpa sent Dad some limburger cheese. Yes, that’s it—that’s probably exactly what it is.”

Mom said this because, even though the man she married was, for the most part, not at all like her father, our dad and grandpa did share a taste for unusual snacks. Nasty snacks like pickled pigs feet and...limburger cheese.

Grandpa often had some ready to share with Dad when we visited in the summers. Grandma wouldn’t allow the cheese indoors, let alone in the fridge, so kept it stored in a bag which she fastened to the clothesline outside.

Looking back, it’s amazing Dad and Grandpa didn’t get deathly ill. Their gut biomes must have been teeming with busy fermenting micro life. Whole, thriving microscopic communities. The stuff of Dr. Oz’s dreams.

Mom frowned above her pinched nose. “Why did Grandpa think sending cheese through the mail was a good idea? It’s got to be rotten by now. Or at least more rotten than usual.”

She had a point. Although rotten by design, even the dubious safety of limburger cheese would be compromised by a five-day postal journey from western Washington to western Montana in August. The cheese and its palpable cloud lingered by the back door all day.

Except, it wasn’t cheese.

Something even nastier than limburger cheese revealed itself when Dad finally got home and tore open the brown wrap. It was a brownish, gooey mass of something bundled in plastic wrap.

Oh, the smell! Dad held his breath as he turned the offensive thing over to examine it. He should have been wearing gloves. And a hazmat suit. It was a good thing his gut biome kept his defense system strong. A person who mostly ate Twinkies would have fainted.

We backed away, gagging and groaning.

Like an ancient Israelite spotting manna in the wilderness, Mom yelled, “What is it?”

This was no manna. This was putrified mystery meat.

Yes, it did turn out to be a type of meat. After a few seconds Dad made out the shape of a huge earthworm. A night crawler, to be exact.

The fact slowly came to light that Grandpa had sent Dad a package of massive night crawlers he had harvested from his loamy Washington soil. Knowing our drier Montana clay didn’t yield very big worms, Grandpa figured he would surprise Dad with a gift of excellent fishing bait.

But the worms had perished early on in their summer journey and arrived already decomposing. Essentially, Grandpa had gifted his son-in-law with a bundle of decaying corpses.

Yet, I guess we could say, the thought was nice.


The thought of stinky bait in my stream of consciousness pulls in the idea that politicians are expert fishermen. They have to be, and pretty much always have been, in both modern and ancient democracies.

With the sole exception of George Washington, candidates running for office in America have always been required to learn the art of angling for votes. There’s no other way for them to land the job, so they spend time sizing up the needs of the voter pool they will represent and choose their bait accordingly.

Jesus didn’t campaign for his office. He just quietly stepped into his earthly ministry position sometime around 27 AD. With a small constituency already long-established and waiting for him, he rolled up his sleeves and dove right into public service at the Jordan River.

John the Baptist inaugurated Jesus there, not through pomp or ceremony, but by baptizing him along with the common people in the water. It was a symbolic act of humility and cleansing that accompanied one’s transition from an old life into a new.

Jesus went on to assemble his cabinet. As a representative of the working class, he first chose a couple fishermen, Andrew and Simon Peter. He told them he would show them how to fish for people. Jesus’ technique, however, was worlds apart from any conventional political strategy. He didn’t fish for men by luring them in.

He loved them in.

Jesus led through loving service. He healed, forgave, and liberated those who were oppressed by infirmity and injustice.

And he fed and nourished those who were spiritually and physically hungry. That nourishment, then, empowered them to rise up and shake off their oppressing afflictions and ways of life.

No longer were they left helpless to carry out good deeds in weak, malnourished bodies. He became their strength, and so they were empowered to impact their society in ways infinitely more far-reaching than mere governmental change.


My Christian faith bids me to share the message of Jesus with my neighbors, and there are just as many ways to do that as there are Christians. But those ways were never meant to be based on marketing ploys or engineered baiting techniques. Techniques such as stink bait.

Stink bait is homemade catfish bait made from the cook’s choice of assorted rotting meats and bready binding agents. Fishermen often create their own special recipes using proteins such as rotting chicken livers or gutted fish innards mixed with flour or cracker crumbs to create the putrified dough balls that are sure to attract the biggest catfish in the pond.

Like Grandpa’s dead night crawlers, this nasty bait’s aroma can seep beyond a fisherman’s property and cause neighbors to fear that dead bodies are stored in the garage next door.

The fishermen Jesus called to be his disciples didn’t make their living by fishing with stink bait. They fished with nets. They threw large nets out in the water and pulled the fish into their boats. They didn’t specifically go for the hugest fish; they weren’t angling, the practice of netting was more like harvesting.

Fishing for people becomes tricky when those called to do it tire of the quieter netting method that pulls people in through connection and service. Looking for a quicker way to effect change within their community, some of our modern churches are succumbing to the temptation to mix politically-tainted bread into their worship programs. Stored in the pulpit, it starts rotting and stinking like hoarded manna. But, rather than tossing it out, some unwise leaders capitalize on its baiting potential and simply hold their noses while tossing it out into their Sunday ponds.

With the puzzling appeal of kimchi, lutefisk or limburger cheese, this stink bait becomes attractive specifically because it is so powerful. It attracts large crowds of good people who really want to fight against the immorality that has infiltrated our government and trickled down into our communities and schools. Yet, the same churches that employ that bait often forget that it is the source of immorality that must be battled--not the immorality symptoms themselves. Supporting politicians and policies from the pulpit can easily eclipse the pure gospel message and direct people to plug into a weak, phony type of power.

It is an infectious political philosophy that, like a rogue strain of yeast, spreads rapidly through the body of Christ, creating a cheap, squishy, tasteless loaf—an anemic substitute for the nourishing Bread of Life.

Infused with self-preservation chemicals and fortified by the cult of personality and nation-worship, it’s a wonder it can be called bread at all.

The sicker I became with Politicism, though, the more my taste buds were dulled into welcoming the mass-produced bread, and so, the more of that I handed out to my neighbors instead of a healing, wholesome touch of Jesus.

I allowed the stench of the stink bait to desensitize my sense of smell, which, sadly, desensitized me to the aroma of the Bread of Life.


A fish hatchery sanctuary

And that realization, then, raises a couple squirmy questions.

Is it okay for a church to function as a voter pool for policies and politics?

Or is it more appropriate for a church to serve as a metaphorical fish hatchery?

Considering that one of the functions of a church body is to grow and foster the development of Christians in all stages of their faith, I don't think it's a stretch to see a place of fellowship as a thriving fish hatchery. Filled with all kinds of tanks, tubs and cement channels, hatcheries farm young fish with their ultimate release into wild waters as the end goal.

Comparatively, a church can be an incubator in which born-again believers can be equipped, trained and fed with the nourishing Bread of Life. They can meet together to gain the strength they need to swim each week in the wild waters of a society that desperately needs what they have.

Greedy fisherman are never allowed to lug their stinky bait and flashy gear into fish hatcheries and start reeling in huge catches.

So why do we allow stinky politics to exploit our church gatherings and lure people into their worldly agendas?


So now, to wrap this post up, I present to you--the Wonder bread fishing lure!

I kid you not. This really is a thing.

I had no idea a whole color category of fishing lures called "Wonderbread" existed when I started writing this post, but now I feel like the concept has just been handed to me on a platter.

Except...I've far exceeded my target word count. And I'm tired.

So here, look at these images and think of your own ending. I'm sure you don't need me to belabor this metaphor for you any longer. (Alternatively, you can skip philosophizing and go fishing. Click on the photos for the links to order the lures.)



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