Tuesday, May 15, 2007

the gospel from outer space

For a number of different reasons I've been thinking a bit about fictional belief systems and mythologies these days (e.g. Kurt Vonnegut's Bokononism). I've also been thinking about liberation theology. The two sort of come together in the following excerpt from Slaughterhouse-Five:
The Gospel from Outer Space

It was The Gospel from Outer Space, by Kilgore Trout. It was about a visitor from outer space, shaped very much like a Tralfamadorian, by the way. The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low.
But the Gospels actually taught this: Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected. So it goes.

The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn't look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being of the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought, and Rosewater read out loud again:
Oh, boy -- they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!
And then that thought had a brother: "There are right people to lynch." Who? People not well connected. So it goes.

The visitor from outer space made a gift to Earth of a new Gospel. In it, Jesus really was a nobody, and a pain in the neck to a lot of people with better connections than he had. He still got to say all the lovely and puzzling things he said in the other Gospels.
So the people amused themselves one day by nailing him to a cross and planting the cross in the ground. There couldn't possibly be any repercussions, the lynchers thought. The reader would have to think that, too, since the new Gospel hammered home again and again what a nobody Jesus was.
And then, just before the nobody died, the heavens opened up, and there was thunder and lightning. The voice of God came crashing down. He told the people that he was adopting the bum as his son, giving him the full powers and privileges of The Son of the Creator of the Universe throughout all eternity. God said this: From this moment on, He will punish horribly anybody who torments a bum who has no connections!

Reminds me a bit of the previous discussion on Cornel West and Constantinian Christianity in islam and the passion (for social justice)


sondjata said...

hmm sounds like Nat Turner: Nobody. Was a pain in the ass to the well connected. Got trung up and had his skin peeled off. When he died a huge storm occured.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Abdul-Halim V. said...

Nat Turner is an interesting figure. He should totally be a saint in a truly Afrocentric kind of Christianity. After all, he viewed himself as basically a Christian prophet... or at least a visionary.