To be a prophet is
both a distinction and an affliction.
I like the Hebrew prophets, most of them anyway[i]; where
the priests stood as intermediaries between God and humans-bringing their
offerings and prayers to the deity, and announcing heaven’s blessing and forgiveness
to the people-the prophets stood between the people and their king, between the
masses and their leaders. They were a protection for the people, a check
against the potential of tyranny and despotism (Fritsch 1096), a check against
power grubbing men of wealth and means, against exploitation and oppression. The prophets were men and women (yes. There
were a number of female prophets in the Hebrew tradition) of a noble profession
– though they were susceptible to the same corruptions of all human professions
– there were false prophets, “yes men” who worked for coin, selling favorable
prophecies to princes and kings in order to curry favor and keep their place of
privilege. But the true prophet, the
true prophet was someone to respect.
The prophets were more than fortune tellers, more than doom and gloom
prognosticators of the future, and had little in common with the writers of end
of the world scenarios that so dominate the field of contemporary “prophecy”
books. While they did, on occasion, make predictions and talk about the
imminent future they were more forth-tellers than foretellers. They spoke the
words that needed to be said in that moment, about that moment, for that
moment. And if they did offer a description of soon-to-transpire events, it was
in order to affect the present moment. “Any prediction the prophet might make
had reference to the immediate future as a response to the present situation”
(Hayes). It was a message about the present, a message about the now.
As I said, I like the prophets; they inspire and challenge me, but sometimes
they are difficult to understand. Martin Luther wrote, “They (the prophets)
have a queer way of talking, like people who, instead of proceeding in an orderly
manner, ramble off from one thing to the next, so that you cannot make head or
tail of them or see what they are getting at” (Luther 350). I like the
prophets, but sometimes they’re difficult to comprehend, especially the early
prophets who were more mystic seers than moralistic preachers; they were …
weird, wooly-haired, wind-worn men shouting and shrieking the word of God.
The early prophets (sometimes called the non-literary prophets because they did
not write down their messages as the later prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel,
Jeremiah, and the rest of the minor prophets did) were a wild bunch, parading
around with lyres, tambourines, pipes and harps, whirling and leaping in
frenetic frenzies of spiritual ecstasy ( 1 Samuel 10: 5 – 6). They were given
to dreams and visions, and the divining of secret answers… they were raving
(Bullock 16). These men of God (ish
hā-elohîm) were seers (rō’ eh)
and visionaries (hōzeh). They were prophets (nabi); they were the open mouths of God on earth, hollow men filled
with the Spirit of God, hollow pipes through which the gushing Spirit flowed.
Things like reason, self-control, and normative behavior were suspended
(Hayes), but the Word of the LORD flowed
out of them.
The prophets also acted as the conscience of the king, who otherwise would have
gotten away with anything and everything. Kings are powerful and absolute.
Their word becomes law. They are denied nothing; when the king says come, you
come. When the king says go, you go. When the king says, “mine,” it’s his and
you dare not say no. As King Louis XVI says in the movie, History of the World Part 1: “It’s good to be the king…” But the
prophet, as the voice of God and the protector of the people, stood up to the king
and said, “No.” The prophet denied the king’s lawless extravagancies; the
prophet stood between the people and the king’s overreaching greed and
“To be a prophet is both a distinction and an affliction” (Heschel 17-18). The
prophet (the true prophet) was sometimes revered by the people and the king – sometimes
they sought the prophet’s advice, and valued his council, accepted his message from
God. But sometimes the prophets brought word of criticism, words of rebuke;
sometimes the prophets insisted that things must change – and this was
difficult for people hear and to accept.
There was, at times, a combative sort of relationship between the kings and the
prophets (the true prophets, anyway - false prophets were pleased be the king’s
yes-men, prophetic flunkies giving religious support and a pious veneer to the
king’s political will, so long as they were paid…). And this combative
relationship between prophet and king seems especially contentious between King
Ahab (along with his wife, Queen Jezebel) and the prophet Elijah. The prophet
and the royal house sparred with each other again and again. Tempers flared; threats
and curses were shouted in this bitter dispute between two powerful forces. And
the issue that brought them into conflict again and again was the demand for
exclusivity in religious worship.
King Ahab was pleased to worship Yahweh, the god of the Israelites; he
consulted with the prophets of Yahweh (1 Kings 20:13 – 15; 22: 1 - 28), and even
gave his sons names that honored Yahweh: Ahaziah (“Yahweh has grasped” – 1
Kings 22: 52) and Jehoram (“Yahweh is high” – 2 Kings 8: 16). But (and this was
the sticky bit) he was also pleased to worship the Canaanite storm and
fertility god, Ba’al. “Ahab son of Omri did what is displeasing to Yahweh, and
was worse than all his predecessors… He serve[d] Ba’al and worshipped him. He
erected an altar to him in the temple of Ba’al which he built in Samaria” (1
Kings 16: 30 – 32 New Jerusalem Bible). King Ahab did not see his endorsement
of Ba’al as incompatible with his worship of Yahweh. (Day 547) It is likely
that Yahweh and Ba’al were worshipped as the same god under two different
names. This is syncretism–the
amalgamation, the merging of different religions and cultures-and Elijah hated
But Elijah (whose name means “Yahweh is God”[ii])
was intransigent, even fanatical on the subject: worship of the Canaanite storm
god Ba’al could not be linked or equated in any way with the worship of the god
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the god of the Israelites. In fact, Ba’al was so detested in biblical
tradition that the Hebrew word for
shame, bōŝet was sometimes
substituted for the gods name by the scribes, for example in the name
Ish-bosheth; it would have been Ish-baal (man
of Ba’al) but was changed to Ish-bosheth
(man of shame) – 2 Samuel 2: 10 (Day 548).
