Strakon Lights Up, No. 112

What a boyfriend we have in Jesus


Last summer I planned to write something about an especially aggravating little horror I was seeing on the telescreen, but I let the events of 911 knock it to the farthest of back burners. Mistake.

After 911, a correspondent of mine remarked that one thing, at least, was certain: Westerners would never pay back their Muslim enemies in kind, because no one was about to commit suicide in defense of hedonism. (That's one wiseacre whom Ashcroft no doubt would like to see safely behind the wire.) People talk about "secular humanism" and all the new mysticisms and what not, but it's actually hedonism that is now the civic religion of the historically Christian West. Actually, you might as well omit that qualifier "civic."

The imperial armed forces would say, of course, that they are fighting the Muslims in defense not of hedonism but rather freedom. I guess that includes our freedom to shut up and do whatever the nice policeman tells us to do, the freedom to "voluntarily" pay our confiscatory taxes, the freedom not to smoke, the freedom to buckle up in nine different ways while driving, the freedom to wear a T-shirt blazoned with obscenities, the freedom to think the way all respectable people think, and the freedom to vote for the fine entertainment candidates the state has programmed for us. Perhaps most importantly of all, I reckon our brave paladins are fighting for our freedom to be multicultural, i.e., anti-Western. (That last is related to what I'm getting at here, but the irony of it is so massive I need to deal with it in a separate column.)

I suspect, however, that if ordinary people were asked Why We Fight, and if they were honest, and if they knew the word, many would answer that the present war is all about preserving American hedonism, including its necessary subset of obsessive eroticism. Those sent reeling by "Christian Rock" and quasi-pagan Folk Masses and other such oxymorons have known for years that, in our era of civilizational demolition, even many professed Christians have become deaf to the necessary idiom of Western Christendom. The idiom that they're substituting for it, cheerfully and heedlessly, is the gravamen of today's sermon.


I do have nightmares occasionally, but I promise I didn't dream this one up. I even have a "smoking gun" tape of it, and none of the proceedings are "inaudible." Here goes.

The scene is a laundromat, where two clean-cut, fetching young women are waiting for their wash to finish. They appear to be of college age. One is white, one is black.

As she waits for the drier cycle to end, the Negress is studying what turns out to be the newspaper's personal ads.

The Caucasian girl walks up and asks, in the tones and cadence of the modern mockery: "Hey, girl. Still lookin' for ... the perfect man?"

The black girl grins and displays a page of the ads. "Check ... this  guy out."

White girl, reading: "'Seeking lifetime relationship.'"

Black girl, sighing longingly and tossing her head as modern young things are wont to do: "'Hoping to be your best friend.'"

White girl: "'Willing to give my life for you'?" She is wide-eyed, momentarily stunned.

Black girl, sighing again and looking off into the distance: "That's sssso romantic."

White girl, intense now: "Who is  this guy?"

Black girl: "Just says 'JC.'"

A black screen intervenes at this point displaying white initials haloed in gold: "JC." Almost immediately they are filled out with the full name: "Jesus Christ."

Back to the laundromat. Both lasses read in unison from the ad: "'Available twenty-four hours a day'!" Our man-hungry pair are incredulous but oh-so-interested. They start tussling and wrestling for possession of the paper, and the narrator urges: "Get personal with Jesus from First Missionary Church." The name, address, and phone number of that institution appear at the bottom of the screen.

The girls' blood is up now, or their hormones at least, and they are grimly determined in their sudden new rivalry: "Let go!" "It's mine!" They tear the paper in two.


Now, for Westerners the story of Christ isn't just the greatest religious story ever told; it's the greatest romantic story ever told; in fact, it surely served as the indispensable foundation for Western romance, understood as the æsthetic of heroism in the service of Right. But I hope it's clear that that's not the kind of "romance" we're talking about here.

The commercial obviously was not produced locally; the info on the local church, including the one-sentence narration, was just inserted in the space provided. I can only wonder how many churches of how many denominations in how many TV markets bought it. For all I know, there may even have been a Trendy Episcopalian version that dropped the girls and substituted two pretty young boys (one black and one white, naturally). To consummate the crassness in the version I saw, the musical score was some low-down doo-wacka-wacka stuff just about an inch short of what you might hear in the background on Skinemax at midnight. I suppose I shouldn't be familiar with what Skinemax sounds like, but then I don't claim to represent First Missionary Church, either.

While we're on the subject, I've never made a secret of the fact that I'm not a religious believer. But, excuse me, I am a Westerner and "ethnically Christian," so here I stand, alongside my professed Christian friends, on their great vessel as she founders: Call me a steerage passenger, if you will, or maybe even a stowaway. But I find myself gripping the railing in terror and desperation as the deck begins to tilt and the dark ocean of oblivion beckons. When the ship goes down, I go down with her. I don't see any rescue ships on the horizon, though I do see ships of other civilizations steaming past, going their own way, full speed ahead. (That's just as well: I'd drown if I tried to board them.)

However many jetliners might have flown into buildings, and however much anthrax might have spread throughout the state postal system, those "passing ships" could not have torpedoed H.M.S. Christendom even if they'd tried. Instead, something must have gone very wrong on the bridge — in the engine room — on deck. Otherwise so many of the crew and passengers, in their final moments, wouldn't be struggling to translate the Gospel into something the fishes might swallow.

January 2, 2002

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