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Feb 23 2015

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Oh brother! Where art thou?!

carnival barkerDear editor:

Oh brother! Where art thou?! I mean really, where do you get this stuff?

There must be something in the water here. A few weeks ago, a bizarre prognostication of smiting from outer space appeared on the pages of this newspaper. In the religion section. Apparently asteroid BL86, in just 12 short years, is going to collide with our planet in a cosmic fulfillment of ancient prophecy. Oceans will turn into blood (literally) and a bunch of critters, including us hairless apes who walk around on our hind legs, will turn into barbeque. Bodies will be “torn apart with their blood being mixed with blazing chunks of metal or debris.” Golly, gee whiz!

Not to be left behind in the mad dash towards the squishy fringes of what increasingly passes for church in America, a regular contributor of exceedingly odd letters offers frothy opinions on everything from global warming to how the “feckless” black man in the White House is hurting our BFF Israel by “obviously” helping his bosom buddies, those nefarious, boogedy boogedy Muslims. All while spouting bible verses and trotting out the same gaggle of discredited Fox News darlings who offer us nothing but wars without end.

Will we never be rid of these carnival barkers in the make-believe midnight ramble of fundamentalism? Quoting from the pre-Jesus Old Testament to somehow prove that the end is near? Or that post-1948 Palestine is now the world’s biggest, baddest lucky charm? Curious, isn’t it, that these favored few, on an apartheid trajectory we must never, ever criticize, have a free pass from the peculiar particulars of your born-again salvation mechanics. Repentance and sincere incantations of sinners’ prayers are apparently unnecessary if you have a righteous pedigree.

The hypocrisy is galling. Martin Accad, director of the Institute of Middle East Studies, in a recent essay about ISIS, wrote that it is absurd for Christians to “join the calls for bloody war against the Muslim world in the name of the fight against terror” while, in the same breath, they support a Zionist ideology that has crushed the Palestinian people for over 6 decades. Amen, Brother Martin!

Are there alternatives to all the rage and fear and flying spittle that darken these pages? Yes. Read the testament of Christian de Chergé, abbot of a Trappist monastery in Algeria. Christian was killed in 1996, probably by extremists much like today’s ISIS. Two years before his death, he finished his testament with these words to the unknown Muslim fundamentalist he anticipated would someday end his life:

“May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.”

That, my friends, sounds a lot more like the Prince of Peace I try to follow. Fundamentalism in the service of fascism doesn’t represent my Christianity. And neither does hoping for asteroid BL86 to come blow us all up. We seem to be quite capable of doing that all by ourselves…

Frère Jacques
Hot Springs, Arkansas

Permanent link to this article: http://levantium.com/2015/02/23/oh-brother-where-art-thou/

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  1. Jacques

    Upon reading Graeme Wood’s recent article about ISIS in The Atlantic (see “We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal” on this blog), I was gobsmacked by the striking ideological parallels between ISIS and apocalyptical, fundamentalist Christianity. And while our homegrown christianist wingnuts may not be aspiring to a terrestrial caliphate (although their insistence that we are a Christian nation, and their 1000-year Jesus reign mumbo-jumbo do sound awfully similar), the only reason they are less dangerous than ISIS is because they are diluted across the American landscape… Graeme suggests the best strategy for defeating ISIS is to contain them long enough to let them self-immolate. Maybe containment is our best hope for making our own fundies irrelevant and obsolete. Lord knows you can’t reason with them…

  2. Jacques

    To give you an idea of the editing process, here is the first version (more or less) submitted to the local newspaper two days ago…

    Dear editor:

    Oh brother! Where art thou?! I mean really, where do you get this stuff?

    There must be something in the water here in Hot Springs. Just a few weeks ago we were regaled with bizarre predictions that asteroid BL86 will, in just 12 short years, turn the oceans into blood (literally) and smite a lot of critters, including us hairless apes who walk around on our hind legs. Bodies will be rent asunder, “with their blood being mixed with blazing chunks of metal or debris.” Golly, gee whiz! Somebody better hurry and get a copyright on “The Mark” because it’s going to be a banner year for any tattoo artist who can ink 666…

    That preposterous bit of paranoid inanity was in the weekly religion section of the Sentinel Record, in a column that is usually reserved for local clergy to opine about obscure theological issues of the day. Almost always, a profile of the author is included, a little something to give us readers a hint about why the revered writer is prepared to share his or her profundities about godly matters. However, in this case of wacky intergalactic prognostications, there was not a word. Tell us please, Mister Editor. Is he an amateur astronomer, diligently scouring the heavens for signs of Apocalypse? Or is he a latter-day prophet with a direct line to the Almighty?

    Not to be left behind in the mad dash towards the squishy fringes of what increasingly passes for church in America, another regular contributor of odd letters recently offered his wide-ranging opinions on everything from global warming to how the “feckless” black man in the White House is hurting Israel by “obviously” helping his bosom buddies, those nefarious, boogedy boogedy Muslims. Yessir, my friends, step right up! See the satellite photos that show Iran is about to bomb us all! Listen to the same tired old gaggle of discredited cronies of our dearly departed Dubya, Fox News darlings all, as they urge us onward to wars without end…

    Will we never be rid of these carnival barkers in the make-believe midnight ramble of fundamentalism? Quoting from the pre-Jesus Old Testament to somehow prove that post-1948 Palestine is now the world’s largest lucky charm hardly changes the fact that apartheid Israel is on a trajectory completely at odds with America’s ideals and best interests. And it is exceedingly curious that these favored (but endangered?) and privileged Holy Land immigrants, whom we are admonished to never ever criticize, are always exempt from the peculiar particulars of your salvation mechanics. Sincere incantations of sinners’ prayers are apparently unnecessary if you have a righteous pedigree.

    Martin Accad, director of the Institute of Middle East Studies, wrote that it is absurd for Christians to “join the calls for bloody war against the Muslim world in the name of the fight against terror” while they support a Zionist ideology that has crushed the Palestinian people for over 6 decades. Amen, Brother Martin! In his comments following Graeme Wood’s recent article about ISIS in The Atlantic, Martin concluded with some thoughts about Christian de Chergé, a Trappist monk in Algeria who was killed in 1996. Here’s what Christian wrote two years before, to the unknown Muslim fundamentalist he anticipated would someday end his life:

    “May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.”

    And that, my friends, sounds a lot more like the Prince of Peace I try to follow. Fundamentalism in the service of fascism doesn’t represent my Christianity. And neither does hoping for asteroid BL86 to come blow us all up. We seem to be quite capable of doing that all by ourselves…

    Frère Jacques
    Hot Springs, Arkansas

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