And so the prophet Elijah announced that, because of the
king’s idolatry, there would be a famine in the land; there would be no rain.
“By the life of Yahweh, God of Israel, whom I serve, there will be neither dew
nor rain these coming years unless I give the word” (1 Kings 17: 1 New
Three years of rainless drought followed this word of power from the prophet.
Three years of struggling fields and desperate people, cloudless day after
cloudless day. No rain. And why? A conflict of wills between a lone wild-man
prophet making fanatical claims and a powerful royal house that passionately
hated to be rebuked and disobeyed.
This drought, of course, directly challenged the perceived power of Ba’al the
god of storms and fertility. If there was no rain, there was no life, no
growth, no fertility in the land. And if Ba’al could not make it rain in Israel
for three years, what authority did he have? What power? What religious
After three long and rainless years, King Ahab and Elijah met up again to
declare a face-off, sudden death, fight to the finish between the two gods. At
Mount Carmel, they would square off to decide who would be worshipped as God in
Israel: Ba’al or Yahweh. It would be a
show down between the 450 official prophets of Ba’al and the lone prophet of
When they had all gathered there-the prophet of Yahweh, the king, the prophets
of Ba’al and the people of Israel, Elijah said to the people, “How long will
you hobble along, first on one leg and then the other? (New Jerusalem Bible)
How long will you keep hopping between two opinions? (JPS) If Yahweh is God,
follow him; if Ba’al, follow him.” But,
unmoved, unmotivated, the people had nothing to say.
The priests of Ba’al went to work, offering up their
sacrifice on the altar, calling down fire from heaven. But there was no voice,
no answer, no fire. The prophets of Ba’al called louder, danced faster, they
cut themselves with swords and spears, “O Ba’al, answer us!”–but still no
voice, no answer.
Elijah began to mock them. “Call louder, for he is a god: he is preoccupied, or
busy. Maybe he’s gone on a trip. Maybe he’s indisposed – on the throne, so to
speak…”[iii] All day long, they called, and shrieked, and
danced for Ba’al but there was no response at all.
But when Elijah had built up his altar, and put the bull upon it, and dug a
trench around it and covered it all with jar after jar of water, he prayed,
“Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let them know today that you are
God in Israel and that I am your servant, that I have done all these things at
your command, Yahweh answer me, so that this people may know that you, Yahweh,
are God and are winning back their hearts[iv]”
(1 Kings 18: 37 -New Jerusalem Bible). Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the
offering, burned up the bull carcass, the wood, the stones, and licked up the
water in the trench.
And when the people saw this, they finally made a choice. “Yahweh is God!” they
cried out, “Yahweh is God!” (1 Kings 18: 39 – New Jerusalem Bible)
The religious syncretism of Elijah’s time and the religious pluralism of our
day are not exactly the same; there may be some overlapping trends, but they
are not the same. And we certainly are not called to treat the leaders of other
religions in our day, the way that Elijah treated the prophets of
Ba’al-following their showdown on Mount Carmel, Elijah had them seized and
dragged down to the Kishon valley where he slaughtered them (1 Kings 18: 40).
We consider groups like ISIL to be barbaric and cowardly when they do that
today… But still, there is something to be said for Elijah’s fanaticism,
Elijah’s sold out devotion to the God of Israel. He was bold in his service to
God. He took risks. He ventured into dangerous territory to assert what he
It was only after the confrontation on Mount Carmel that the
drought ended and the rains came back to Israel – when it was apparent to
everyone who controlled the storms and the rain, when Yahweh’s dominance was
asserted and demonstrated. But, “the proof of dominance of the one God is never
fully accepted. It must be won in every generation against the temptations of
the world. It is a living God; the struggle to believe is also a living thing –
that is, susceptible to failure” (Gold, 132).
Are we as insistent with our faith, intransigent, fanatical
even? Are we bold? Elijah was bold and brave – sometimes…sometimes he cowered
and hid. Are we bold? Do we take risks? Do we confront the powers that face us?
Do we challenge the forces that limit us? Are we confident in the power of the
God we serve?
Bullock, C. Hassen. An Introduction to the Old Testament
Prophetic Books. Chicago, IL: Moody Press. 1986. Print.
Brooks, Mel. History of the World, Part I. 20th Century Fox. 1981.
Day, John. “Baal (Deity)” Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume I. New York,
NY: Doubleday. 1992. Print.
Fritsch, Charles T. “The Prophetic Literature.” The
Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible. Nashville, TN: Abingdon
Press. 1980. Print.
Gold, Herbert. “1 Kings: Harsh, Hectic, and Full of Hope.” Congregation:
Contemporary Writers Read the Jewish Bible. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace,
Jovanovich Publishers. 1987. Print.
I spent part of this morning visiting with an old friend - old both in years that we've known each other, and (though we are both somewhat loathe to admit it) getting older. We had lunch at Mi Patria - an Ecuadorian restaurant. (I had a pulled pork dish with vegetables and white corn. mmmm. And the portions were large enough that I have leftovers to eat for second dinner tonight around 11:30...) We talked about work and health; we reminisced and we laughed. We sketched out some plans for this summer.
However, no one I spoke to could recall an official survey of Salvation Army officers on the issue. And my curiosity was piqued. So I have put together a very brief survey that I hope will help provide something like a realistic description of the number of Salvation Army officers who are supportive of same sex relationships.
A couple of important qualifiers:
This is not an official survey; it is not sponsored by any territory or division. It is personal research only.
At this time I am only soliciting responses from active / retired officers and cadets. This is not because I'm uninterested in the opinions of our many fine soldiers, adherents, former officers, clients, and etc. It is only to keep this initial fact-finding survey simple, clear, and easily defined.
