DEVIL’S ELBOW, Missouri (ASS)— Theocratic, mean-spirited violence has erupted throughout the deep South, the “Bible Belt”, the Midwest, and a smattering of towns in the Rocky Mountains as thousands of Christians have taken to the streets, wielding swords, Bibles, and plowshares, to protest the recent revelation that Jesus had at least one wife. Other protests, less violent but also widespread, took place over reports that some scholars and pulp novelists believe Jesus merely dated, but never married.
In Devil’s Elbow, Missouri, a group of about two hundred men, women, and children, all blood relatives of one sort or another, dressed in their Sunday best and carrying large Bibles, stormed through the downtown, chanting, “Those who mock the Lord, will surely taste the sword; Liars say he had a wife, liars deserve to taste the knife.” At least eighteen were injured from blows and bursts of righteous indignation, and two men were slain in the Spirit, although they were apparently not harmed physically.
Eyewitnesses report that the riotous Christians were singing a popular, militantly theistic song with the lyrics, “It only takes a spark, to get a fire going/and soon all those around, are warmed up by its glowing…” One bystander, Joe “Buck” Bob, said the singing was “unusually good; they have really purty voices.”
Similar riots have broken out in numerous small towns. But they are also taking place in cities and other important places. Demonstrations near Harvard University, where professor Karen L. King teaches, were especially intense, in part because Christians had not been on the Harvard campus for nearly five decades, and faculty and staff were deeply confused by their clean-cut appearance and efficient methods of quoting Scripture while seeking to force victims to “do some serious soul searching”. Numerous faculty members and students were shocked and traumatized by what one history professor called “the sort of theocratic-inspired violence that hasn’t been witnessed since Galileo was torn to shreds by Roman Catholic popes and their mistresses in the Vatican gardens in the thirteenth century.”
King, the Harvard Divinity School professor who had brought the stunning text, “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” to public attention last week, denounced the actions as those of “crazy, right-wing, woman-hating, religious zealots who want to impose their fundamentalist, sharia law upon people of good will and Ivy League professors.” Speaking from a tightly guarded ivory tower, she told some six dozen reporters that the potentially bloody demonstrations were not surprising considering the violence that had followed the publication of The Da Vinci Code, which had first brought the issue of Jesus’ marital status to the attention of people who were not aware of who Jesus was or why an ordinary Jewish lad would eschew marriage in the first place.
“My research indicates that this ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ is not a gospel,” the Harvard professor noted, “and has nothing to do with the real Jesus or a wife. Yet it raises questions that lead to speculation, which in turn engenders discussion and further consideration, which might lead to further questions and points of delicate cogitation. Which is why it’s so important that we have a reasonable dialogue about this text’s deeper subtext.” Such calls for careful, rational discussion have not, however, been reciprocated. The leader of the Harvard demonstrations, who simply identified himself as a “Bible-believing, God-fearing disciple of Jesus”, stated that he is “sick and tired of pagans trying to understand a book they don’t even read”, an apparent reference to either the Bible or Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. (King, responding to an e-mail inquiry, stated, “I’ve seen the movies for both books, and enjoyed them very much, especially the one by Monty Python.”)
Some experts, such as Dr. John L. Seagal of Boston, have pointed out that violence, lack of anger management, and verbal abuse by Christians has been a common occurrence among traditional Christians ever since the Beatles first visited the U.S., escalating dramatically with now legendary productions and performances of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Godspell”, and the movie, “The Life of Brian”. “I thought ‘Godspell’ brought all of us closer to the true Jesus, whoever he might be,” noted Seagal. “And I still listen to ‘Day by Day’ nearly every day.” Close to five hundred people have suffered physical, emotional, or spiritual harm during or following performances of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, some from self-described “Bible bombers” who shout “John 3:16!” before tossing heavy copies of the Bible into the audiences.
