(from a hymn by George Bennard, 1873-1958)
For at least the last two thousand years, Jerusalem (Yerushaláyim or al-Quds) has been in the business of building tourist attractions for religious pilgrims. Shiny, hi-tech Davidson Center, not far from the spot Constantine’s mother pegged as Golgotha, is but one of the latest and most controversial. Built just a snub and a sneer from one of Islam’s holiest sites, it is Israel’s version of deep-well fracking. But not for oil or gas. No, Davidson Center is precisely placed for maximum extraction of funds from fundamentalists itching for Armageddon.
There, on a stage far away, in the shadows of the Noble Sanctuary, on the “24th of Av” (August 24), stood a latter-day huckster with the rabble-rousing instincts of a TV evangelist. An emblem of insufferable shamelessness, pop-prophet Glenn Beck was drilling deep into the emotional fault lines of some of America’s most fanatical yearnings and anxieties. Exiled from even the far-right fringes of Fox News, Beck was now preaching only to a choir of mustered zealots. His audience this day was an aged chorus-line of one thousand beguiled tourists, bussed to the Davidson Center just in time for his much-hyped “Restoring Courage” pep rally.
As if the Middle East’s only nuclear power needed to have its chutzpah restored.
At the same time, halfway around the world in Hot Springs, Arkansas, about a hundred people showed up for a simulcast of what Israeli newspaper Haaretz derided as Beck’s “supportarama roadshow.” Most of our village idiots were in attendance, a motley gaggle of teabaggers, politicians, and a few curious, curmudgeonly onlookers like yours truly. As the big show started on the big screen, a speaker solemnly asked the Jerusalem audience (mostly white American Christians) to stand for Israel’s national anthem. They did, and so did we. Well, most of us. Except for a dozen or so notable — ahem — exceptions, the Hot Springs Hundred (mostly white American Christians) dutifully rose as one while Hatikvah played on and on. And on.
For tent-revival spectacle carefully choreographed for television, it was dull. Dull, dull, dull. Plodding, minor-key amateur hour. The infamous, connect-the-dots wacky chalk talk was missing. Even the much-awaited fount of Beckish weeping was postponed until the very end.
There were a few enthusiastic outbursts. “The Courage to Stand” was pregnant with long pauses and gotcha! lines that begged for an outbreak of happy clapping. One line that clearly resonated with audiences hither and yon was an early dig at “the combined and cold hearts of every bureaucrat at the United Nations.” Applause erupted as soon as Beck finished reading that. Not too surprising, since our local conspiracy theorists (and they are legion) are convinced that were it not for their stalwart vigilance, Fidel Castro himself and his swarthy band of UN desperadoes would be goose-stepping Central’s scenic sidewalks.
Given our national appetite for fear and loathing, it was not surprising that there were scattered, spontaneous huzzahs and hosannas at Beck’s every suggestion that you-know-who “theys” and “thems” were determined to smite the Israelites. Courage in the face of terrorism against Israel was a centerpiece of the gala evening. Terrorism in the other direction, of course, was completely redacted.
Beck’s speech was absolutely silent on the subject of Israel’s prior peoples, conveniently cleansed from the blood-soaked “Holy Land” landscape. The gospel according to Saint Beck transformed Israel into a legendary phoenix risen from the ashes of desolate Palestine, fallow since the days of Roman diaspora. Beck was a carnival barker shouting out well-rehearsed fictions to a crowd of smattered sycophants, but his fevered romance of Israel without Palestine was like Custer’s Last Stand without the Indians, or the antebellum South without slavery.
It was an unreal version of reality peddled to a dwindling congregation of true believers. To those faithful few, it was Good News indeed — the “courage” of Beck’s fantasy Israel will save America. And if you focused on the pale tourists feebly waving their little plastic flags, you could almost overlook the pathetic scene of Davidson Center’s too many empty plastic chairs. You could almost ignore the jeers of those outside the Davidson Center, who refused to attend an extravaganza orchestrated purely for the consumption of Christendom’s zaniest outliers.
But the sermon on this day was not for profligate sinners, but for Beck’s chosen people. On this day, no one was saved. No prodigal sons returned to the fold. No, this was a day for preaching to the choir. Manna from Beck was offered up for his remnant wanderers starving in the parched wilderness of their own delusions. He fed them well and all the people said Amen.
And it was a day to remember.
– Monsieur d’Nalgar (last modified on September 2, 2011)
Kaufman’s piece also contains a link to another post about Beck’s appearance at Caesarea (Qisarya) the day before, with Texas mega-church evangelist John “I am an Israeli” Hagee:
Not to be out-maneuvered by his new partner in the evangelical business, Glenn Beck has decided to raise the stakes in the battle with Pastor John Hagee over who can pander more to the Jews and Israel.
It was only weeks ago, that Hagee invited Beck to the annual Christians United for Israel conference, where Beck had the audacity – on Hagee’s home turf – to declare “I am a Jew!”
Little did Beck know that when he invited Hagee to the “Restoring Courage” event that took place this Sunday in Caesarea, his mentor would fight back in style and shout at a roaring audience “Ani Yisraeli – I am Israeli!”.
Sources close to the two told +972 that after Hagee left the stage, Beck could be seen crying. The sources could not confirm if this was because of Hagee’s move, or just Beck being Beck.
If anyone still reading needs to quickly shed a few pounds, let me suggest this video emetic from that event:
A transcript of Beck’s “The Courage to Stand” speech (at least, this is the version he wants you to read and remember) is here:
And finally, my own random, unscientific analysis of some of the words in Beck’s speech:
- I, me, my: 132
- You, we, our: 158
- They, them, their: 84
- Palestine, Palestinian: 0
- Israel, Israeli: 17
- America, American: 10
- Jew, Jewish: 19
- Islam, Muslim, Moslem: 0
- Christian: 1
- Arab, Arabic: 2
- Courage: 12
- Fear, evil, dark, darkness: 24
- World: 15
- God: 37
- Abraham: 6
- Jesus: 0
- Muhammed: 0
- Prophet: 5