To get all technical, it was actually the Apostle Paul who said this in Christ’s name, according to the radio evangelist who informed me of these things as I drove back into Nevada a few weeks ago. Nevada, as it happens, has the highest white unemployment rate in the country, and even in economically healthy times, its most famous industry, gambling, is the perfect synthesis of greed and sloth codified into official state policy. On the other hand, Nevadans don’t go for the endless confidence and affinity scams that Utards so enjoy. Dude, Napoleon, thanks for letting me borrow the liger; I’m an Anglo-Saxon Bernie Madoff now! Magic!
But Paul. The exegetical intricacies are beyond my full grasp, but one of the most obvious lessons from Paul’s letters is that he was one to tendentiously instruct the residents of every two-bit port in the eastern Mediterranean in the name of Christ Jesus about things that Jesus himself might have said, but it wouldn’t hurt to confirm by checking the Gospels. It’s that recurrent awkward feeling that, you know, I don’t recall anything quite like this being directly quoted to Jesus. But it couldn’t possibly be that Paul had a political ax to grind; the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, the thing that transcends all politics.
So does the Roman Catholic Church, depending on one’s political and sectarian sympathies. At either extreme, being totally unmoored helps, allowing the Church to be either the Whore of Babylon or in no way at all involved in any form of politics whatsoever. A sensible middle-ground assessment is that the Curia is decorous enough for an Italian political institution, but this concession can only be made when one gives one’s lifetime trolley pass back to Mr. Rogers.
The guy quoting Paul at length on the radio was too Protestant to have any interest, positive or negative, in Vatican politics. Unless I conflated his broadcast with one from one of his intellectual doppelgangers, he was the same fellow who was discussing disfellowshipping. It can be a verb or a noun because Wow Much Words. At face value this term is the Anglo-Saxonism for excommunication, but it has a subtle but important distinction. It comes from a decidedly Protestant worldview in which decisions about communion, in any religious sense of the term, are reserved to a nebulous popular membership of whatever clergy and laymen wish to involve themselves, not to a council of bishops or other wise elders whose fitness has, presumably at least, been vetted by a stable religious institution. In other words, the community is fully trusted to police itself and not descend into mob madness in the course of doing so.
Dare I say, this is a bold proposition. The Amish make this approach work, after a fashion, but they also have schisms that can be traced back to two cousins, each of them a preacher, getting into a beef over a family business. Each man clothes himself in the righteousness of Scripture, and before long we have a Church of the Brethren of That Dumb Bastard Ebenezer Who Just Had to Marry My Sister. The Amish are, however, a people of great agrarian mettle, not ones to shirk work. When Mennonites become so New Order that they no longer have a work ethic, it’s safe to say that they’re no longer Mennonites. Protestantism is naturally schismatic, for better and worse, and the worse includes some of the dippiest fucking nonsense ever to be uttered in God’s name. Profane, too, but it’s hard to imagine that Joel Osteen is upset about being one of the greatest profanities of his time when he keeps filling up that stadium and getting all that 3:20 over the wires from his television viewers. Your little Brethren home church group halfway between Intercourse and Paradise isn’t doing nearly so well, and that’s why you’re still hoeing that corn field and tending the Devil’s cabbage after all these years. Or maybe I got cause and effect backwards.
So this radio preacher’s carrying-on about the righteousness of disfellowshipping intractable layabouts was in vain. In a Protestant environment, they don’t need to be disfellowshipped; they’ll disfellowship themselves, and refellowship themselves with a fellowship of flaky moochables. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen. It’s maudlin and unwholesome, but it’s quite entertaining. The people who walk that disreputable path will walk it with or without us, so we might as well watch them from behind the bushes and snicker. In a schismatic religious environment and a society as crass and self-dealing as the United States, Joel Osteen is probably an inevitability. We can’t expect the end game of our combination of self-righteousness and vulgarity to be dignified or reputable, and indeed it is neither.
According to the radio preacher, churches in Paul’s time were attracting mooches who averred that there was no point in working when Christ’s return in glory was imminent anyhow, so he took it upon himself to scold a work ethic into them in Christ Jesus’ name, as one does when one is Paul. (I added the last part as commentary. Paul added all sorts of shit, usually without calling it commentary.) Religious mooches are a pain in the ass; ask any Israeli who works for a living about the hyperfecund Hasidim and their constant Torah mummery. Religious mooches were certainly to be expected in the Roman Empire, the polity that gave us Caligula and the gladiatorial games.
In this context, some asshole sitting around talking about the Bible all the time doesn’t sound so bad. It sounds almost as innocuous in the modern American geopolitical context; Dick Cheney and Charles Graner don’t look like ones to devote their spare time to Quiet Time in the Word. In an eccentric, officially oppressed upstart religious community that is trying to establish self-sufficiency, however, it must be something worse. This is, again, a reason why so many Israelis are fed up with the Torah mummers and their notable exemption from national military service.