This also why have limited the survey to one substantive question. I considered adding more questions about the reasons why people side for or against but, again, I wanted to keep this initial survey as simple and uncluttered as possible.
The survey is anonymous. Names are not requested, and if given will not be shared with anyone.
I will leave the survey open until July 31, 2016 and share it as widely as I can so as to get as wide and (hopefully) representative sample as possible. I will post the results of the survey here in August.
Thank you for taking the time to answer this simple survey.
“A face is a marvelous thing for those who possess it. It is really the only
thing that distinguishes us. Not quite enough to recommend us, just a trickster
feature of our anatomy that makes everyone appear famous. But still, the face
is beautiful. A sensitive sign of obscure integration. And every once in a
while that integration is challenged” (Burgess 184).
Zombies are the thing these days–though maybe the craze is starting to wane.
Even so, we’re fascinated by the bleak, apocalyptic horror of the zombie story.
They’re not like other monsters, not like other supernatural creatures of the
night; they’re worse, more frightening because they are us. “[W]hat is especially
terrifying with zombies is that their monstrous state is their human state, it never transforms or goes away” (Paffenroth
Most Zombie books, graphic novels, movies, video games focus on the horror that arises from the disintegration of human society – the collapse of modern culture and the
breakdown of human relationships. But Pontypool
(both the novel (1995) and the movie (2009) are different; indeed, as the full
title of the novel declares, Pontypool
Changes Everything. Pontypool features
that same psychological terror–the horror of watching human characters, not
only being eaten by the undead, but also the horror of humans slaughtering
creatures that still so closely resemble us humans, that is humanity consuming
itself. (Paffenroth 9) But even more the disintegration of human civilization, Pontypool is about the disintegration of
The novel is not a ‘regular’ novel. It’s a bit like the Dadaist poetry of
Tristan Tzara and the cut-up writings of William Burroughs. It’s a pile up of nonsense,
non-sequiturs like a multiple vehicle collision on the highway that eventually
creates something that resembles reality, albeit a terrible, burnt out, wrecked
and ruined reality. The movie, the screenplay of which was also written by Tony
Burgess, is more straightforward, more linear than the novel, but is still
fairly unlike most other zombie films.
“I’m not the person who wrote this book,” says Burgess in the afterward to a
2009 edition of the novel; “I remember him. He had just graduated with a degree
in semiotics, which is to say he was insufferably preoccupied with literary
malformations… He wanted to magnify the least recognizable parts of his
thoughts and feelings” (Burgess 253).
In Pontypool, the zombies are not brought
to unlife by mysterious radiation from a space probe returning from Venus (as
in George Romero’s Night of the Living
Dead) or some sort of divine wrath, not by a disease or virus (as in Romero’s
Dawn of the Dead) or some sort of
biological weapon (as in Resident Evil or
28 Days Later). But neither is it
left forever unexplained (as in The
Walking Dead graphic novels and television series). In Pontypool the zombie virus is spread through language; the ‘virus’
infects words; its victims lose the ability to understand or communicate and
are driven to states of rage and brutal animalistic violence, including the
“That night I had terrible dreams I was killing people. When I awoke it took
some serious self-examination to convince myself that I was not repressing real
acts of murder. So completely vivid was my sense of guilt that I felt nothing
short of running through a full account of my life could provide me with the
peace of mind I needed to fall back asleep. In spite of the three hours I spent
combing over the details, I have, to this day, a persistent certainty that
hidden inside me is the revolting knowledge of days when I wasn’t quite myself.
I now suspect that my inexplicable bouts of exhaustion are due to the massive
effort of keeping those days behind me” (Burgess 10).
Acclaimed horror writer, Stephen King says that we should “[b]egin
by assuming that the tale of horror, no matter how primitive, is allegorical by
its very nature; that it is symbolic” (King 31). The monster, the horror at the
symbolic, dark heart of Pontypool is
the fear that the world that we inhabit is inevitably and utterly
incomprehensible, that we cannot make sense of the universe. In the end
everything is madness and frenzy, and rage, and despair.
“You can’t pretend that you don’t feel very sorry for this man and his
self-portrait. He has completely lost the ability to take care of himself. He
will die soon, and the fact that that is merely all he ever wanted doesn’t make
you feel any less protective of him now. You remember looking in the mirror and
feeling awe: the self-portrait is complete.You think that you have found the
face that can finally say goodbye” (Burgess 109).
“There is no life without prayer. Without prayer there is only madness and
horror.” -Vasilii Rozanov
Go aboard, you, you with your household, you and
all the animals.
The long languid rolling of the ark did less to unsettle his stomach than the
rapid lurching they’d endured during the worst of the storm. Then, as the sky
collapsed above them and waves lashed at them from both sides, it was all Japheth
could do to lie screaming on the floor without vomiting. This isn’t to say that
he hadn’t vomited (he had, over and again until he was empty and then continued
violently retching) or that all was calm, or that the rains had ceased, but
things were better now. He could stand upright – provided he remembered to
stand loose at the knees and the ankles, and he could eat a little food. Or
would eat a little food, if there were any to eat. The provisions that hadn’t
been lost during the storm and hadn’t spoiled, wet and rotted in the weeks
after, were carefully preserved for the animals. “We must ensure their
survival, son,” Father Noe had told him – his syllables slurred by the rocking
motion of the ship. (It had to be that, right? They’d brought no wine aboard,
“But what of our survival?” Japheth had asked.
His father blanched green, burped a vile smelling belch, and moving his hand
lightly, waved the stench away, “the LORD
will provide. The Lord will…”
Japheth watched Father Noe stagger (unsteady feet because the ship rocked on
the waves, or because he was guttered on wine?) towards the avian compartment.
