It's Martin Luther King Day here in the USA. But I can't think of anything related to MLK to say today.
So instead I'm going to try and write down my thoughts about the radio station I've been listening to in my car a lot lately, WCRF - FM 103.3 Moody Bible Radio Cleveland. Click on the link and you can listen too.
I found the station on a random scan of the radio after my car's computer was replaced and all my set stations were erased. Initially I just turned it on to chuckle at the absurdity of it. The very first thing I heard was a call-in show about the evils of pornography, how it destroys families and suchlike. It was better than MAD magazine! Or even CRACKED magazine!
But then as I listened more I started to understand the appeal of the station, and perhaps of churches and mainstream religion in general. Most of the time, when I tune in for a few minutes while driving somewhere what I'll hear will be mainly nice things. They talk about how to live a moral life, how to deal with marriage difficulties, how to just be excellent to each other and so on. Some of the advice is even kind of good. I listened to one guy talk about how he gave up watching football on TV and how much it improved his relationship with his family. Nothing so bad about that.
But then just when I think everything's okay, they start slipping in stuff that's either just plain mean or simply bat-shit crazy. And then ZING! they're right back into talking about how to be a good person. And I'm like, where did that come from?
I heard one guy the other day practically frothing at the mouth over some legislation in California mandating that history teachers teach about prominent gay and lesbian figures. Never mind that the idea of talking about gays and lesbians in history is kind of anachronistic since the very idea of defining someone as homosexual is a recent invention. Which is a whole other topic. No, this guy wasn't talking about that. He was raving on and on with a list of all the wholesome things that will be destroyed because of this new ruling -- the boy scouts, motherhood, apple pie, baseball, marriage (of course), kindness, home cooking, flowers, bunnies... It just went on and on until the person interviewing him had to get him back on topic. "So what you're saying is that children will not be allowed to question whether the villainous and evil acts of the homosexual are moral?" she said. "Oh yes! That's exactly right!" he replied and started ranting some more. I think from now on schools in California have to require bands of roving queers to ass rape third grade boys in gym class. Or something like that.
Four and a half minutes later we're back into relatively good advice about being decent to each other. Uh... what happened?
I think there's a large segment of the population who must see a connection between these things that I am unable to see myself. I'd also venture to guess that many of these people are unaware that there are any other sources of information about how to live a decent life than those associated with whatever religion they may have grown up with.
It's all very weird to me. But I think I understand part of the appeal of this stuff now. There are probably people out there who sincerely want to learn how to be decent human beings. Knowing of no other source of information on that subject, they get plunged into the bat-shit crazy stuff and end up associating being bat-shit crazy with being a good person. The mind boggles.
Then yesterday I was at Village Discount Outlet in Cuyahoga Falls ("East and West Coast Styles Arriving Daily!") looking for bell-bottom jeans and I found a book called Glorious Appearing: The End of Days. This is the thrilling conclusion to the Left Behind series. The Left Behind books are a series of novels about what the authors imagine will happen once Jesus gets around to fulfilling all those End Times prophecies he said 2000 years ago would happen before his own generation passed away. The books have sold truckloads! There's even a movie based on it starring Kirk Cameron.
The novels re-imagine the Book of Revelations as a kind of modern-day horror/science fiction story in which people vanish when God takes them up for being good Christians. In this book, the 12th and final of the series, Jesus at last reappears. He's a kind of Godzilla-sized rampaging monster who torches cites and "splays and fillets" (I swear that's a quotation from the book) those who oppose His wrath while He quotes His own words from the New Testament. I only read a few pages. But it's the most over-the-top wish-fulfillment fantasy you can imagine. You fuckers didn't believe us, huh? Well now here's Christ-zilla to give you what you deserve! Ha! Ha! Ha! See you in Hell, bitches!
Great stuff! I want to see that movie! But I figured the book wasn't really worth the 50 cents they wanted for it so I passed it up.
What to make of all this? I don't know. But it's really out there and there really are millions who believe in one variation or another of this kind of thing. Glorious Appearing was a New York Times bestseller. Hardcore Zen was not even close.
It's very easy for people who don't believe this stuff to make fun of it to other people who don't believe it, like I'm doing now. The existence of this stuff used to scare me a lot more than it does these days. I don't think it's inconsequential. But I also don't think there as many true believers in it as I once assumed. Probably most of the readers of the Left Behind books and listeners of Moody Bible Radio have plenty of doubts about what they hear. They may want to believe it a lot more than they actually believe it. Or they may tune in for the good advice about life and just ignore the rest.
Doubt may be our greatest friend in turning the tide. This is why I always fight against the sorts of Buddhism that tries to erase doubt from the picture. A few years ago a group called "e-sangha" issued an alert about me saying that I preached heretical doctrines denying the reality of reincarnation. But if Buddhism ever starts being the kind of thing where we need to be warned against those who doubt the literal interpretation of its scriptures, we're sunk. We might as well write our own Left Behind type books.
Hey maybe I'd finally get a best seller if I did that!