Reverend Will B Done Finally Meets God
I still remember the day I attended a seminar entitled, “The Scandal of the Gospel” led by Doug Marlette, the creator of the cartoon “Kudzu,” and Will Campbell who was known as a renegade preacher who made a name for himself championing the cause of civil rights. This was in a day when to do so was greatly unpopular in the South. I looked forward to seeing what these two “characters” were going to do with how the gospel was scandalous.
As I walked into the building where the seminar was to be held there before me was none other than Reverend Will B. Done. Wait a minute. How could a cartoon character be waking there in front of me? It was a few moments later when Doug Marlette introduce Will Campbell that I realized that the cartoon character was based on the real life “character” of Will Campbell.
Will, being the kind of “character” he was, dressed the part that day. He dawned a wide brimmed black hat and bow tie just like the one Will B. Done wore in the cartoon strip. As he leaned over the podium, his opening words were something like, “I just want you to know that I’m damned tired of being associated with some cartoon.”
Obviously just the opposite was true. The cartoon character Will B. Done was a figure who was always wondering what God was up to. Reverend Done had a ministry to “the fabulously rich and famous,” or at least he aspired to have one. The real Will Campbell had a ministry to the down and out, the bigot, and those who were not about to set foot in any church.
Will himself got to where he did not want to set foot in a church either because he figured from experience that the church of his day had lost its way. He desired to spend time with drunks, folks in the KKK, and as one reporter put it “bourbon drinking down home country boys” like him.
As I picked up the newspaper that would tell me of Will’s death, I noticed a dead dragon fly on the outdoor table that was on my deck. Its transparent wings were frozen and its flying days were over. It was then that I picked up the newspaper to discover the news of Will’s death.
Reverend Will B. Done would have considered the dead dragon fly a sign from God. After all, the real Will wrote a book entitled, “Brother to a Dragon Fly.” As I read the article I too considered the now departed dragon fly a sign.
Will Campbell was a rugged rebel. He was uncomfortable with comfortable religion. I think he understood and loved the real Jesus; not the Jesus that has been made up by the church. The real Jesus was also uncomfortable with the religion of his day; a religion that kept building walls to keep people out rather than doors and bridges to invite people in.
Will knew that authentic religion was not about creeds but about God reaching down to the places where people expressed great need. He marched with black folk in those early Civil Rights protests alongside Martin Luther King Jr, but he also later marched through the prison gates to visit the man who pulled the trigger that killed King.
Will B. Done may have been a caricature of religion but Will Campbell was the kind of man that shed light on how religion itself can become a caricature of the real thing. So now both Will B. Done and Will Campbell get to meet God face to face. What a day.
Since the creator of Will B. Done was tragically killed in an accident I suppose that there will now be another seminar of sorts. Doug can draw eternal glimpses of what can be since he was so good at making us laugh at what is. And Will…well…heaven is going to be a livelier place with Will B. Done there.
We need Will Campbell’s rugged version of the faith. I think we need Will’s Jesus who spent time with those on the edge of religion. I think we need Doug’s reminder that we sometimes need to laugh at how silly some of religion can be. Yep, they’re having quite a seminar in heaven.