the dullness of the Christian message
Monday, January 27 2003
Gretchen drove David the Rabbi back down to New York City today. She had a crucial appointment in Midtown at 3pm, the closing of the real estate transaction whereby she would divest herself of her Brooklyn Brownstone in exchange for well over a third of a million dollars. This closing has been put off for weeks and weeks, mostly due to banker incompetence and holiday-related sloth. Meanwhile, we've nearly maxed out our credit cards and emptied our bank accounts. Financially, it's been down to the wire ever since the last of our major house renovations. Metaphorically speaking, I've been crossing my fingers and toes hoping something horrendous didn't happen to throw a monkey wrench into this essential sale. Such a monkey wrench could appear in many forms. My biggest concern was another dramatic terrorist incident in New York City or the layoff of one of our prospective buyers.
It was hard to focus on anything while waiting for Gretchen to call me and tell me of that the deal was done. Somehow this waiting came to be associated with the waiting I was also doing for Colin Powell's response to the Hans Blix Iraqi weapons inspection report. A week or so ago I knew this report was coming today and I was a little nervous that perhaps an invasion of Iraq might occur the moment it was delivered, possibly (if things went badly and there was a sleeper-cell-instigated retaliation) affecting today's closing. But, no, aside from some unexpected taxes, the closing went off without a hitch.
While I was waiting for these things to happen, I found myself puttering around the house, doing things like stuffing insulation into overlooked cracks and fixing incompetent drywall cuts around light switches. I had the teevee on while I did some of these things and, as I sometimes do when Gretchen's not around, I found myself watching Christian cable channels. In the process, I realized something about Christianity that had never occurred to me before: its essential message is so simple that it's difficult for evangelist to maintain my interest for more than a sentence of proselytizing. After he's told me that Jesus died so that I might be saved and that I need to accept Jesus as my personal savior, anything else he says is likely to be completely redundant. It would be considerably more interesting and thought-provoking if just once an evangelist said, "Jesus died so that monotheists might eat pork."
Later on there was a show about the poor Jews of eastern Siberia, and how an organization called "Christians and Jews for [I forget what]" was helping to take care of them. After rehashing the tragic history of Jews in Russia (and dwelling a little too disproportionately long on how bad the Soviets were), we were shown a couple sad old Jews shivering beneath blankets in their unheated shacks. For just fifty dollars a month, we were told, all sorts of good things could be done for these poor miserable Jews. Since this was a Christian broadcast aimed at other Christians, I wondered a little about the selection of suffering Jews as a mechanism for Christian fundraising. Not long after I began such wondering, the show abandoned its geographical premise and began to focus entirely on elderly Jews in the Ukraine, seven or eight timezones west of where we'd been led on the map. At this point the hard sell began in earnest, and we were shown the gangrenous legs of an elderly Jewish man who had succumbed to frostbite. "It's too late for Yaseah," we were told, "but with your help, we'll be able to find other Jews before it's too late."
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