Give me some of that old-time religion
There was a time, a golden age really, when giants roamed the earth and unicorns danced on silver clouds to the majestic and ethereal seductions of the lute and lyre. Children played with scorpions and lions slept with lambs. It was a time of harmony, blinding beauty and savage grace. It was last quarter. It was the Park Blocks. It was the home of the righteously indignant street preacher and their equally righteous and overly-indignant crowd of PSU listeners.
The Good Book draped open in one hand, pages crinkling in the wind. A sound that was subtly mindful of the holy fire that would soon rain down on us fornicators and Democrats to cleanse us, and the world, of our pungent iniquity. The other hand free to reach toward the sky or to clutch the chest for rhetorical emphasis. The free hand was also quick to be drawn out like one of Jesse James’ six-shooters to fire the bullets of divine judgment at the unsuspecting pagan pedestrians. It was magic.
The crowd was equally enigmatic. I would always sit in the back and watch them with a sort of affectionate bewilderment. Their interaction reminded me of something between a WWF match and a taping of the Jerry Springer show. The brave ones would jump forth every now and again to utter some platitude; some bit of common sense, organic morality as a sort of homeopathic antidote to the preacher’s sanctified poison. Or to look at it another way, they were the Kryptonite to the preacher’s son of Jor-EL.
But the antidote seemed to be anything but. It was like pouring gasoline on an already out of control blaze. Preacher would froth and foam and spit out condemnation after chapter and verse after young earth argument while the crowd followed suit, chanting and ridiculing and advancing their own mindless platform of diversity, evolution, abortion, homosexuality and vegetarianism.
Speaker and audience would hurl insults and clich퀌�s at each other like so many rotten tomatoes until all parties were worked into such a symphonic frenzy of mutual disgust that the only thing preventing the entire enterprise from slipping off the edge of civilization into the foreboding abyss of solitude, alienation and chaos was the rather formidable menagerie of stereotypes and fuzzy generalizations that bound each side together in a quippy, Oprah-induced, existential haze. It was truly beautiful.
What was truly remarkable about the process was its symbiotic nature. Both sides were absolutely dependent on one another for their very existence. Like sharks and morays, or bees and flowers, or Wile. E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Furthermore, both sides were not aware of their mutual need for the other and this made for true irony.
The denial of this psychological co-dependency is indeed what made the whole structure work. That way, both sides could feel the warm glow of self-imposed superiority and unfettered moral indignation, all the while never really having to listen to one another or demonstrate the love of the God both groups claimed to know so much about.
But now the preacher is nowhere to be found. The blissful chorus of condemner and condemned has been silenced, or rather replaced, with the benign chirpings of old-growth protests, alcohol surveys and fraternity sign-up tables. The Park Blocks almost seem to have become a “religion-free zone,” kind of like the old Soviet Union. As Karl Marx suggested, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” I am going through withdrawals. Come back preacher man, before I have to start going elsewhere for my fix. And as for you, the loyal PSU congregation, remember that without the crazy Bible man, you might get to a very old age before you realize that no one has made you ask the really important questions about life in a long time. And wouldn’t that be a shame?