Friday, June 4, 2010

Why I am not a Protestant

[This is a scene from a play that I never wrote. Actually, I just wrote this scene, and it's not very good. I include it here because it does have the merit of explaining why I would never be a Protestant.

The play was supposed to about Marlene Nowotniak. She is a very bright 16 year old girl and a very beautiful one as well.  She likes to frequent a used bookstore, owned by Friedrich Nietzsche (I just decided to put Nietzsche in for the hell of it), who has as his indentured servant a very bizarre but orthodox Catholic, Ken Silenus.  Ken tries to convince Marlene of the need to believe in Catholicism to understand  Shakespeare properly.  Marlene will have none of it, though, saying that she likes Shakespeare just fine as an atheist. 

Much to Ken's horror, the charming and elegant and witty Marlene falls head over heels for a quaterback from her High School.  His name is Scott Coiler, and he is a grunt, the type that thinks poetry is for the limp-wrists.  Ken, alarmed by Marlene's rather embarrassing public displays of affection with Scott, sternly warns Marlene of the dangers and sinfulness of pre-marital sex, but Marlene does not heed and does it, anyway.  Then Scott goes off and gets saved at a Bible Youth Camp.  Upon his return Scott promptly dumps Marlene because she is an imbiber of secular humanism.  Other boys at the High School dump their girlfriends for the same reason.  Marlene starts to fight back.  She starts the Dumped by Elmer Gantry Club, which proceeds to trumpet loudly the names of the boys who were players before they got saved--and after.  This irks the Christian Youth Group, named Dudes for Christ.  The Youth Minister, John Knox, has a sit down with Scott about this matter.  Scott suggests that the kook at the used book store put Marlene up to this, whereupon John Knox and he go pay Ken Silenus a visit.]

(Mr. Knox and Scott enter. Ken is at the cash register, puffing away.)

Ken:  Yeah, I am just about to close. What the fuck do you want?

John Knox:  Hello, Mr. Silenus, my name is John Knox. This will just take a second, I promise.  I think you know Scotty here.

Ken:  (exhaling a great big wad of smoke) Yeah, I've seen him around.

JK:  Well, I am with the Dudes for Christ, and Scott here is my main dude in Christ.  Aren't you, Scotty?

Scott:  Amen, Dude.  (High fives Mr. Knox)

Ken:  (muttering under his breath) Ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me.

JK:  And we're here to... (finally notices Ken's T-Shirt, which reads:  "I'd rather be a gay porn fluffer than a Protestant.")  Mr. Silenus, I realize, we live in a free country and you have the God-given right to express whatever you want...

Ken:  (exhales yet another great big wad of smoke, this time in the direction of John Knox)

JK:  ...but I must tell you that your T-Shirt does not send off good Christian vibes.  Scotty here told me you're Catholic, and that's cool.  We respect that.

Scott:  Did your priest tell ya to be his fluffer in confession?

JK:  Now, now, Scotty, that doesn't send off good Christian vibes, either.

Ken:  (throws his cigarette down on the floor, stamps it out, and fishes in his front pants pocket for another)

Scott:  Well, did he?

Ken:  No, I was too busy sacrificing Protestant babies in the crypt.  (lights the next one in the chain)

JK:  Our Lord told us not to dis our enemies, remember?  Scotty?  Not that we think Catholics are our enemies, of course.  No, Mr. Silenus, we are, as Vatican II, your most recent council, decreed, Brethren in Christ.  That t-shirt of yours really does not jibe with the Spirit of your own denomination, does it now, Mr. Silenus. As one Christian to another, as one brother in Christ to another brother, I would tell you to take it off.

Ken:  Nah, it's cold.

JK:  I got some extra Dude for Christ t-shirts in my duffel bag.  You want one of those?

Ken:  No, I do not.  See, I really would prefer to be a cocksucker than a Protestant, especially one in his late fifties who goes around carrying Dude for Christ t-shirts.

JK:  Now, look here... I'm 49, and...

Ken:  Just, please, state your business here.  I am about to close.

Scott:  Stop feeding Marlene all your bullshit!

Ken:  And what bullshit would that be, Scott?  Praytell, like telling her any guy who would fuck her and leave her is a paradigmatic asshole?  Bullshit like that, Scott?

