Tuesday, April 12, 2005

“If Jesus Christ came back today and saw what was being done in his name,” Woody Allen once said, “he’d never stop throwing up.” Whether it’s merely the pendulum swinging or the aftermath of premillennial tension, everybody these days seems to be doing something in the name of God.

The media has jumped on the bandwagon with religious pornography like the Terri Schiavo melodrama and the death of Pope John Paul II. Spectacles like these bring the media whores and hypocrites out in droves. Hypocrisy is one of those things, like sex and death, that is both infinitely banal and utterly fascinating. And one thing’s for sure: we live in an era fascinated more than any other by the banal.

As for porn, next week NBC will treat its culture-of-lies niche audience to an adaptation of Tim LeHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ best-selling “Left Behind” books with a miniseries called “Revelations,” fanning the flames of radicalism on the religious right, and further mainstreaming their noxious, crackpot views. Jesus is dry-heaving as we speak.

If you really want to understand what’s going on in the reddest parts of red America (and you’d be forgiven for not wanting to), the “Left Behind” books will show you in graphic, gory detail, and tediously purple prose. The series is the latest version of a centuries-old concept called “the Abominable Fancy”: the idea that the chief amusement of the saved will be the suffering of the damned. Those who subscribe believe in a Heaven hardly distinguishable from an episode of “Jerry Springer.” Or if you prefer, an endless night in Abu Ghraib prison. In other words, it’s a version of Heaven that looks to most sensible folks uncannily like Hell.

If you want to see the real-life poster boy for the Abominable Fancy of the radical religious right, his name is Eric Robert Rudolph, and last week he struck a plea bargain that will allow him to avoid the death penalty, something he was more than willing to inflict on others on several occasions in the 1990s. A self-ordained soldier in the “Army of God,”in addition to the ‘96 Olympic bombing, this homegrown terrorist’s resume includes family planning clinics and a gay club in Atlanta. His handiwork left two dead and hundreds maimed for life.

Rudolph is just the kind of guy LeHaye and Jenkins’ bogus right-wing Jesus would love to have as a soldier in his Apocalyptic Army: a cold-blooded murderer using religion to justify his own evil impulses, and a coward who hates life with a passion but fears death even more. And no wonder. What kind of paradise are these self-righteous phonies preparing for? One without mercy, hope, or love. One in which the petty and vindictive, the nutjobs and pschopaths get the pleasure of seeing their every little revenge fantasy acted out on a giant IMAX in the sky.

Mmm, sounds like fun. Don’t forget the popcorn. But please, leave me behind.

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