The cooing of the doves and the squawks of hawks and ospreys quieted as Noe
closed the door behind him.
“What has the LORD already provided for
us?” Japheth asked the wolves in the cages to his left. The wolves only snarled
and whimpered in response. They disliked the ship’s motion even more than
The dreams won’t cease until the rains stop falling. The rains won’t stop
falling until heaven’s cisterns are empty. Crows fly away but return, cackling
and cawing. Likewise the dreams. Let heaven disappear and let the rains desist,
so that the dreams will fade. The horses are saggy, plow worn nags. Couldn’t
Father Noe find a worthy, healthy representative of the species? And why the
flies, to buzz about the horse shit? And the maggots in the rotted meat? Why
are we set on preserving the future, father? Can you explain? What better world
will it be if we bring these pests into it with us?
The ark drifted in sun sparkled waters. The sky was empty, not a cloud
anywhere, 360° to the horizon, and if not for the water upon which they floated
the rain could have been a retreating memory. A fading dream. Fetid warm air
hung heavy below deck. No breeze. No circulation. Just the stench and squawk of
animals in close fitted cates. Shem shoveled the dung, down the trough, toward
the window, pushed it out over the side. It splashed into the water below. Shem
thought briefly about throwing himself over the edge as well. His splash would
be indistinguishable from the shit. And he could sink as quickly as the shit.
Could sink into the sink. Settle to the bottom. Just settle. Just…
Naamah, old Mother Noe, never went up on the deck, into the outer air. The
expanse of water terrified her. In the open infinitude she felt shrunken,
shrunk down into nothingness. She came up once, the day after the rain stopped,
took one look out and shrieked. She turned and tumbled back down the ladder and
refused to come up again. Not until the ark came to rest.
And he called his name Noe, saying, this same shall comfort us in our work and
in our toil, because of the ground that the LORD
hath cursed. But Noe found grace in the eyes of the LORD. And G-d spake unto Noe (why not us?). And Noe builded an
altar unto the LORD and a vineyard for himself. Was this what the angels taught
him-the art and way of healing? To make wine for our sorrow that we might
overcome the offspring of the Watchers? Did Uriel (the reflection, the
effulgence, the light like a molten god, like softened silver silk) come from
the presence of the One to demonstrate fermentation? As if we needed another
demonstration of rot and decay.
Canaan on the shore of the vast but receding lake squints, looking for the
opposite shore (for the apostate score). Was that smoke? Was that the sound of
drums? Music in the distance? The far-off calls to him but his mother and
grandmother refuse to let him go further than the thin woods at the edge of
Grandfather Noe’s vineyard. “Don’t wander!” they’d shout whenever he’d approach
the wild blasted woods. “Come close! Come back!”
One day, instead of foraging for firewood (nothing was dry enough to burn) he
wanders further than the field, into the wooden copse over the ridge. There he
discovers the putrefying corpse of one of the elder giants, grotesque in its
size and smell. It was drowned in the flood. Now its corpse lies rotting in a wretched
place under an unforgiving sun. Were those deformities the result of
decomposition or birth? Canaan pokes at it with a stick, prodding its bloated
belly–when, suddenly, it ruptures, belching foul gas and coagulated blood.
Bloat-flies swarm out of the open cavity, flying into Canaan’s face, into his
eyes, his nose, in his mouth. The smell is overpowering, worse than the hot,
fusty smell of the ark, worse than the noisome stench of the combination of
various animal manures, worse even than the mephitic exhalations of drunken Grandfather
Noe. Canaan spits and slaps at his face before tripping and falling backwards
He lands on a rotted log–crashing through the soggy bark, disturbing grubs and
worms and many-legged crustaceans in grey shells. Flailing and thrashing, the
boy runs back towards the ridge and the secure confines of the family plot at
the foot of the mountain.
Then sleep for his eyes, he dreams of Gilgamesh’s garden under the sea. Angels
of the deep and the monsters of sleep pursue him. He mounts the air like a
strong wind, and flies like strong eagles and leaves the inhabited world
behind; he escapes the great wasteland, the wilderness, the Desolation like a
bird. But the monster in his dreams buzzes and hums, thrumming fingers crawl
over his skin, lick his eyes as he sleeps. He feels the throb of his heart, the
pound of his pulse, the blood in his veins. Then the creeping fingers disappear
and the buzzing ceases. The silence is perfect but brief. His pulse slows,
returns to something like a normal rate. But sleeping within his dream is
another horror that will not be quieted. The roar of the rain and the screams
of the drowning wake him. Canaan starts and falls from his simple pallet to the
floor, slicked with reeking terror-sweat.
Few of the animals lingered, as the family had at the foot of the mountain, at
the edge of the retreating lake. Even those creatures that would have, in
antediluvian times, made their homes at the water’s edge in the shadow of the
mountain – herons, cranes, foxes, mink, deer – had scattered. Far. Without
hesitation. Freed from their cages and pens inside the floating zoo, they’d run
like escaped convicts. The shore was barren, the woods uninhabited, even the
waters of the lake were formless and void.
Grandfather Noe would not allow them to make tents
of goat skin. “The animalsh must be preserved,” he says, “else, why were we
shpared through the fl… through the flood?” The family showed him how rapidly
the goats had reproduced after their disembarkment from the ark, but
Grandfather Noe was adamant. They would build their rickety shelters from the
rotted trees and fallen branches gathered around the lake, from mud and from
stone, but not with the shedding of animal blood.
“Why must we stay here, Father?”
“No more questions, Canaan.”