Scott:  Whatever

Ken:  You are a textbook example of a grunt.

JK:  Yes, Scott sinned, Mr. Silenus.  "There is no one who does good, not
even one."  Romans 3:12.  We're all sinners, Mr. Silenus, but we've all been
washed clean and pure of our iniquities in the blood of the lamb, Jesus

Ken:  That one righteous dude!

JK:  (JK is ready to high five Ken, and Ken in a moment of reluctant charity
lets him)  Yes, isn't God awesome?

Ken:  Now, let's do the wave.

JK:  Mr. Silenus, this is an awesome message of mercy and love that we are trying to spread in an area where the kids desperately need it.  Their parents make them feel worthless if they get anything less than a five on their AP exam or they don't make the first string of the football team.

Ken:  Of if they throw six interceptions for three consecutive games.

Scott:  Hey!!

JK:  Now, Scotty, he has a point.

Scott:  Whatever.

JK:  The kids have no hope unless they can prove themselves to be successful candidates for the upper-middle-class.  And we want to tell them that hope does not depend on that kind of social status.  No, it is light years more permanent than that for it rests in the permanent and final sacrifice of that one righteous dude, Jesus Christ.  He'll love you no matter what, even if you do get a four on the AP or make it only to second string.

Ken:  Your point:

JK:  This is a message that is really saving kids' lives and is giving them hope, and now it is being undermined by Marlene Nowotniak's club.  She is making us look bad.

Ken:  Yes, and?

JK:  Could you just talk to Marlene for us?  Could you tell her that she is doing much more harm than good?

Ken:  No, and I got to close.  Bye.

JK:  I know you think we are spreading anti-romanist heresy.  Yes, I know you are a very, er, gung-ho Catholic.  But we are bringing people to Christ. We are snatching kids away from their despair...

Ken:  ...and their responsibility.

Scott:  Look, I sinned, okay?  The whole state knows I boinked Marlene.  But
you sin, right?

JK:  The Lord knows I do, my man!

Ken:  Please, no high five this time.

Scott:  And you sin.  You're sinning right now by filling your body with
that shit.   And you're body s supposed to be a temple for God.

Ken:  (blowing smoke in Scott's face) So, sin is sin, eh?

JK:  Exactly.  We are sinful by nature, and it is by Christ's mercy alone
that we are covered with that awesome grace that makes us acceptable to Him.

Ken:  So, smoking a fag is as depraved and rancid as deflowering a sixteen
year old. 

Scott:  I would never blow a fag.  I don't do that shit.  I ain't no homo.

JK:  Scott, "fag" is British for cigarette.  Calm down.

Scott:  Well, I don't smoke neither.

JK:  In God's eyes, yes.  It's all equally evil.

Ken:  Mr. Knox, I will not dissuade Marlene from her campaign.  I will only encourage her.  Now, if you will be so kind as to remove your heretical asses from my establishment.

Scott:  But she don't even believe in God.  She believes in Darwin and that crap.

JK:  Scotty here has a point.  Do you really want the secularist poison to
prevail over the Gospel?

Ken:  Yup.  I really do.  Because I vomit at the notion that the theft of a paper clip is as evil as, say, the systematic gassing of millions of innocent men, women, and children.

JK:  Not one of us is innocent.

Ken:  Oh, yes, we are all totally,  comprehensively, fucking depraved.  So depraved that God has to mask us with a bodycast of grace just to look at us.  I want to be loved for who I am, not for some mask I wear.  And if God can love us only with a mask, then fuck God.

JK:  "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body."

Ken:  Oh, shove James up your ass.  You people love James 3, but you're not so hot on James 2.  Or James 5, where he mentions sins that cry out to the heavens for vengeance.  Well, what your main dude Scotty did is just such a sin.

Scott:  Show me that in the Bible, asshole.

JK:  Now, Scotty.

Ken:  Fuck the Bible.  I am talking about what was in front of your very eyes, what you touched, whose sweet voice whispered "I love you" in your ear.  A beautiful woman who loved you so much she gave you her everthing, her body, her soul.  She put her very temple at your disposal.  Even though you are the Protestant paragon of the totally depraved Adam, whose good deeds, if thereare any, are nothing but filthy rags.  But she loved you all the same, and if that's not the incarnation of gratuitous grace, of amazing grace, of the free, unmerited gift that you Prots always yap about, then fuck Luther's God.  And to reject such amazing grace is nothing less than the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.  A cocksucker, as perverse and vile as he is, shows more gratitude towards God's creation than do you, and that's why I wear this t-shirt with pride.

