A Beaster Miracle
BY IAN MURPHY
“But, what?” I wondered, pinning my bright red fedora to the curly afro-wig. I checked my face paint in the side mirror and smiled.
“But,” she reflected, steering the wheel, “it is sort of mean.”
“Like teaching a small child that they’re going to hell?” I shot back. “Straighten up and fly right, Little Jimmy, or it’s Satan’s pitchfork—right in your ass—for all motherfucking eternity!” I illustrated by repeatedly stabbing the dashboard with my balloon-animal fish.
“OK!” she relented. “But what’s the point?”
I slapped my forehead and said, “It’s not that cryptic! What these people believe is a fucking joke. I’m dressed as a clown. What—what—what’s not to get?”
“They don’t all literally believe that Jesus physically came back to life and flew into heav—”
“I know that!” I spat. “That makes it worse! I mean, what the hell—”
“Oh, god. Is that it?” she asked, slowing the car. “Oh, god.”
“Yeah, right in there,” I said, giggling and pointing to the Christian Fellowship Church. We parked in the back of the packed lot. Easter had brought out the whole flock.
“Oh, god,” she whispered and put it into park. “Oh, god.”
I said, “Look, you don’t have to do this. If you want out just tell me.”
“No, no,” she trembled, killing the engine. “We’re already here—just don’t use my real name.”
“Sure, of course,” I said. “You have a pseudonym in mind?”
“Satan’s Vagina!” I offered.
“Um, I don’t—”
“No, that’s perfect,” I assured her and winked. “You better get inside now.” Satan’s Vagina rolled her eyes, shut the car door and walked slowly toward the church.
I needed video documentation, and it didn’t take much to talk her into taking the assignment. She is pure evil. I’d hang in the car for a few, so it wouldn’t seem like we were together. Satan’s Vagina’s a tough bitch and if those Christians swarmed she’d definitely get violent. This simple ruse was done for their safety. Though the last thing I needed was a pile of dead Christians blocking my exit. And these ones wouldn’t come back to life.
Hopefully, it won’t go down like that, I thought. The best possible outcome would be my death. It would poetically illustrate the intolerance of Christians—and I wouldn’t have to pay my phone bill.
I’d wanted to do something like this for a few years, but I always chickened out. There’s a debate between atheists: treat the religious with respect and try to pry away moderates with reason Vs. treat the religious with the derision their idiocy deserves. I’m firmly in the second camp when in comes to fundamentalists, but I hedge when it comes to moderates. But then something happened: I realized there are no religious moderates. They’re Leprechauns.
Two weeks ago, I was being interviewed for some internet radio show you never heard of. Anyway, some dude named Marty from Florida called in to join the conversation. As it turned out, Marty’s a religious guy. He’s also rather clever. I ended up getting his email address to find out how that was possible.
We’re still in the middle of a lively debate on the nature of the universe, but here’s what I’ve learned so far: some religious people aren’t even religious! They go through all manner of tortured philosophical machinations and irrational contrivances to justify their odd beliefs, and usually, their true beliefs resemble religious tradition in name alone. Most people, outside of Kentucky, aren’t crazy or stupid enough to actually think the earth is only 6,000 years old or that homosexuals should be stoned to death. They view the resurrection as metaphor. They think of god as an abstract and benevolent force of nature. But instead of forming a philosophical salon to debate the merits of poetry and Pantheism, they just go to church and ignore most of it.
So, what’s worse: the genuine Jesus Freak or the Leprechaun? The Jesus Freak is clinically obtuse. The Leprechaun is clinically obstinate. They know that a magic pot o’ gold isn’t hidden beyond the rainbow, yet they guard it with ferocity. Their mentality is more perverse in a way—divorced, dangerous and willfully weird.
I swallowed my nerves, checked my makeup and squeezed the bulbs of my cheap plastic horns: “Ee-ah! Ee-ah!” It was surprisingly difficult to procure a decent clown getup on short notice. I didn’t even have the comically big shoes. If there was any immorality in my actions it was this obvious costume deficiency. A true sin in the eyes of Bozo! I did have a plaid, multi-colored smock, so that was something. Regardless, Satan’s Vagina had been in there for a few minutes and it was time for me to celebrate the resurrection—in an intellectually appropriate fashion.
