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God Squad 

Well, well. I haven’t had so much reader mail since the good old days when Matt Stickney wore dresses to school. You should’ve seen me then, boys and girls — battling the “Transsexual Menace” all by myself. Great big ogresses with placards and bullhorns, and nothing on my side to fight with but my poor, stumbling pen. And a column whose name ought to alert even the unsophisticated reader to its purpose and intentions. As my dear friend Dr. David Neiweem has been heard to exclaim, “Well, they don’t call it Cuddly Call!”

Oddly, there seems to be no antonym for a “crank,” which my thesaurus defines successively as an “eccentric,” a “fanatic,” an “ill-tempered person” and a “malcontent.” What, indeed, could be the opposite of these uncivil characteristics? Euan Bear is right when she says, in last week’s mail, “Kurth is Kurth and he doesn’t speak for me. He speaks for himself.”

John Patrick Bowles is also right in saying that it wasn’t the Israeli Army that wiped out the refugee camps at Sabra and Chatila, but a “Christian-Arab Phalange militia.” My mistake. Having first surrounded and blocked exit from the camps, the IDF then promptly opened the gates to the Phalange and did nothing to stop the slaughter that followed. It was on this question of relative culpability that Sharon won his libel actions against Time magazine. He can bring action against me if he likes, but he can’t get blood from a stone.

So enough with the priests, already! I’m sick of these religions and their morals and wars. When Newsweek arrives with a cover story that asks, “What Would Jesus Do?” we’re no longer talking about the sexual abuse of minors. And when The Washington Post reports that George Dubya Bush “is God’s man at this hour” among Christian fundamentalists, some kind of bell ought to go off in our heads. In deep Christianity, the December resignation of Pat Robertson as president of the Christian Coalition is seen as a kind of beheading of John the Baptist — without the Salome dance — a necessary evil to make room for the real thing.

“I think Robertson stepped down because the position has already been filled,” says a pious Gary Bauer, Dubya’s one-time campaign foe. “There was already a great deal of identification with the president before 9-11 in the world of the Christian right, and the nature of this war is such that it’s heightened the sense that a man of God is in the White House.” A homily currently making the rounds among believers insists, “God knew something we didn’t… He had a knowledge nobody else had: He knew George Bush had the ability to lead in this compelling way.”

Great. I’ve got some advice for the next generations, if there are any. Listen carefully: If you ever, ever hear people tell you they’ve got God on their side, run just as fast as you can in the other direction! Trust me. This has nothing to do with whether you believe in God or not. You just scram, skedaddle, and don’t look back!

Pardon me, it was that bit about Dubya’s leadership that deranged me for a minute. “Our nation must come together to unite,” spake the new messiah. “I don’t want to get rid of the death penalty, just the death tax.”

And, at a press conference, when asked what Americans should be looking for, exactly, in suspected terrorists: “You know, if you find a person that you’ve never seen before getting in a crop-duster that doesn’t belong to you, report it…”

For those who aren’t Newsweek subscribers, I’ll spare you the cost of its “Jesus” issue by saying it never answers the question: What would Jesus do? We know that Jesus wept before entering Jerusalem for the last time, and we suspect He might regard endless acts of violence, vengeance and warfare as fundamentally more sinful than anything to do with sex, sexuality, homosexuality, celibacy, chastity, the gender of His priests, etc.

This is, of course, a humanist view of religion, entirely out of touch with the mysteries. I had a great-grand aunt who was a Universalist faith healer, a sort of Victorian Marianne Williamson, but it was a long time ago and it doesn’t qualify me to match my brains against the faithful. As Newsweek reports: “Theological arguments are often a wilderness of mirrors: Appeals to Scripture and tradition can be made in the service of completely different points of view.”

The section on “The Gay Dilemma” is equally helpful: “If you look at people who are psychologically forced to deny their sexual natures, experts say, you will likely find a subset that will cross the line into abusive behavior — in these cases with the young, who are often the most available and malleable targets.”

This is a terrible libel against priests and homosexual men. Cut into any “subset” you want and you’ll find the same thing. And women, look out. Newsweek warns: “Churches are not really democracies — Rome especially — and the Vatican won’t hear of factoring in females.”

For that matter, the Vatican is a sovereign state, and it could be argued that all of its priests, in America or anywhere, have diplomatic immunity. Why not? If they can give annulments to Princess Caroline, they can do anything.

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