Every time I see some preening, anti-intellectual, functionally brain-dead religious bumper sticker, it’s on the back of a car that is easily five years newer than mine, easily worth three times as much at market, bodily intact, and free of paint damage at first glance. I woke up this morning after six or seven hours of steady rain with water seeping up through the driver’s side floorboard, moistening one of my socks, so it isn’t just the privilege of fine automotive aesthetics that I seek to check.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I pay sales and lodging taxes to support the public employee compensation packages of parasites who would be embarrassed to drive 2010 Explorers, and a number of these people are religious boors with busybody inclinations. The least these people can do is to refrain from going CVC Safety Bear on my ass for taping the hood to my car shut in their capacity as Highway Patrol officers and $150,000 annual drains on the California state treasury. So far, Porky has done me this small mitzvah, but I don’t take my luck for granted.
This bourgeois religious self-righteousness is by no means strictly a function of employment in law enforcement, although being a cop certainly doesn’t hurt. America is great at devising solipsistic justifications for why public-sector parasites in traditionally right-of-center lines of work deserve full lifetime suckling privileges with Mama Sugar while simultaneously disavowing all socialism. What the fuck is NAS Fallon? Why is it? A quick look around Fallon is an educational experience in Wow Many great basin Such dry None oceans Omg john paul jones Very confuse. But it’s a Navy town. The Lahontan Reservoir must be protected at all costs against Indian revanchism, I’m guessing.
It doesn’t get much more American than that, stationing the world’s most bloated navy in an inland desert to prop up the economy of a county of Washington-hating free marketeer defenders of small government. But that isn’t the only way to make Americanism so embarrassing you’ll throw up. We do that with religion, too. Hence the bumper stickers mentioned in passing above. I came across one of these this morning in Redding (of course), on the back of a well-maintained Lexus or the like, probably 2008 model or later. The bumper sticker featured a cartoon drawing of a poorly dressed woman with a bad perm job on her knees with her hands folded in prayer, pictured from behind, with the caption, “GOD ANSWERS KNEE-MAIL.”
What an awful way to evangelize for Richard Dawkins. It’s hardly even amusing. It’s just fucking stupid. Any minimally thoughtful person with spiritual doubts will turn towards Dawkins at the sight of it. The guy isn’t winning over the spiritually confident with rock-solid arguments; he’s picking the low-hanging fruit of self-discrediting strains of Christianity. He’s a horrible fucking boor, a stain on public manners, but what else can be expected when the counterargument to goober-baiting New Atheism is so childishly daft? Dawkins is a meretricious public intellectual and a pest, but a pestilential, meretricious public intellectual has staying power against kindergarten-level meme catechism. That’s the way it is, Kronkite. That’s just the way it is. Theologians whose brilliance would blow your mind have tried to explain why a loving, just, immanent God allows evil and suffering in the world, but don’t worry, God answers knee-mail. Your parish priest may be a counselor as sage as any, as powerful a witness on behalf of Church and Gospel as exists in this world, but his counsel and his deeds are dust in the wind before the overbearing simple-minded idiocy of the Knights of Columbus chapter and the Respect Life Committee.
Mind you, the Roman Catholic Church is something of a big tent, certainly not a church to cherish schismatic activity. Its more thoughtful and magnanimous leaders know that they minister to authoritarian idiots, but they do not wish to drive their idiots into the arms of Protestants. Adulthood is all about compromises. Realpolitik. Hence the parish bulletin. There wouldn’t be any communion wine left if the pastor tried to edit it; he’d have drunk the entire supply. He didn’t go into the priesthood to bug semiliterates with remedial adult English instruction. Or maybe the priest is an authoritarian dullard in his own right and contentedly ministers to his own kind. That happens, too. Whatever. The Church has survived and transcended worse than that.
If you want to see entire churches run by such people, go to Redding. Around here it’s hard not to second R. Milhouse Nixon’s motion of Christ. Bethel, an outfit that calved off the Assemblies of God because the latter was too moderate for the founding pastor’s taste, is the sort of nondemoninational church suggesting that latter-day Protestantism is a parody of and a sick burn upon itself. I’ve hung out with Bethel members. They’re insane. I’ve talked to hardline Nazarenes who want everyone at Bethel to shut the fuck up about Christianity. That’s how wacko they are. They believe in shit like Coffee with Jesus (set a place for Him, just as you’d offer Santa Claus some milk and cookies) and bilocation, where you’re right here asleep in Redding but you’re also at the Transbay bus terminal ministering to some non-English-speaking Mexican guy. It’s the kind of shit that Shoko Asahara concocted. Why pop some punk-ass Chips when you could instead pop a punk-ass christ? Actually, if you look at it from a redistributionist position, carpentry wasn’t a union gig in Jesus’ day, but putting on freshly dry-cleaned dress tans and drinking coffee for $30 an hour plus bennies while I’m still unshowered and wearing yesterday’s clothes is union as shit, so the free coffee goes to the itinerant preacher with the leper entourage. Or not; I’ve never argued in these pages that mine is a Christian nation.
I just cobbled together some quickie exegesis from memory on five hours’ sleep, but by local standards, that’s Deep Scripture. It’s like I’m up against a Special Olympics softball team, and I’m Ryan Howard. (I can’t catch, either.) It isn’t that the church leaders around here got whacked on the head by Hulk Hogan a few times too many; they’re self-handicapping. That’s worse. The innately retarded can’t be blamed for being stupid, but the innately intelligent can, because they should know better.
This is what the face of American Christianity has become: the voluntary dumbassery of the affluent. In theory it should take a certain level of affluence to fall for that kind of insipid, pseudotranscendental, pseudoantimaterialistic shit, and in practice, don’tcha know, it actually takes a certain level of affluence, security, and stability. It’s like David Kuo said about the culture wars: nobody in the heartland gives a shit. These bougies in Redding fly preening bumper stickers proclaiming Dennis-Geyer-just-bashed-my-skull-in-grade religious sentiments for the same reason that Ted Cruz took his campaign to Overland Park, the least heartland city in Kansas. This mental garbage isn’t viable among the dispossessed poor. Not all neurosurgeons are like that (although Monica Wehby kind of is), so Ben Carson did well among overcredentialed evangelicals, too. You can tell that some of these people are seriously fucked up because they considered it to Carson’s credit that he claimed to have tried to knife a guy when he was an angry, pre-Jesus teen, but the dude’s belt buckle miraculously got in the way, while everyone who knew Carson back then is like, him? Stab a guy? Nah. That’s how hard these creeps get for conversion testimonies.
Is it a good idea to take Oxycontin recreationally instead of going to church with the kind of people who want you to go to church? I dunno. I hear that it causes pretty bad constipation. That might be a good thing, depending. Toilet access isn’t as reliable for the poor as it is for the affluent. Also it can kill you if you aren’t careful. But this other shit, it’ll kill your soul. For what it’s worth, they aren’t advertising against it on television, so maybe it’s not the good stuff. In any event, it’s a safe bet that your drug dealer telling you it’s Oxy is more honest than your street evangelist telling you it’s Christianity.