Through the woods, over the ridge, past the bleached bones of the giant, Canaan
follows a magnificent bird-a low flying pelican in the wilderness, leading him
further and further on. He packed a bag with food and a bedroll and left the
family. Left Grandfather Noe’s vines. Now he leaves, steps out into the unknown
and unpredictable world. He leaves Grandfather Noe snoring in his drunken
stupor, sleeping naked in the shade of his grape arbors
And after a time he begins to find proof of life. Canaan finds animal tracks,
paw prints and scat-the first he’s ever seen. He sees bird nests and bee hives,
fox dens and snake holes. The world is alive, fully, really, living, breathing,
dying, living. The grass is eaten by the rabbit. The rabbit is taken by a
snake. The snake by a hawk. And when the pinnacle hawk dies it, too, is eaten
by vultures, by fungus, and by bacteria too small for Canaan to see. But he
knows that they’re there.
Then he discovers something wonderful and frightening. Something more than the
hoof print of deer or paw prints of rock-badgers. Canaan sees a human foot
print in the dirt – five toed and round heeled, arched. Perfect in every
aspect. Perfect because it was recognizable. Perfect because it was like is own
– but it is not his own. It is smaller than his.
He stops and stares at that print for the rest of
the day, considering what it means, and what he should do. ‘Do I go home with
the news that we are not alone,’ he blinks, once, twice, and again, as he works
through his options. ‘Do I track the person who left this print, follow them to
their home?’ The sun slides down and he still hasn’t thought of an answer.
‘The sorrows of death encompass me, and the floods
of ungodly men make me afraid,’ he thinks. ‘But what men are these? There are
no others, no people but Grandfather Noe and timid, sleeping grandmother, my
calloused uncles – Shem and Japheth, laboring in the sun, my skulking father,
Ham, their wives, my brothers, my sisters, my cousins. Ungodly men, maybe, but
this is no flood. Why then am I afraid? Why am I afraid of a single lonely
footprint in the dirt? With the blast of His nostrils the waters were gathered
together, the floods stood upright as a heap, and the depths were congealed in
the heart of the sea, but here I am alone and not alone.’
Canaan follows the prints, scrabbling in the dirt, up the hill toward the
highlands. The path leads over rocks and stones, disturbing moss and lichens,
through fields bending stems, past trees breaking small branches. Canaan
follows where the impossible prints lead.
Grandfather Noe said the waters covered everything, waters smothered everything
and everyone. Every living creature under the sun. Every father, mother,
daughter, son under the moon. The rains came down and the waters of the deep
broke loose and flooded the entire world. There should be no prints here. There
could be no prints here. It is impossible. But here the print in the dirt was
scuffed, as if the one who left it were skipping. Skipping? Who could be
skipping through this field? Grandfather Noe said everyone but the family had
He hears something ahead, laughter, but not laughter like the taunting, teasing
laughter of his sisters and cousins; this is a bright musical laughter,
sparkling. And he hears singing. But he doesn’t recognize the song or its
melody. It’s not one sung by his sisters and cousins or his mother and
grandmother. Come to think of it, he’s never heard his grandmother sing. She
rarely speaks and never sings. This song is charming and sweet even in its
He listens to the voice and the song:
The goat and flower,
the bee and the fish,
the sky above and
a lonely maiden.
Wind over mountains,
rain in the forest,
and the sky above
the lonely maiden.
The bird flies away,
the deer will startle;
everyone will leave
the lonely maiden.
Canaan sees her–sitting on a stone watching a flock of goats. She braids
lengths of flowers into her hair as she sings. “Don’t stop.” Canaan speaks. The
girl startles and turns toward whim with a small blade in her hand. Canaan
raises his empty hands and stands motionless. He is not a threat. “Don’t stop,
please. It’s such a strange song.”
She smiles a pleasant toothy grin, “It is my song,” she says.
“Did you learn it from your mother? My
mother sings sometimes. But not like this. My mother sings dirges.”
“No.” she says. “It is my song. Not my mother’s.”
“We saw the flood,” she says to the boy. “We saw the waters. But we went
further up the mountain with our goats to escape. The rains made a mess of our
village and our homes. My cousin’s house slid down the side of the mountain
when the dirt beneath it washed away. When the rains stopped we came back down,
cleaned the mud and the mold from the walls, repaired the roofs that had
collapsed, rebuilt the goat pens. We started over. But not everyone in the
village survived. Old Lazal and his wife died during the climb; they fell into
the water below. Monal was crushed by boulders in the mudslide. Several others
drowned. And we’ve heard the same from other villages and tribes as well.”
“But Grandfather Noe said the waters covered everything, that it killed
everyone, to pour out G-d’s fury on the wickedness of the world.”
“The sons of G-d, angels, apostate angels knew the secrets of the Templars and
their sin was great in the Earth and they taught men how to sin and to do
wicked things. And they killed many, and they begat giants. So G-d regretted
ever having made humans.”
“Seems to me that humans didn’t need angels to teach them cruelty. I’ve never
even seen an angel or any of the Nephilim and my cousin Leannet was beaten to
death by a man from our village when she refused to marry him. ”
“But how could she refuse?” Canaan stops
mid-sentence, his eyes wide. “It doesn’t matter. The flood was G-d’s wrath. It
covered everything. It killed everyone.” Canaan’s voice grows louder and higher
pitched with each word.
“The flood didn’t kill you…,” the girl says gently.
“Because Noe found favor with Yah. And our family was spared, told to build a
vessel to escape, and to preserve animals. But he told us everything else,
everyone else was gone. You shouldn’t be here! You should have drowned with
She points, “Look there. You can see the
shipwrecked hulls of our fishing-boats. But your family was safe inside a
vessel built to withstand the storm. You were warned. Did you rescue anyone?
Did you save anyone else?”
“Did you try?”
“No. The LORD told Noe it was for us. The
rest were too wicked, their violence too bloody.”
“But you liked my song.”