Brown, a best-selling author and popular historian, has spent nearly all of his earnings on bodyguards, security equipment, and counseling for the deep guilt he experienced due to making millions of dollars writing stories filled with what he calls “mystery, love, joy, yearning, and a desire to touch the toes of the transcendent.” In a 2009 interview, granted via the internet from an unknown location, he claimed that “pre-Vatican II Catholics and charity-challenged Christians” have sought to capture, torture, and kill him rather than respond peacefully to “the provocative but sincere questions that I put forward in a novel that I still think is slightly better than Ron Howard’s game but ultimately stilted cinematic version.” He noted that no Christian has yet written a critique or publicly addressed his claims. “They would rather riot, break stuff, and shout nonsense about the ‘great Satan’. What would Jesus think of that?” The interview was cut short when Brown began weeping and shouting, “I want to talk to Tom Hanks! Get me his number!” (Brown’s agent confirmed that the author has been feeling the pressure of finishing his new novel, about a Scientologist who makes movies while solving the “riddle of love” by dating and marrying Catholic women. The novel is rumored to be titled Cruise Clues.)
What would Jesus think? We spoke to several sociologists, all of whom argued that “thinking” is not the problem. “Christians are simply humorless”, stated another author, a famous New Age author whose books on Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus, and Jack Daniels have sold well among his family members. “And they always use such stilted language when insulting me: ‘Thou art a sinful goat! Get thee to Hades, ye wretched pagan! Begone, little demon!'” But this anger, he explained, is not surprising. “Christianity, unlike Islam, for example, has never come to grips with modernity, technology, and hot showers. They are still living in an oppressive world of monasteries, cathedrals, and praise-and-worship services, while masochistically donating millions and millions of dollars for charity work.” He further said that Mormons aren’t much better, as “both Christians and Mormons have bishops, big temples, and believe in reading the Bible literally.” As evidence, he referred to the epic riots in New York City, Los Angeles, and Provo, Utah, following performances of the musical, “The Book of Mormon.” It has gotten to the point, he shouted, “where Christians and Mormons cannot take the least bit of teasing or gentle ribbing, and that really [expletive] my [expletive] and [expletive] to [expletive] the [expletive], [etc.]” They are, he added, “very angry, and that bothers me.”
Government officials have tried to control the riots and calm the spreading chaos through a series of colorful television commercials (featuring hand puppets and felt banners) urging Christians to “be nice” and to “remember that hate is not a family value”. One such commercial features former President Jimmy Carter saying, “I used to read the Bible literally. Now I listen to NPR.” But the reality of God-inspired anger and violence is not easily crushed and destroyed, explained a mid-level State Department official, speaking anonymously by appearing on a CNN program. “Some of them don’t watch television, while others only watch certain channels. They are clever buggers. Much of this could have been avoided if we’d never let Billy Graham hold crusades or allow popes to visit this great nation.” Asked what makes the U.S. such a “great nation”, he immediately responded, “Well, tolerance, of course. And open-mindedness. And football. Real football, not that sissy stuff they have in other parts of the world.”
But some experts believe that Christians committing acts of “righteous” violence and aggressive evangelization are not responsible for those actions. “These are people who cling blindly to religion and guns and early Amy Grant albums”, said Dr. Barry Guhd of the University of Upper Manhattan. “They are acting out of fear, irrational prejudice, and concerns the ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ might reflect the actual views of someone living in the fourth century. Many of them believe that if they die while defending their faith, they’ll no longer have to pay taxes or watch ‘State of the Union’ addresses—that’s how extreme they are.” He identified 1985 as a key year, as that was when “Grant’s ‘Unguarded’ album shook the fragile faith of many Christians.” Grant could not be reached for comment as she is busy finishing her ninth album of holiday music with her husband, Vince Gill.
As violence spreads from Walla Walla to Topeka, and from Toledo to Corpus Christi, the questions continue to increase in both quantity and intensity: How can we appease these angry, unstable, and nicely groomed Christians? What freedoms and rights are we willing to jettison in order to stop their crusade to denounce a mysterious text bursting with questions and novel possibilities? Will Dan Brown recover the magic? Will King capture the meta-narrative? We can only ask: WWJWDIJRHAW (What Would Jesus’ Wife Do If Jesus Really Had a Wife?).