It is so turned around these days.

Monday, February 20, 2006

"What I need is a little meaningless entertainment."


Eating as Jesus ate, I have lost one pound. I can't bring myself to pray for Jesse Helms. The ending of Desecration was a cheat. Maisie still refuses to watch Bibleman.
When I'm depressed, I drive, and I'm depressed today so I set out for Bozeman, thirty miles away, to fetch more Ark supplies. On the way, I tune in to Christian radio, and the moment I hit the right frequency, I know it. There's a curious hush in the announcers' voices, as though they're broadcasting from a library, and though the top-of-the-hour news report is heralded by a dramatic burst of music not unlike those used on secular networks, the stories that immediately follow deal with abortion and pornography instead of politicians and celebrities. There's news from Israel, reported straight, but I detect an agenda between the lines--the correspondent is hoping to remind me that suicide bombings mean the End is near and it's time to get my life in order. Fair enough, but I need no reminding. What I need is a little meaningless entertainment.
The station--one of those disembodied jobs that's beamed via satellite from a distant headquarters--serves up a relentless series of buzz-kills. A man discussing the war on terrorism, which is depressing enough, digresses into a rant about damnation and how the real terror threatening the world lurks inside the sinful human heart. A therapist specializing in relationships instructs the wives out there to bow their heads and pray for a spirit of obedience. A rambling sermon about generosity loses itself in an endless and painful anecdote about a mentally retarded busboy who toiled at a truck stop to buy medicine for his sick mom until he fell ill and was hospitalized himself.
An odd sense of dislocation comes over me. I'm floating out of my Ford and into space. Secular radio, with its sports and weather, grounds one in a specific time and place — it's rush hour, the Vikings play the Rams tonight, tomorrow it will be fair to partly cloudy —but Christian radio bypasses such trivia, conjuring up a vast eternal void in which titanic forces of good and evil struggle over man's immortal soul. Who cares if it's sunny or rainy? Details, details. Who cares about traffic conditions? The Lord is coming!
I'm amazed that regular listeners can bear such weight, yet I've spoken to some who find it soothing. They say Christian radio makes them feel cocooned, particularly when they play it in the car. It's Babylon out there, corrupt and dangerous, but they drive right on past in their little rolling tabernacles.
One must grow used to it. Maybe after a while the buzz-kill becomes the buzz.
But I need a break. I skip the Christian store and stop at a supermarket for some junk food. Standing in line with my chips, I pick up a National Enquirer without thinking and binge on forbidden Hollywood scandal. It's silly stuff but exactly what I need. And then I turn a page and understand, utterly, profoundly, and in my gut, why so many people seek refuge on the Ark despite the copycat music, crappy fiction and fifth-rate performances by third-rate actors.
Before me, so raw and obscene that they look sticky, are enlarged color photos of the Columbine crime scene taken just moments after the shooting stopped. A teenage boy's skull leaks brains onto the floor next to a blood-smeared black rifle. He has a face, but it's like a McDonald's hamburger in cross section–more ketchup and cheese and special sauce than meat. Even harder to look at is the bland school furniture. It wasn't designed to shield sophomores from shotgun blasts. I put down the tabloid. I feel infected, soiled. A week ago, I could have handled this image, but my spell on the Ark has weakened my immune system. Afterward, at the Christian store, I put on headphones and sample a track from the latest John Tesh CD. It's not any good, but considering what I've just seen, it could be worse, and right now that's good enough.


At 12:22 PM, Blogger C. J. Summers said...

These articles are interesting. Keep them coming.

At 1:52 PM, Blogger BJ Aberle said...

I've got 3 days left


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