“A song is not enough.” A silence grew between them as deep and as daunting as
“I have to take the goats home soon...,” she says but Canaan does not respond;
he is still staring and the broken ships on the rocks. “I have to take the
goats home now. Will I see you again?”
Canaan looks up. “Sing for me once more before you go.”
“I should sing?” the girl asks, “I should sing my song for you, a song that not
even my mother has heard, I should sing my song for you who would have me
“No. I must take the goats home now.” She stands and begins calling the
animals, counting them.
“Don’t go,” Canaan pleads with her. “Don’t leave me.”
“Why don’t you come with me?” She invites him with her words and with her eyes.
“To your family? But they’re… they’re…”
“Wicked?” she finishes for him. “Then stay here, or go back to your blessed,
drunken Grandfather Noe.”
“I can’t go back there,” he shrieks. The girl sighs. “Stay, just a little
longer. Stay and sing, please.”
“I can’t,” she begins to lead the goats away.
Canaan grabs up a stone from the ground, raises it over his head and crashes it
down upon her skull. A flood of blood sprays up from the wound, spattering him
across the face, a violent red rain. Again and again he brings the stone down
on her head until she is dead.
“You shouldn’t be here! You shouldn’t be here! You shouldn’t be here! You
should have drowned!”
When Canaan finally looks up from the bloodied corpse beneath him, already
cooling, blood forming thick dark mud in the dust, the goats have scattered. He
hears their bleating far off down the mountain somewhere. He drops the stone,
tries to wipe some of the blood from his face, but only smears it around his
eyes in gruesome streaks.
He flees back down the hill, toward the dark valley, towards the empty woods
and the lifeless lake, back toward Grandfather Noe’s vineyard. “We’re not alone.
There are others,” he shouts as he runs back to the cluster of family shacks.
“Others. There are others on the mountain. The flood didn’t get them all.”
The family gathers around him, asking questions: “What are you talking about?
Where did you go? Why did you leave?” His mother grasps him with both arms,
“You are bleeding son; what happened?”
“It’s not my blood, mother. It’s hers, a girl. One of the others.”
“This is her blood?” asks his father, Ham.
“Ye…ye…yes,” he stammers, out of breath and afraid. “I killed her, but … she
should have drowned, right? That’s what Grandfather Noe said. She should have
been killed in the flood. She shouldn’t have been there.”
“You killed her,” Ham says again, less a question this time.
“Then they will be coming, blood for blood, life for life. That is the way of
it. They will be coming. Fear and dread are upon us. We are the horror of the
Then Noe cursed his son, “Cursed be Canaan; he will be the lowest of slaves to
Three words, "She went home" juxtaposed against an enigmatic photo and a thousand thousand possible stories open. Was this a triumphant return? A grateful return? Did she return in shame? In disgrace? Was she welcomed there? Was she wanted there? Was she looking for something? Did she find it there?
Here it is again, your free, weekly background image. I usually try to post them on Sunday afternoons, but yesterday was just a bit crazy... The image is yours to download and use as you will; I only ask that you share it freely with others and that you tell them you found it here. Simple.
Yesterday, Pentecost Sunday, was a crazy day for our little
church – maybe not as crazy as that first Pentecost Sunday with the sound of a
mighty rushing wind, and the dancing tongues of fire, and people breaking out
with speeches in an astounding variety of languages, but crazy enough for us.
To begin, my wife was out of town, leaving me and our two teenage children to
cover the things she usually does on a Sunday morning. This is not a hardship,
but I’m not much of a morning person; getting myself up and dressed on time is sometimes
a challenge. Even so, we managed to do pretty well. We were all awake and
dressed on time, the dog was walked and fed, we stopped to pick up a friend on
our way to the church building, the lights were turned on, the doors were
unlocked, the coffee was brewed (thanks
be to God), and Sunday School classes were all started on time. I started to
think that I might be able to put this day in the win column.
But that’s when things went wild. One of
our church friends, Paul, had a sudden and surprising bloody nose, like someone
had turned on the blood faucet, it was pouring out of him. We quickly decided
that he should go to the emergency room; a bloody nose may not seem like much,
but Paul is 92 years old and it was a LOT of blood.
I helped Paul into my vehicle, difficult to do since he had one hand clenched
to his nose with a towel trying to stem the flow of blood. I asked one of the other church members if he
felt comfortable taking care of things while I was gone, and told him that if
he needed anything he could count on my kids.
Paul’s nose stopped bleeding after about 40 minutes – during the time that we
waited for an ER doctor to become available. There didn’t appear to be any
specific cause for the bleeding and, after another waiting for another half hour to see if it would
start bleeding again (it didn’t) the doctor said Paul was good to leave.
By the time we arrived back at the church building, the morning service was
already concluded; they’d not had much in the way of a sermon, but they’d read
all the scripture and prayed and sung the hymns – though they had to pick a
couple of different ones since they weren’t familiar with two that were in the
program. “We hope that’s okay…”
Of course it was. And Paul was okay. It was just a crazy Pentecost Sunday.
I am a reasonable man, but of course I would say that, as a relative absolutist
I would say that. I’m sitting at my desk
(an ergonomic desk but an uncomfortable chair) when the cat stretches up with
one clawed paw to prod my leg. He reminds me that there is an eternal something
here, an indefinable quality about this town and its residents. We are passed
by, left at the door, left in the dust, left in the lurch, fascinated by the
lights near death, and the blood spattered on the wall. But all best people,
all the greatest humans live here, in my town.
There’s Simon the Worm Farmer: he knows the wonder of worms
tunneling beneath the surface of the earth in hidden realms, but the worms –
the worms know the secret. They found
the answers to all the unasked questions, hermaphroditic harbingers. Night Crawling
enchanters, Megadrile magicians performing alchemical transformations in the
soil, transmuting dead earth to living grain.