This historical context seems worth considering in reading Paul’s letters. Some of it may amount to, look, don’t blow the whole operation catering to these lazy fuckheads. Don’t get sunk by these slippery bullshit artists. Of course we won’t get a real historical context over the radio because that would be an antiauthoritarian buzzkill. And we certainly don’t get an honest assessment of how this stuff relates to American politics and religion, neither of which was an inkling in anyone’s imagination in Paul’s time. The sadists who ran the late Roman governments would have been impressed indeed by the stability of the American system of race, class, and caste.
Here’s a useful way to approach the question of mooches in the church. If your church is meant to have moochy shitheads, it will have them. If your church is, for example, the Vineyard, it will have them. This is a promise. Joel Osteen caters not so much to mooches as to thieves, salesmen, and mountebanks, who are even worse. Mooches are much less slippery. They’re less effective liars.
Think of the Vineyard as a scrum of asshole losers in trustafarian rags hanging around some town plaza on the hippie circuit. Only a pushover, a bleeding heart, or a total n00b would give them money; they’re fucking ridiculous. Now think about a Christian multilevel marketing scam like Amway. Is this possibly something that Jesus would have condoned? All these shits using church networks to hustle hob cleaners and toilet paper? And what about the higher-ups taking their cut from ineffectual wannabes for distributorships that they’ll never use because they’re too timid or spergy to hustle their shit? No sober reading of the Gospels encourages anything of the sort. It’s more like, in Christ’s name I flog thee for false dealing.
Now consider that the British colonies entering into union as the United States of America included a number of vicious slave states, Hamilton and the other Hamiltonian technocratic control freaks of New York, and the tendentious moral busybodies of Massachusetts. It’s easy to see how any of these factions could use religion (definitely for thee, but maybe not for me) to maintain social controls unto slavery on the populations under their jurisdiction. Some of these people were eager to lower the boom on Rhode Island because they considered its government too pluralistic and permissive.
It’s the same as it ever was. Most of the Christian radio broadcasters I’ve listened to are obviously bottomfeeders. They go into shitty, marginal radio markets, sometimes as the only show in town. The commentary on disfellowshipping the lazy was one of only two or three programs I could pick up on my car radio in some spots between South Lake Tahoe and Carson City. Every shithole in the American West has a K-Love affiliate within range. I’m surprised by how many Christian radio stations there are in Portland, one of the least religious cities in the country; if the broadcasters aren’t trying to antagonize the atheists into submission, they’re definitely running an opposition cult. There’s a surfeit of excellent gospel music, but most of what these stations play is execrable. What’s worse is that they insinuate that refusing to listen to their insufferable tunes is a failure of righteousness. I’ll grant that it’s a failure of self-righteousness; Taylor Swift and One Direction have never been fraught with such moral preening.
It’s at once sickening and amusing to hear how many of these moralizing stations there are in Redding, which is notorious for its large population of sex offenders and is known regionally in social services circles as “minimum wage with a view.” Maybe the single worst Christian rock song I’ve ever heard was on a station out of Redding, a sort of whiny, simpering bastardization of Dire Straits and Tears for Fears, its vocalist insufferably mewling about the beating of babies’ hearts to a marginally better guitar background. Truly awful stuff, and truly unbelievable. This horseshit was even less of a credit to pro-life politics than John Kerry was to pro-choice politics.
At least Redding has a decent red light district along Hilltop. There are some adults in the room. On the downside, their English is such that I doubt they’ve been naturalized, so local politics, if there are any on the subject of massage parlors, will probably revert to the control of busybodies who luridly assume these women to be trafficked. The Eugene NBC affiliate had a segment the other day about how Portland is a major center of human trafficking because, I shit ye not, Interstate 5 connects it to Canada and Mexico.
Wow Much Travels Very Freeway of Love.
Funny thing, come to think of it: the women at these massage parlors have more in the way of jobs and work ethic, and less in the way of Christian fellowship, than the wankers on the hot church scene in Redding, which is dominated by unimaginably goofy congregations. The most prominent one, Bethel, split from the Assemblies of God after its pastor decided that the latter wasn’t zealous enough. It’s a big enough outfit that the Redding Area Bus Authority serves its campus. There’s no way to imagine how fucking crazy the evangelicals in Redding are. They have to be met to be believed.
Christian exhortations to the work ethic are not something that the United States needs. We’ve had far too much of that kind of shit for far too long. The proper answer to “By God, get a job” is “Okay, give me one.” But we aren’t that practical a people. We don’t have the sense to expect moralists who yammer on about the work ethic to demand anything like direct-hire government jobs programs or to set up their own direct-hire programs for the unemployed without imposing religious tests on applicants. That would be too strong an external locus of control for good Americans. This is why places like Reno and Redding will continue to have religious mummery on the radio in greater abundance than job openings for people who need work. The only politically correct external locus of control in the United States is Jesus, and those who speak in his name.
Then again, the evangelicals in Redding are not too bashful to ask Jesus to support Gobias Industries. I can’t fault them too harshly. They only look like they’re exploring a new frontier of profanity. Really, what they’re naming and claiming is quite modes.t