"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, April 18, 2024

When Jesus Appeared To Congress - King For A Day In The Worst Of All Possible Places

Jesus appears hundreds of times a day to evangelical congregations throughout the United States.  Just yesterday, he appeared to Letitia Jackson of the River Baptist Church in Aberdeen, Mississippi just as real as the day he emerged from the tomb, all dressed in white, cleansed of the blood that had stained his face as it dripped down from the crown of thorns, healed of the wounds of Roman soldiers, and beatific, holy, and smiling. 


'Oh, Jesus', shouted Letitia. 'You have come at last', and she rose and walked towards him.  He held out his arms to her and said, 'Come to me'.  Before she could reach his outstretched embrace, she collapsed in an ecstatic faint, and when she came to, she was a changed woman. 

Her epiphany lasted three days until the escapades of her oft-absent, philandering, drunken husband, her three drug-addled children, and hectoring, insulting mother did her in.  The image of Jesus faded into obscurity as the reality of her shithole neighborhood set in.  She never even gave Jesus a second thought, never sank to her knees and shouted a hallelujah or an amen as the gunfire ricocheted off the CVS and into her drywall. The ghetto was too nasty a place even for the Lord. 

He also appeared to Peggy Sue Brandon of Amos Corners, a dark, miserable coal mining holler in West Virginia that hadn't changed since the Depression. Tar paper shack, cornpone and fatback, barefoot, pregnant, and hungry, Peggy Sue had given up on everything until Jesus appeared to her at the Third Church of the Savior. 


Pastor Anson Phillips had just given the reading, a verse about the goodness of the Lord and his beneficence, when He appeared, a tortured, commiserating figure still bloodied and worn, stumbling down the aisle, grimacing in agony and disappointment.  His Father had abandoned him, Jews had given him up, and Romans had killed him; and there without transfiguration he stood. 

Peggy Sue ran to him, embraced him and helped him down the aisle.  They shared their suffering in that embrace, and she was bound forever to Him. 

Yet, life being what it is, the spareness of her existence, the coal dust, the five children, the shivering winters, the rat shit, weevil infested corn meal, and the dry humping of her husband howling to the rafters while she lay back and took it did her in just like Letitia Jackson.  The Lord came and went and left them with mud stains and rats. 

When Jesus appeared to the Congress of the United States, as clear as day, in beautiful white raiment, haloed, and magnificent, no one but one lone member, Congressman X noticed.  He stood up and looked above the dais where the Speaker was calling the roll and shouted 'He has risen' to which his neighbor said 'Point of Order' in accordance to which the Speaker asked the Honorable Member from ___to please take his seat. 

The Congressman refused, shaking his arms at the ceiling of the chamber, his eyes filled with tears, and his breath short and quick.  The Alabama contingent, all of whom, black or white, had been raised in small country churches where possession, epiphany, and divine appearances were common, came to his seat and embraced him.  Finally, after long decades of prayer, invocation, and hope, the Lord had finally come. 

'Down in front!', yelled a Congressman from a deep blue Northern district.  'Order! Order!' shouted the Speaker, already with a tenuous hold on a fissiparous, angry House.  'Get rid of him', yelled another member, a silk-stocking New York Democrat known to step out of her patrician shoes and axe hammer anyone in her way, a bitch of a woman who could clear the decks quicker than a South Pacific typhoon, who did not suffer fools especially this idiot in the third row. 

'But I saw Him, I saw Him' repeated Congressman X as he was escorted by the bailiff and the Alabama contingent out of the chamber. 

Now, the House of Representatives, a group of rubes, crackers, pimps, and poseurs - the very people Alexander Hamilton warned against when he argued for a buffer against the masses - had only gotten more uncouth, ill-tempered, venal and ambitious since the days of the Founding Fathers.  There were clowns, buffoons, and side show freaks divided not only by party, but by home cooking. 

There were those raised on Jesus and the promise of the Second Coming; those raised in the 'hood where Jesus was nothing but a white boy who conned the shit out the Jews; and the liberals who parsed the works of Samuel Gompers, Saul Alinsky, and Karl Marx for inspiration. 

No one was indifferent to religion. There was only one atheist in the House, a man who had brought up to actively dismiss religion as a perennial corrosive, destructive force derailing progressive attempts at social reform.  Not only was there no God, the man said, but his deluded followers left a trail of blood and mayhem in his name. 

Those who had said phooey and paid Jesus no mind had at least had to reject him, and thus were just as obsessed by religion as the true believer.  So it was no surprise that the House of Representatives, normally a sane and temperate body except in moments of legislative duress, reacted strongly to the outburst, censure, and removal of one of their members. 

The progressive wing of the Democratic Party had long staked its honor and reputation on the dismantling of religion in America, for it was, as the atheist in their midst loudly proclaimed, a deviating, misleading force.  One could not believe in secular social reform and believe in divine rule. Those who relied on Biblical reference for their retrograde ideas on homosexuality, abortion, and salvation had to be silenced, neutered, and spayed in the interest of progress. 

'Just like a dumb-fuck cracker' said one member referring to Congressman X whose outburst had prompted images of the holy rollers, speakers in tongues, born-again idiots that were obstructing justice on his screen. 

On the other side of the metaphorical aisle, were the desultory believers, those who attended prayer breakfasts, who were not unhappy for the moment of silence when House sessions were opened with an ecumenical prayer but who put God aside once work began.  He had no place in the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court, or the White House.  America was a nation of strict division between church and state. 

The simple clause in the Constitution forbidding no imposition of any one religion on other, had been taken out of context, distorted, and manipulated to remove religion from civic discourse; and progressives were the first to jump on the civil rights train when it came to anything other than a bald, secular interpretation of society's rules.  The Ten Commandments were nothing more that the Rule of Law given teeth by religion. 


Tolstoy grappled with religion for his entire life, and in his memoir wrote about how for much of it he investigated every area of human intellectual enterprise to decide for himself whether or not there was a God and what were his intentions for the human race.  

He came up empty, and finally decided that if millions of people believed in Him and billions before that, there just might be something to it; but there is no such generosity in today’s radical secularism.  Religion is a putrid, nasty, thing foisted on the unintelligent, gullible, and naive. 

'Jesus appears to members of Congress' was the catty, tongue-in-cheek headline of the New York Times above an article on the insidiousness of religious fundamentalism in America. 'The curse of the unwashed', was how the journalist put it in his draft, censored by his editor, but true enough; and the copy went on to lambast the credulous 'Bible slaves' of the nation. 

Now, what happened to Congressman X? No different from Letitia and Peggy Sue who had their momentary epiphany in church, the member of Congress, surrounded by venality, badgering self-serving ambition, sludgy thinking, and downright idiocy, simply lost sight of Jesus, dismissed his vision as an aberration, too little sleep, too much Jack Black, and not enough sense and sensibility. 

The affair was soon forgotten, Congressman X was back in his seat voting for land rights, bridges, and subsidies for his constituents.  'God's in his heaven, and all's right with the world'.  

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