Simon the Worm Farmer lives across the street from Joseph Abbot Carter, our
favorite Civil War reenactor. He wears his steel Brodie combat helmet and khaki
uniform with pride as he marches out with his ArmaLite AR-15 rifle out onto the
field for mock battle. We love him too much to tell him that his reenactments
are filled with gross historical anachronisms.
Marcy has forgotten everything. Everything except where she buried her
treasure. (Don’t tell anyone; her treasure is a box filled with her children’s
Chris is a bored and lonely cartographer who can’t find her way out of town.
Every road she takes leads her right back to her front door.
Samuel Clemens lives here too. Yes. Is it so strange that Mark Twain is living
here? He’s still writing, of course and his recent work is every bit as good as
the classics for which he is remembered. And the High Priest of Utopian
Socialism, Barthölemy Prosper Enfantin, is here as well, preaching his idiosyncratic
gospel. He still wears that badge on his chest that says “Père Suprême” and he’s still waiting for his emissaries to return
from their quest to find the new feminine messiah. You should see the two of
them go at it, Clemens the agnostic sparring with Enfantin, who still thinks of himself
as “the chosen of God.” They can cause quite a row, let me tell you. About the
only thing the two of them can agree on is the Suez Canal- that is to say, they
both agree that it exists.
Down the road, down past the bridge you’ll find Hannibal – who is equally tired
of cannibal and A-Team jokes. He longs for the time when people hectored him
about his elephants and his failed attempt to conquer Rome.
There’s Stan the Center. The center is the center and there is only one center;
that is Stan. Stan meets Miss Prision for coffee on alternating Tuesdays. Miss
Prision knows more than she reveals. This could get her in trouble one day.
The rumors are true: all the best people live here. I’ve been saying it for the
past several thousand years. I’m always surprised by how little people listen.
You with your low utopianism, you can’t dismantle power, you can’t rewrite
history, can’t change the trajectory of the future. Who are you? With your
liberal-humanistic hand-washing, your cheap ideology, your perverse intent to
change the world, to change the times and seasons, who are you?
Keep the past. Maintain your place within the structure, in statu quo res erant ante bellum, Forget your crude Great
Harmony. You are a used car: irrational and dangerous. You would shake down the
present to find the future.
This is the way the world is.
This is the way the world is.
This is the way the world is.
Stop your whimpering.
You write fables and dreams. You say Marxism is Christianity without God like
that’s a good thing. Your illusory bliss-ninny idealism is evidence of your
delusions. You must learn to inhabit the realm of necessity and realism. Utopia
is willful thinking, and you are a willful stubborn child.
My daughter had her wisdom teeth extracted a few days ago. The swelling is mostly gone, but she's still a little puffy. I've been calling her "Chipmunk" - but only because I thought calling her "Z'dar" would be cruel.
"Future is the sphere of the possible, past the sphere of the real, present the frontier on which the possible is either realized or not realized." - Jürgan Moltmann, The
Coming of God: Christology Eschatology ...also, beware of a swarm of electronically amplified angry insects...
If he thought of Rick as his “pet drunk,” it was not cruelly. If it was
cynicism, it was cynicism welded with honest affection without pretense. At
least, not much. He tried, but Rick was difficult.
Rick was familiar to the emergency response teams: police, fire, EMT, Emergency
room doctors and nurses, they all knew him. They all sighed and rolled their
eyes as they shared their stories of his drunken antics. Rick was a loud drunk,
a loud singing drunk. He’d get flushed on cheap peppermint flavored liqueur and
sing half remembered fragments of REO Speedwagon songs. “I’ve been around you, been up n downnnn you, mmanlahhmny ‘lief. The police chased him out of abandoned
buildings, the nurses treated his injuries – cuts on his face and hands from
his frequent falls, and occasional fights.
He’d be arrested for public drunkenness, for trespassing, for any number of
alcohol related nuisances, held in the county jail where he’d be sober for a
couple of days, maybe a week. But when he was released it was back to the streets,
back to the cheap booze, back to an almost continual state of inebriation.
If he thought of Rick as his “pet drunk,” it was with both affection and
weariness. Rick came to his church for help, for food, for a place to stay on
cold nights, for someone to talk to. Usually he was willing to listen to Rick;
when he was sober (that rare condition) he was decent, even interesting. He
bought Rick dinner on multiple occasions– never gave him cash directly. He let
Rick sleep in the church’s storage rooms during one especially cold week in
December, warning him that if he went outside to smoke the door would lock
behind him, and “for the love of God, don’t fall asleep with a cigarette inside
and burn the church down around you…”
One stormy afternoon he let Rick sleep on one of the pews in the chapel. Rick
had burned himself out with the other shelters in town, been barred from the
detox center. He had nowhere else to go. So he let Rick come in, sleep it off
for a couple of hours, to get out of the rain. But when he went in to check on
Rick, he found him pissing in the corner of the chapel. “Get out. Get out,” he said
as he pushed Rick out the door. “Good grief, Rick. Get out.”
That was several years ago. He’s moved a couple of times since then, but he
still wonders what’s happened to his “pet drunk.”
Like the Copper Scroll, you’ve found the guide that you need – the once missing
traveler’s guide, battered and torn, stained with coffee and road dust, the one
your father used for all those family trips across the country, has all the
answers. Dig at the broken column 12 paces beyond the weeping palms. X still
marks the spot, even after all these years.
– Have you experienced an inexplicable fascination with Fidel Castro’s beard?
Have you driven friends and family away with your interest in Mark Twain’s
whiskers? This is not so strange.
– As Saint Gregory of the Autonomous Zone has written: “Gnomes are gnormal;
Orcs are occasional.” The thunder you are hearing is the drumbeats of Troglodytes
pounding beneath the surface of the earth.
