Monday, July 30, 2012

The Medium and the Master

I got kicked out of the Mission a few nights ago for reading Charles Dickens' Bleak House on my Amazon Kindle.  This has happened to me 3 times now for reading material in chapel other than the Bible or the Hymnal.  The first time I had enough money to stay at a motel, the second time I stayed at a friend's, but this time I had to find a secluded grassy spot hidden from police car spotlights and casual inspections (I'm not going to tell you where it is, because it's a good spot).  The only problem occurred when the sprinklers switched on at 3:00 AM and woke me.  I waited for them to turn off but it never happened.  I can't imagine why this invisible patch of grass needs so much watering in this broken desert state.   Wet and cold, I spent the rest of the night on a bench.

The Mission's policy on reading in chapel changes arbitrarily along with other rules concerning eating in the dormitory, charging electrical devices, etc.  Most feel the changes are rug-pullers to keep you forever scrambling and tottering and vulnerable.   I agree, but a lot of it is the result of indecision, bad communication, arguments filtering down from paid staff, and a profound aversion to filling out write-up forms warning guests about bad behavior.  Face it, most people can't write or spell in these End Times, even with the help of Apple and Microsoft and Fischer Price, so it's easier to make up rules as you go and just kick people out.   For a long time, plenty of people happily read fat Tom Clancy and John Grisham novels during the idiotic and deranged sermons from the Neanderthal pastors, and the Disciples simply ignored it, staring into the middle distance, snapping into focus only for a drunken outburst or a projectile vomitor.

For a while the guests were allowed to have their smart phones out because many of them claimed to have the Bible readily accessible. This is true, but many of them also have porn and violent weirdness and do a lot of racy texting.   I have a King James Bible on my Kindle, so I devised a scheme that would allow me to switch as fast as possible from the science book or thriller I was reading to the New Testament.  This was a Golden Era to me in chapel sessions, because I could read anything I wanted and even gladly switch to the Bible if the pastor actually happened to have something interesting to say about a particular parable or Psalm.  My black, pebbly-textured Kindle cover is exactly the type of binding you see on many Bibles and New Testaments, and I've lost count of the number of times people have nodded and smiled at me on the bus, murmuring things like, "Good to see you reading the Word, young man."

The evening of my most recent ejection, Disciple Albert, who would have made a good concentration camp guard (his enthusiasm for rules, write-up forms and his gibbering glee upon seeing someone ejected or punished are legendary), snuck up behind me. 

"That ain't the Bible!"   He poked a finger at my Kindle screen.  The S.O.B. almost touched it and smudged it!

"Sure it is!" I retorted.  "Listen to this: 'Your mother, Esther, is your disgrace, and you were hers.'  Esther's one of the books in the Bible." I said triumphantly.

I got insanely lucky with the name of Dickens' heroine, but Albert didn't buy it.  He squinted at the screen for a few seconds.  "Naw, naw.  Get your pack.  You're out for the night.  If you argue with me it's gonna be three nights.  Come back tomorrow.  Remember, I love you and so does the Master."

"The Master," is what some people call Jesus these days.  In some translations acolytes call Jesus "master" which connotes wisdom or divine leadership.  But in the brains of people like dreadful Disciple Albert, Jesus is an iron-hard taskmaster, a cosmic Punisher who will bring down fiery destruction on you at any moment.  Nitwit celebrity Kirk Cameron and inane Pastor Ray Comfort have a TV show about Jesus called "The Way of the Master," a genuinely demented farrago of Bible mistranslation, creationism, and a Jesus who seems more like an evil alien from Rigel 7 than an itinerant Rabbi.  

Comfort and Cameron are notorious on the Internet for their riotous, ignoramus commentary on the End Times, Darwin, and Creationism.  They printed their own severely abridged and annotated version of Darwin's Origin of Species,leaving out the crucial chapter on the geographical distribution of species, something no creationist ever deals with because it's one of the most compelling pieces (among thousands) of evidence for evolution.  They are also infamous for their Banana Argument , a YouTube classic in which they argue that bananas are perfectly designed by God for the human hand, having pop tops and easy-peel perforations and so on.  They're oblivious of the fact that bananas' user-friendly features have been selected over many generations by humans and aren't present in nature.  They back-peddled when the howls went up and now claim they were being ironic.

Bananas are an easy but appropriate symbol for so much of what goes on at the Mission and for the stuff that passes as "spiritual" today: the apish, hooting sapience, the slippery pratfalls, the monkey shines and so on.  A couple of nights ago I showed Disciple Albert a book I was reading by Bart Ehrman called Misquoting Jesus.   "Is this okay?" I asked.  "It's about the Master." (Actually the book is a compelling argument by a real scholar that the New Testament has been copied, mistranslated, forged, and mucked up so much over the centuries, there's no way to know what Jesus actually said or did).

He looked dubious. "Well . . . Naw, naw.  Rules are rules.  I'll give you a Bible if you want.  Your own to keep."

"No thanks," I said.  "I already have a couple."

Then we talked about my Kindle and he told me how much he wanted one, but right now the rules didn't allow it.  

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