When I was a confused, impressionable teenager, I dabbled in something of which I’m now not particularly proud: christianity.
after an extensive process of considering each of the world’s religions and evaluating them on their merits to determine the one most likely to be right I conveniently happened to pick the religion that was dominant in the country in which I lived.)
I read the bible – all of the “New Testament”, even the nasty ravings of Saul/Paul and the incoherent babbling of whoever’s mushroom-induced hallucinations resulted in the book of “revelation”; even the “Old Testament” up to about Isaiah. (Admittedly I sort of skimmed through the book that’s a list of people begetting other people.) I attended one of those modern churches where they appeal to lonely young people by pretending to be their friend… for Jesus. You’d go along on a Sunday evening and they’d have a guitarist and a band and play upbeat songs about the Lord, about Jesus, and about how everything is just so awesome when you’re a Christian and don’t worry about those other people because you’ve got friends here and also you’re right and they’re not. And I had a tape for my Walkman of catchy pop/rock style songs by an American evangelical singer named David Meece.
At some point these songs ended up as digital files in my mp3 collection (he did write catchy tunes, seriously) and the other day some of them came up on shuffle. And I listened to the lyrics and realized not just how naff, but how insidious and creepy they really were. How they promote the ludicrous view amongst many christians that they are somehow persecuted when anyone questions their privileged status in our society or reacts unfavorably to demands they be forced to live according to the christians’ arbitrary rules. How nasty is the whole tone of revelation dreaming, with its undercurrent of you’ll be sorry you disagreed with me when you’re burning in a lake of fire while I’m ecstatic in heaven.
This is from a Meece song called “The Unknown Soldier”, intended, I suppose, to reassure young christians worried about looking like tossers to their peers:
See him on the campus, as he studies with his friends,
They mean no harm, they laugh, and call him “preacher” now and then,
His words are few, he saves them ’til he’s home and on his knees,
That’s where he’s a warrior; and he fights to see them free.
They call him “preacher” when he preaches at them! That’s like the mean kids who tease you! The kids who make you feel small, and weird, and kooky. But don’t worry! Really, you’re a “warrior” when you’re whispering to “God” in your bedroom later begging “God” to do good things. You’re cool. Don’t let them get to you.
(I do love the particularly sad music that accompanies the second line.)
He’s the unknown soldier, the unsung hero, the brother on the street,
He’s the unknown soldier, the holy warrior who will never sound retreat,
He’s your unseen comrade, and his triumph will be sweet,
He’s the unknown soldier…
Yes, your social suffering is just just like the usual meaning of “unknown soldier” – the soldier who is literally killed on a battlefield and is never identified. Because our hero – YOU, silly – will never “sound retreat”, in the sense of stopping talking quietly in secret to an invisible friend who never replies. (But who’s real, honestly! They’ll see. His “triumph will be sweet”.) You’ll forsake minutes of sleep in order to reassure yourself that you’re going to come out on top, eventually, somehow. And even if they don’t respect you yet, the omniscient, omnipotent ruler of the Universe is mightily impressed by your submissive worship.
There’s been no bloody torture, no burning at the stake,
There’ll be no published memoirs, no memorial for his sake,
And no one calls him “martyr”; his blood has not been shed,
Still, in combat he’s been faithful in the little things instead.
The very little things.
While we’re on the subject, I’m reminded of something my religious comrades never managed to adequately explain to me. Why, if God is the omnipotent, omniscient Creator and ruler of the Universe, is He so insecure? Apparently He needs constant praise and worship, and if you don’t give it to Him, He’ll consign you to eternal, unimaginable torment as punishment.
There’s a word for that sort of behavior. And it’s not exactly something I’d find easy to praise or worship.