Asexual reproduction, but no worms – not in Grandmother’s house. The plastic is
on the couch for a reason. No worms, but beetles in the car.
The whispering voices backstage and the small motions of the curtain ruin the
illusion that what you are living is real life. The actors have forgotten their
lines and you’ve missed your cue. The critics will be merciless in their reviews.
Dad is sleeping near the septic tank; Grandpa is in the barn. It’s hillbilly
horror played out behind a white picket fence. Death in the RV park, murder at
the truck stop.
You light up the night like a tortured star.
– Take a five minute break for food and beverages, rotting fruit at a roadside
market. The real American enchilada.
– Nothing is simple. Nothing is easy. We are busy, but no one is there. Not
this year. Maybe next year. Maybe. But it’s nothing. Maybe this is all there
is: shouting in the parking lot.
Capricorn – Prester John cannot hear
the word no. Mythic royalty enjoys playing pranks on the likes of us. But you
cannot ignore him. Mythic royalty will not be snubbed with impunity.
– Leave the fish tale flat while skinning. Do not bend the skin. Do not bend the
will. Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate. Lift the tail and separate the body.
Leave unbroken. Do not eat.
The leadership of vengeful vultures will tear at your flesh, vindictive vipers
will envenom your soul. The question now is one of endurance. How long? How long,
O Lord? The blood of the martyrs is burned. Run a tox-screen. What ecclesial
poisons are present?
And Jesus answered them, “Take care that no one deceives you
with carefully constructed government cover-ups and misinformation. You will
hear of gyroscopic propulsion systems and secret spy planes, but these are not
the end; see that you are not alarmed. Nation will fight against nation and
kingdom against kingdom using the advanced technologies but this is only the
Then you will be handed over to be tortured by the FBI and interrogated before the
Committee on Science and Astronautics. You will be hated and denounced as a
whistle-blower, conspiracy theorist, lunatic. And many will fall away. Many
false prophets will arise offering Communion; they will deceive many. But
anyone who stands firm to the end will be saved. This good news of kingdom will
be proclaimed to the entire galaxy as evidence to the species. And then the end
So when you see the appalling abomination,
of which the prophet D. spoke, flying over the windrowed heartland try to
remember that you have a camera. But let the reader understand, you may see
nothing more than a dancing blur of unfocused light, ill-defined shapes
screaming toward the horizon. Escape to the mountains if you can.
There is evidence of galactic maleficence at work here. Alas, alas for those
who have been abducted, raptured by large eyed demonic manifestations from
space. Pray that you will not be among their missing numbers. For then there will be great distress – explosions of radio transceivers,
lethal light beams and heat rays, colored lights that hypnotize and mass
hallucinations – great distress unparalleled
since the world began.
If anyone says to you, “Look, here are the crop circles of the Cosmic Christ,”
do not believe him, or, “Look, he is in the desert of New Mexico,” do not
follow. Because the coming of the Son of Man will be like lightning striking in
the east and flashing far into the west. Where the corpse is, there the vultures gather.
Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened and the
moon will be bloodied. Televised preachers will write books about the
convergence of holiday festivals and lunar events and the power of reason will
be shaken. He will send his angels with a loud trumpet to gather the elect, but
a louder Trump will unleash great winds upon the land. Sky and earth will pass
away. You don’t know when, but sky and earth will be burnt away.
As it was in the days of Deucalion, so will it be again: people eating,
drinking, taking husbands, paying taxes, right up to the day Deucalion went up
into that floating casket. And they suspected nothing. Then of two men in the
fields, one is abducted and probed, one is left; of two women grinding their teeth,
one is taken and impregnated with alien seed, one is left.
So stay awake, because you never know when the night is coming. It may already
be too late. Get on your radios and sound an all points alarm. Block all
highways, stop all traffic, and call every law enforcement agency in the state.
They're here already! You're next! You're next, You're next...
Call me Deucalion. Some years ago – never mind how long
exactly – before Utnapishtim, before Noe, I was alone, having little or no
money in my pocket and nothing left of my home, that city of the air – and driven
on by hunger and by whales, by deluge and assault, driven by misery and loneliness,
I set sail upon the impetuous waters.
I stand on the deck, spyglass in hand, a fleet of shipwrecked vessels to the
left and to the right of me. The earth shakes with aqueous weapons; trembling
waves crashed over me. The air vibrates with strange motions. The sea made red
with the blood of my enemies and my friends, the perturbed waters shall over
run, spoiling the world. Blood flows and a flood of blows bringing great
destruction and unholy enjoyment. Bringing murder and a damnable legend.
No one can swim. I am alone. In the ark with me, this chest,
this coffin, there is lightning and gold.
The solitude of my cabin is too much for me to endure so I follow the migration
charts of the great sea monsters, guided by some infallible urge. This is the
monster, the stuff of nightmares in the deep and the fear of blood. All human
connection is severed. All human connection is death, flood waters and love,
heartache and longing upon the surface of the waters. A brooding loner. The blue
divide between water and sky. Everything is horizon, the vast, unending circle
I was born and killed by water. Now surrounded by water, waves, alone without a
shore. Leviathan maketh a path to my door, but I will not answer his call.
Call me Deucalion, but I was a lover
once, when the world was sweet wine and gentle wind. I was a gentle lover with
stars and fire and magic melodies for a maiden. I sang love songs and danced
the round for her and we two dreamed of a world that we could make our own. But
that was long ago – never mind how many years exactly – too long for the
remembering. The moon was mine, once, mine to give to her. But the moon is
fleeting and she, like the moon, is drowned in the terrible sea. Never trust
the moon. Never trust the sea. The moon doesn’t speak any more and the sea says