At the back door my nerves roared back with a vengeance. I strode, rubber-legged, down the hallway to the main worship room. A woman looked me up and down and then, miraculously, opened the door. She handed me a pamphlet which read: “Christ is Risen.” That’s what she said, I thought.
My presence was soon met with the expected befuddlement. The place was no mega-church—only a hundred people or so. And I stood out like, well, like a clown in a church. Those in the back rows shot sidelong glances to their friends and family. One member of the small musical ensemble laughed and quickly covered her mouth. A mother tapped her daughter on the shoulder and said, “Look, Honey, a clown.” The girl smiled. Others giggled quietly, guiltily. Satan’s Vagina was sweaty and red.
I’d entered right in the middle of a musical number that went something like: “On the third day….we believed some crazy shit.” It was an ode to Zombie Jesus. I walked casually down the middle row, squeaking my horns to the terrible music: “Ee-ah! Ee-ah!”
I shuffled flat-footed down the aisle. People turned and gasped. The preacher shot me laser eyes. I grinned at him like the devil. He stayed composed as he led the congregation in song, but you could see his blood boiling behind the thin veil of civility.
Like many uncomfortable facts, the churchgoers ignored me as best they could. I scanned the pamphlet: “It is not enough to believe Jesus died for our sins. We must die for our sins…” I opened my mouth as wide as possible, miming my horror and trying make eye contact with people. They stared stoically ahead, chanting the miserable dirge.
I burst into a loud, shrill falsetto: “On the third day….” My voice was clear above the din, and the congregation collectively sighed. I squeaked my horns and laughed. I was filled with the spirit. “Ha-ha-ha-hallelujah!” I cackled as the song wound down.
“Amen,” said the preacher.
“Amen,” they answered.
“Ee-ah! Ee-ah!” I solemnly offered.
“Ugh!” more than a few chorused in disbelief.
“Ee-ah! Ee-ah!” I answered. Menacing whispers filled the hall. A stocky, brown man tapped me on the shoulder, I turned and blasted him in the face: “Ee-ah! Ee-ah!”
He flinched, moved closer and then said something truly funny: “Trinity United Methodist is right down the street; maybe you’re supposed to be there.”
I frowned exaggeratedly and drew a line down my cheek with a finger. The tear of a clown.
“Are you in the right place?” he asked.
I smiled and laughed maniacally: “Bwa ha ha ha ha ha-ha!”
The atmosphere was getting ugly. Soon another man came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and asked, “Are you here to worship, or are you here to be a distraction?”
I pondered and replied: “Ee-ah! Ee-ah!”
“That’s what I thought,” he said quietly. “Um, I think we need some ushers maybe to, uh, help our….uh….visitor find his way out of here.” Before he finished speaking, several men eagerly rose to their feet and surrounded me. A clown crucifixion was imminent. Like the Lord Christ himself, I turned meekly and went without a fight, resigned to my fate. Being escorted toward the door, I walked slowly, purposefully, squeezing my horns in processional time.
The gag’s death was at hand and my painted on smile couldn’t hide the funeral sadness. “Ee-ah! Ee-ah!” Step, step. “Ee-ah! Ee-ah!” Step, step. It had taken only five minutes for Bozo to get the boot, but it felt like an eternity. Men swung the doors wide as I approached. “Ee-ah! Ee-ah!” I paused briefly in the doorway and shouted in my best clown voice, “He-ha-ha-have a happy Easter everybody!”
A few minutes later, Satan’s Vagina came bolting through the parking lot and jumped in the car. She cranked the engine and sent us barreling over a curb onto the open road. “Oh My God!” she said finally, shaking her head. “I can’t believe I did that. I can’t believe I did that!”
“I can’t believe people do that!” I laughed, taking off the itchy wig. “You get a lot of good video?”
“Not really,” she said. “The memory card was full—”
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” I barked. “Did you get me being kicked out?!”
“Well, let me finish,” she snapped. “The memory card was full, so I had to erase it, because I knew you wanted that part on film.”
“Ah-ha!” I burst with joy. “Good work. We got all we need—proof! Proof that this whole thing actually happened.”
“But aren’t you going to write about it?” she asked.
“Just because some fucked up asshole writes some fucked up shit,” I said, “doesn’t mean anyone should believe it really happened.”
Satan’s Vagina smiled and said, “Let’s get some breakfast.”