My dentist and company are in Durango, and this winter I’ve been making regular trips down there to have a busted bridge fixed, a bum rear molar yanked, and so on.
Simultaneously with the tusk troubles, demons possessed my car radio, freezing the dial at the 92.7 mark, all well and good in and around Telluride but from the shortcut from Dolores to the Mancos cutoff on down to Durango accidentally in tune with a 24-hour a day “Christian” station, with an endless succession of loutish lame-brained loudmouthed Limbaugh soundalikes, “family values” snake oil swindlers, “theologians” who just toppled off the manure truck after too many Skippy jars full of moonshine ‘n’ meth, and bigoted Bible belt boobs and bunkum – bellowing bozos who want to burn all the books in the world but the Big B. and the whack-o screeds they and their cronies sell over the air to credulous shut-ins and dogfood-eating seniors in crumbling doublewides.
When I was attending Sunday school under duress as a wee child, grandson of the founder of the YMCA in China and son of a mother who when we returned Stateside became a deaconess of the local Congregational church, there was no doubt about what “our” Christianity meant. My mom’s church played a leading role in the nascent civil rights movement in Northern Virginia, prayed for peace every Sunday, and listened to sermons in favor of UNICEF and the World Food Program. It was ironic, perhaps, that a good percentage of the church’s congregation were past, present or future employees of the CIA – my mother, at age 95, just co-authored a book of poems with the widow of legendary counter-intelligence shaman James Jesus Angleton – but outside the office they were 100 percent committed to social, economic and political justice. At ------- -------- (name of church deleted by writer), Republicans were as rare as hen’s teeth or Telluride Realtors at an Earth Day rally.
But this radio “Christianity” is Christian in name only: when you scrutinize it carefully, it is actually the most un-Christian dreck ever unleashed on the public; Ozzie Osbourne biting the head off a bat in front of a flaming pentagram while ten thousand stoned teens make devil’s horns with their fingers is a veritable Sermon on the Mount in comparison.
Listen to it for an hour or two and you may not believe in God, but sure as shooting you find yourself thinking that Satan may really exist, right down to the red hide, the hooves, the goat antlers, the sulfur-laden halitosis and the pronged pitchfork; that he is stalking the earth today, with an FCC license in one hand an 800 number phone in the other, stealing from the poor to further enrich the rich.
I first time I realized just how crazy/evil this stuff was one night, driving back to Telluride in a blowing snowsquall, when “Doctor” James Dobson was on the air: one thing you quickly notice on Xian radio is how many of these Coocoo Klux Klansmen call themselves “Doctor”, based on some degree in twisted theology from the Carter French Huntington Scruggs College of Dogmatic, Charismatic and Wombat-Handling Theological Science in Waycross, Georgia. I have this recurrent fantasy of someone collapsing during a crowded trans-Atlantic flight or among the crowds at an NCAA basketball semi-final. A cry goes up – “Is anyone here a doctor?” – and immediately a dozen men leap to their feet, offering to pray over the victim, sprinkle him with water from the Holy Ghost Spring (“Only $3.95 a bottle!”), add him to the list of people the Reverend Doctor Billy Joe Gazotemplatt will intercede with God for on Sunday (“Just $1.95, or $79.95 for an entire year, billed in four easy installments!”), or perform an exorcism… If someone can’t write a prescription, set a broken bone or tie off a bleeding artery, then they ain’t a doctor in my book…
Anyhow, Dobson had a guest that night, an adenoidal young man from some Heritage Foundation offshoot in Washington, whose big message was, get this, how “un-Christian” Social Security (!), Medicaid (!!) and the whole concept of universal health care for all Americans (!!!) were. Yeah, I can just see Jesus kicking down the doors of doctors who provided care to the poor regardless of their ability to pay, telling the patients in the waiting room to beat it: “If you can’t afford to pay, go borrow the cash from the money changers in the temple – tell ‘em Jesus sent you, that’s Jesus with a ‘J’—“ Am I wrong, or is that sacrilege of the highest order?
This last week, with Easter approaching, the station focused on how the only way of avoiding eternal damnation in Hell was by putting all your faith in Jesus: “Good deeds mean nothing; anything you do on earth, no matter how virtuous it is, means nothing. If you are a Moslem, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a pagan, anything but a Christian, you are going straight to Hell; only those of us who put our trust in Jesus are going to Heaven.”
Religion without morality is the stuff of cults, superstition, voodoo – hoodoo and the bottomless pit of unreason, where monsters breed…
Funny thing: the best people I have ever know were good Christians, Moslems, Jews, Buddhists, et. al., while most of the worst have been the representatives of the intolerant, narrow-minded members of the same faiths. My grandfather Barnett was an extreme example of the former. He went to China when in his early 20s, with a Southern Methodist missionary with deep roots in Georgia and Florida, a 22-year-old-wife, and an open, generous mind. Rapidly became close friends with the local Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian clergy in Hangchow. Ended up founding the Chinese chapter of the YMCA, where he pushed social activism, education, and the creed of “All men are brothers” and “China for the Chinese” so enthusiastically that even the Chinese Communist Party respected him; there is still a museum in Hangchow honoring him and the YMCA’s early years in China, and among our family photos is one of Eugene Barnett standing with Chou En-lai in the door of an air raid shelter in the early years of Japan’s war against China. Two of Grandfather Barnett’s many, many friends around the world were John D. Rockefeller and Mahatma Gandhi…
I don’t think that Granddad would have cared much for “Doctor” Dobson and the other hypocrites and bigots preaching over the air waves these days; any Heaven that didn’t admit his many non-Christian Chinese friends, sages, lamas, and mystics, and that turned Gandhi away, wouldn’t have appealed to him much. And if Heaven and Hell actually do exist, and if God isn’t some kind cruel, irrational cosmic maitre’d, some cosmic swagman and court jester to the kings and conquerors of this world, Granddad and his ecumenical crew are enjoying Paradise, while Dobson leads a choir of lobbyists, censors, K Sreet carpetbaggers and $750 an hour lawyers in bespoke pinstripes, howling for mercy deep in the bowels of Hades.