If one of the purposes of religion is to instill within us a sense of amazement and awe, then Grant Mercy – the strong-lunged, weak-brained evangelist who returned to the Park Blocks last week – does, contrary to what I had previously thought, fulfill a truly religious function, because he gave me the opportunity to be amazed and awed by the abundance of human stupidity, unreason and unthinking narcissism manifested by people who claim to spread love and salvation while vomiting pure bile and venom.
His name may be Mr. Mercy, but his message is anything but. He claims to preach God’s love, but comes across as little more than an explosive mass of hate held together with chains of prejudice, illogic and ignorance.
It’s not that I think Christianity is stupid. Many, many truly intelligent, even brilliant people have built their worldview on some interpretation of Christianity. I’m not vain enough to sit here and say that I’m smarter than C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and T.S. Eliot. But the evangelists who periodically descend on the Park Blocks like horsemen of the apocalypse are not T.S. Eliot. They aren’t even Chris Elliot. These men – they do always seem to be men, don’t they? – are just idiots who are more vain, self-centered, addictive, hateful and ignorant than all their slanderees put together.
Imagine that you are the Almighty. You have power over the whole world and all the people in it. You want to spread your message to the masses, so you can save people from going to the hell you yourself created as punishment for the sinful nature you instilled within them. You have many possible methods of communication open to you. You could get everyone’s attention by splitting the sky and pointing your immense Caucasian-hued hand down from the clouds like a piece of Monty Python animation. You could give every man, woman and child his or her own burning bush. You could write it in rainbows in the sky. You could take out ads on every Clear Channel radio station – assuming that isn’t yet redundant.
Or you could choose to speak through a human emissary. This seems like a pretty inefficient way to get your message across, but what do I know? It seems like you’d want to select a talented, intelligent speaker who has the ability to communicate and connect with a broad swath of humanity. Someone like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be an excellent choice for your spokesman. Or maybe Don LaFontaine, whose name is unfamiliar, but who you would recognize as The One Man – Who Lends His Voice – To Every Movie Trailer – EVER. Think how many converts you could get if you hired that guy to do the Voiceover of Revelation! You wouldn’t even need the whole damn Bible. All you’d need would be The Gospel According To That Guy Who Made Daddy Day Care Seem Almost Worth Seeing.
Seriously, though. Assuming He exists, God has connections. God has pull. Of all the people in the world, what possible reason could God have for choosing a messenger with the voice of a Howitzer and all the charisma of a coked-up bison?
The Bellowing Bible-Beater and his bellicose brethren have convinced me of one tenet of their faith, though my interpretation is a bit different from theirs. People like him have convinced me that hell is real. And he is there. Not that he “will be” in hell as punishment for being obnoxious. He’s obnoxious because he’s in it, and his screams of existential pain are converted into jeremiads denouncing everyone else. He doesn’t have to be there for eternity. (I don’t believe anyone is anywhere for eternity, but that’s another matter.) He has to be there until he repents. Not his sins, his way of thinking. To “re-pent” is to think again, as should be clear to students of romance languages. Repentance in Greek is “metanoia,” to have a transfer, a transcendence of thought. Whatever this guy has, it’s not a higher thought.
When he was on campus earlier this year, Mr. Mercy even mocked me for having long hair and a beard. He listed my long hair and beard as evidence for my non-Jesusosity. It was right about the time he mocked the crowd as a whole for wearing trendy clothing, while wearing Puma shoes and those baggy shorts with a hammer-loop off the hip. I seem to recall the Gospels having some choice words about hypocrisy: “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged -Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). But this isn’t the kind of Christian doctrine that Mr. Mercy is hell-bent on teaching.
I’m not opposed to true Christian values. I’m all for peace, love, compassion, curiosity, warmth, charity and a sense of wonder and gratitude. A lot of people get these things through Christianity. A lot of people get these things outside of Christianity.
Mr. Mercy, on the other hand, just doesn’t get it.