JK:  It sounds like you worship earthly creatures.  It is my duty as a Christian to warn you against idolatry.

Ken:  It is my duty as a very tired shopkeeper to tell you to leave, please.

JK: I'll be praying for you.

Ken: Sure. Now go, please.

Scott:  (on his way out)  Marlene is not God, and Mary isn't God, either.

Ken:  Whatever.


Anonymous said...

I think this tension between creaturely subjective love and the alienness of an utterly transcendent mysterious and inexplicable divine grace above and beyond all humanly conceivable love has been wonderfully portrayed in Milton's Paradise Lost. I wrote the following commentary on precisely this topic:

I can think of no other English work which depicts the dialectic between man and God so brilliantly. His portrayal of Satan, the romantic hero with conviction, willful determination, courage, zeal, and even heroic leadership and honourable self-sacrifice for his fallen comrades against a cold and inscrutable God, calls into question in a way which no other work has, the congruence of virtues and subjective ideals with that of a wholly other and wholly alien divinity which transcends every human value and virtue.

Our heart quakes before the notion that all the things and ideals so dear to our hearts, self-giving love, virtues, subjective passion, conviction, the things so valued by humanity, could very well be used in service of rebellion against God and be so beautifully embodied in Satan himself. Can these things so desired by our hearts be truly so contrary to God and so alien to the divine? The great C.S. Lewis himself argued that our sympathy with Satan lies in the corruption of our hearts rather than in any genuine appreciate for virtue or heroism, etc. A convenient cop out for the arch English Romantic who could not bear the thought of a divine so alien transcendent that it might be contrary to our most humanly treasured values, and would sooner engage in an ad hominem attacks than confront the possibility that maybe the divine truly is foreign and could even be contrary to the things most beloved and exalted by human ideals and virtue.

Likewise in Milton’s depiction of the Fall, he once more brings to bear the dialectic between Man and God by his portrayal of the intense passion and love which Adam had for his wife Eve, who chose to disobey God and eat the fruit, even if it might mean death and divine punishment, rather than face an eternity without Eve, whom he loved with all his heart and could not bear to watch decay and die before his eyes. Who could deny the romance, the passion, the authenticity of this love, who rather join his beloved in death, than spend all eternity without her?

Once more our hearts trembles before this possibility, could the divine even be alien to our deepest desires, our most profound love and longings, could the divine be above and against love itself? Could we be demanded, in service and in obedience to the divine will, to violently rip out of our hearts without mercy or compassion, that which has claimed our deepest love, which has laid its roots right into the very core of our being, which is entwined beautifully and intricately, into the very flesh of our flesh and bones of our bones?

Anonymous said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an unashamed Protestant and of the worse kind, a theological voluntarist and metaphysical nominalist.

In the conflict between a passionate and romantic Satan and Adam versus that of a cold, rational and inscrutable God, I'm afraid that I'm on God's side here. I have a far lower view of humanity than even most Calvinists, I accept the Lutheran doctrine that we are not only totally depraved, but we have lost the image of God. That human passion and subjectivity are inherently worthless, all too human and contingent and that all the raging and passions of man will simply die off, not with bang but with a whimper, before an omnipotent God who is beyond good and evil and to whose will we either submit in fear or trembling, or simply be forgotten. Passion and subjectivity means nothing to an omnipotent God whose might makes right.

In the end, there would be no hell like that in Milton's world where Satan can rage romantic rebellion in defiant assertion of his passion against God. I believe in the form of annihilationism or what is today called "Evangelical Conditionalism". Human life, consciousness, passion has no inherent value worthy of preservation unto eternity, even if in conscious torment. It will die, it will be taken away, and in the end, all that would be left is a mountain of dead silent corpses whose arms will fall limp and will no longer rise in anger against God... and the rest of the elect will move on, as the corpses are forgotten by both God and man.

Sebonde said...

Yeah, I pretty much reject voluntarism. That's just nihilism, pretending to be faith.