Now, I am certainly no phraseologist, ..., well, maybe I am somewhat of an armchair phraseologist, in that occasionally I will speak or hear some colloquialism or another and think to myself something along the lines of, "I wonder who first said that, why, and exactly what it originally meant?" And usually it turns out to be from either Shakespeare or The Bible, but I still usually use Google to help me track these things down.

In the case of "scum of the earth", as far as I can tell, it's a Bible one. Well, sort of, anyway... The phrase "slime of the earth" appears in Genesis 2, verse 7, but only in the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible, which, as many people who profess to know about that sort of thing would point out, is neither terribly accurate nor modern. In pretty much every other translation, in place of "slime of the earth" appears "dust of the ground", as in, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

So, to sum up, the phrase probably entered into the English language in 1609 (which was when the Douay-Rheims translation was first published), at some later point "scum" replaced "slime", because let's face it, "scum of the earth" just rolls off the tongue more nicely than "slime of the earth", but since it really means "dust of the earth" anyway, can probably be expressed as the roughly-equivalent "dirtbag".

or something.

Scum of the Earth is a church in Denver, Colorado founded by Resee Roper (of the popular Christian Ska band Five Iron Frenzy) and Pastor Mike Sares. The goal of the church is to reach people outcast by society—punks, skaters, ravers, homeless people, etc. They chose the name because many of the people they're trying to reach can identify with it, and also to show that they don't think they're better than everyone else.

Their mission statement is "to be a church who: seeks intimacy with God and honest relationships with others, cultivates creativity and uses everyone’s gifts, asks questions while seeking Truth, recognizes our need for a Savior, passionately yet respectfully shares the saving love of Christ, and demonstrates God’s love in our community."

They meet Sunday nights @ 6:30 at the Tollgate (4200 E. Colfax Avenue, downtown Denver) and their website is at

Mike sends out weekly devotionals by e-mail called eDevotions, which you can subscribe to by e-mailing him at Perikatharmata(REMOVETHIS) (The "(REMOVETHIS)" is not part of the e-mail address, it's just there to fool spam bots. To e-mail him, just remove it, including the parenthesis.)

"To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world."
(1 Corinthians 4:11-13)

I have a question for you to consider. I hope you will take the time to chew on it, let the taste roll about your tongue, feel the gritty texture. Chew a while, then make the decision whether to spew it out, eject it from yourself as so unsavory as to trigger your gag reflex.

The question is this: How would you react if your job caused you to be regarded as a criminal? Would you experience anger or shame for going to work each day? Would you plan to abandon that employment in favor of other work which would allow you to look others in the eye? Tell me, what would you do if it came down to it?

Let me tell you a story of two men. Let's assume both are the same age, have the same educational background, they even have the same dentist (albeit unknown to each other). They both have wives, families, cars and mortgages, the familiar trappings of modern life. If you were to see them at your local grocery store or ice cream shop there would be little to differentiate them to your curious eye.

Our first man has a past. He is currently on parole from prison. He did his time, paid for his crime, as if it could actually be cancelled by substituting years of his life for the act he performed. His wife has stood by him even though he was convicted by a jury of his peers. He denied the heinous act at trial though the evidence was overwhelmingly against him. His wife and children, though aware of what he did and where he has spent the last 10 years, have filed that information away in a little corner of their minds. They have separated that knowledge from the image they call husband or father.

You ask yourself what could this man have done? The answer is he molested a 5 year old little girl. That earned him prison time and finally parole. He has a weekly call from his parole officer. He is asked to verify his continued residence and employment. He is told each week of the conditions of his parole, to stay away from certain places, and to notify the parole officer of any changes in his work or residence status. Then he is told to have a good week until the next call.

Following that reminder of his past, he is free to work and live pretty much as he wishes. He can have a beer, watch his own tv, go to bed when he wishes, rise when he wants, (of course, in time to go to work), engage in most activities in which anyone else may wish to engage.

Our second individual has committed no crime. He hasn't so much as taken an ink pen from his work. He doesn't wish to harm anyone. All he wishes to do is perform his job, earn his pay, and support his loved ones. He hopes to make enough money to spare to treat his family to a well earned vacation where he gets to play 'Dad' for a whole week. He looks forward to getting a sunburn, talk for hours with his wife, watch how much his kids have grown. Maybe they'll all get to walk on a sunset beach, feel the breeze tousle their hair while they eat overpriced ice cream cones.

What's up with our second character, you ask yourself. Why doesn't he get to spend time with his family? The answer is he's a long haul trucker. His parole happens on the weekend when he gets to see his family, a kind of work release program. He may only get to see them one weekend a month.

He has a logbook to record every mile he drives. He records every stop, how long that stop lasts, when it ends and thence on to the next break. He records every town or city he stops at, and the miles he runs at the end of each day. He records how many hours he spent driving, on duty not driving, in the sleeper, or off duty. He has one logbook for each month, every day accounted for, 365 days a year.

Federal regulations mandate how long he can work, how much of that period he can spend driving, how much he can work while not behind the wheel. Regulations also mandate when he MUST go to bed, how long he MUST spend there, when he can start his next tour of duty. Then he gets to do it all over again.

He must retain record of each day's activities for the current day as well as the last 7 days. His company must retain his logs for a period of 6 months. Both he and his company are subject to inspection of those records.

The driver may be required to produce them while on the road at a weigh station or a roadside inspection. He must have them current to his last change of duty. Let's say he stopped for a permitted 2 hour break in which he took a 'power nap'. He drives 150 miles and crosses the next scale on the route he is traveling. The police at the scale ask to see his logbook. If it is not current to his last stop, he will get a ticket and probably shut down, forced to take a mandatory 10 hour rest stop.

His company, usually with a 48 hour notice given, must produce records for the last 6 months. That includes dates on fuel receipts, toll tickets, repair orders, etc. If the times and dates don't match, the company is also subject to fines or other action up to and including suspension of their authority to conduct business. Fines can be extremely high, often in the tens of thousands of dollars. Violation can subject the company to increased scrutiny, inspections, and monitoring of their operations. Continued violation will force them out of business.

In our little scenario of the 2 men, 1 a convicted felon and the other a truck driver, please determine who is the biggest criminal. From the level of inspection and oversight, the trucker is apparently the most significant threat to society. This is something that has occurred to me as I reflect on my chosen profession. Yes, I made the choice to drive for a living. I asked for a job where I knew I'd be gone a lot from my family. What I didn't ask for is to be treated worse than a convicted child molester. The resentment has been growing until it sits as an almost physical obstruction in my throat. I detest that this industry has allowed itself to be characterized in such a negative fashion. I feel like Richard Harris' character in the film A Man Called Horse when he snaps at his captors and screams to the sky "I am NOT an animal!" I am NOT a criminal, but by their actions the Federal government has determined that I am.

So, you and I, as we sit and mull this little drama over, as we sip our drinks and chat a bit....tell me, what would you do? My inclination is to start seeking a new beginning before I choke on this knot of resentment. I find myself envious of Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining. I long for my own Overlook Hotel to which I can escape, make a new beginning. Such an opportunity would allow me, as Nicholson himself did in the movie, to commit murder. I could finally kill the shame of being treated like a criminal. I could lay that chapter of my life to rest, let the mold consume it, decompose it, lay it waste. I could at last be free again.

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