Imaginary Grace

Shouldn’t Las Vegas be the one place in America free of evangelicals? After all, people visit the Big Mayberry to escape the godscreamers’ “old time religion,” their moral superiority, and as well as their judgmental natures.

But even here there is no respite from the moralizers and holier-than-thou intending to make another’s life as hellish, narrow and proscribed as theirs.

This is not a screed against religion. Multitudes find comfort, extract solace, and gain strength in the respective faiths circling the world. And what true belief doesn’t extol virtues? Each “good book” presents examples its congregants ought ideally follow.

Thankfully, though, humans are imperfect creatures. Imperfection keeps us interesting.

Therefore, worthwhile religions, aware of our mortal limitations, emphasize “should” and not “must.” There’s where evangelicalism falls far short. It insists on “must” when too many of its adherents give lip service to “trying.”

Despite recent disclosures regarding clerics abusing parishioners and church hierarchies seeking to conceal these transgressions rather than confess them, those are human fallacies. What other can we expect when “the word” is being administered by flesh and blood beings? None should believe these weaknesses are deep-seated institutional qualities.

We strive for perfection. We rarely reach it.

Lacking self-awareness and modesty, evangelicals will gladly profess their perfection. Theirs are reflections cast by broken mirrors. Who has yet come across one of these godscreamers expressing one jot of self-doubt?

Say this for recognized organized religions, most demonstrate concern for the unfortunates of their respective societies. Aside from spiritual ministering, they come through with trying to meet, or at least lessen, the material shortages of needy people. While a few focus on their own devotees, a good many more distribute succor indiscriminately.

Even agnostics should feel good about contributing to these efforts.

Organized religions’ aiding of the less fortunate has become so common, hasn’t it become part of our everyday landscape? Haven’t we come to expect various structured denominations to extend themselves in this manner?

It certainly helps when we notice because it tweaks the guilt of the more worldly. Maybe instead of buying the latest version of some indiscrete discretionary fashion or gizmo, seeing good deeds might persuade postponement of that purchase in order to donate a few bucks or useful items to a mission.

While I generally don’t endorse it, some guilt-tripping benefits society.

Is there any amount of guilt-tripping that’ll make evangelicals behave in any kind of recognizably Christian manner? Here in Las Vegas, at least, godscreamer brazenness seldom misses an opportunity to ignore the tenets it loudly professes to obey.

Forget those billboards scattered around the city promising those of us who haven’t been born again will go to hell, or like the optometrist’s ad in The Great Gatsby that a future killer perverts into “God sees everything!”; the witnesses themselves undermine their own message.

My favorites are the converts hoping to proselytize who’ve expended the best, most productive years of their lives pursuing and waylaying pleasure. Whether it was dope, demon rum, complete uncontrolled sexual abandonment – Strange. In Las Vegas downfall from gambling never rears its ugly head. – or frenzied combinations thereof, the tales behind plummeting are ever more inviting than the cure. Listening, one always gets the sense the penitent enjoyed an immense amount of fun.

But he, and it’s nearly always some guy, has seen the light. He’s wallowed in sin, seen hell, and escaped through the good fortune he ascribes to “Jeeeeee-zus!” He’s emerged to testify, hoping that will convince those who haven’t fallen all that far yet, the skeptical, the flat-out doubters, that we “can be saved!”

I have never stopped wondering if one doesn’t succumb to the menaces of fleshly corruption, must one still be redeemed? And if one is saved without having endured the rigors and perils described, does that mean one can indulge in them without undergoing redemption afterwards.

Of course now that past corruption has sapped flesh and corroded minds of those testifying, these conditions somehow allow clearer vision. Indeed, in hindsight all that licentiousness was wrong. And the wild-eyed, burnt-out figure raging nearly incoherently through a megaphone on a street corner is cluing in yet unsinged sinners about the perils they can avoid … only if they come to some unidentifiable Jesus. The one this pavement-hogging prophet yells about. A Jesus no true Christian or one possessing a solid religious background could distinguish from a charlatan.

My favorite example of evangelical deeds crashing short of lofty claims occurred sometime last year. Or perhaps the year before last. The report originally appeared in a Slow Boat Media vignette on my Facebook page. In it, congregate a mob of motorcyclists who’d seen the light, who’d accepted a version of Jesus that suited them.

They gather in the parking lot of the disused Huntridge Theater. There, they get their holy-holy on and make joyous noise unto Him.

Inevitably begging on the sidewalk bordering the parking lot is destitution him- or herself, a person who could really use the help of these righteous pilgrims. Well, going by how they act instead of what they profess maybe they’re not so righteous.

Although close enough for some wretch’s lice to easily vault the distance between his or her grimy dishevelment to the congregation’s neat cleanliness, the gap between belonging and being adrift so thin, the cyclists never acknowledge those who’d clearly benefit from the energy they happily prefer wasting on empty hymnals.

Such two-facedness never fails tickling my cynicism.

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