Heaven or Yell

I was awakened by the sound of a Christian minister yelling at me. At first I thought maybe I’d passed out drunk in the soup kitchen again. Then I remembered I’d never been drunk or in a soup kitchen before, so “again” wouldn’t exactly be the right word. “For the first time” would fit, but it might look suspicious if I were so hasty to point out that something had never happened before, like maybe it HAD happened, but I wanted people to think it hadn’t.

Syntax aside, I knew something was wrong. Why would a Christian minister be yelling at me? He definitely seemed angry. He was talking about how when I die, I might stand before God and tell him all these great things I did, but if my heart wasn’t right, he would say, “I never knew you,” and I’d be cast out, apparently without so much as a handshake. I was familiar with this doctrine, having read books by such authors as Og Mandino and whoever wrote the Bible, so I don’t know why the Christian minister felt a need to yell them at me. And where WAS I, anyway?

Slowly, reality dawned on me. It was morning. The Christian minister was in my clock radio, which was playing because I had set it to wake me up. I must have nudged the radio dial accidentally the night before and tuned it to a religious station, instead of the soothing thrash metal I usually wake up to.

This explains why I was hearing a Christian minister. It does not explain why he was so angry.

But anger seems to be a recurring theme in religion. In the Old Testament (the thicker chunk of the Bible — you know, the part no one ever reads), the Lord was always smiting these people or condemning those people, often for no more serious an offense than whining, which the ancient Israelites did A LOT of the time. (Seriously, after the ninth or 10th bout with grapefruit-sized boils, you’d think the Israelites would have learned to quit with the constant belly-aching already.)

Then, in the New Testament — the part people do read, or at least have heard quotes from — everything became all peace, love and happiness. Unfortunately, the 1960s were full of similar sentiments, and we wound up with weed-smoking musicals like “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Godspell,” the logic apparently being that since Jesus and hippies both wanted good will toward men, that meant Jesus WAS a hippie. Which is sort of like saying that since I don’t like cats, I must be a dog.

The radio minister obviously had an Old Testament-inspired oratory style (even though he was citing a New Testament doctrine). But is that kind of anger justified? I assume his rationale was that he wanted to frighten us into heeding his words. But I’m not usually roused into great introspection by a man who sounds like Yosemite Sam, or even by Yosemite Sam himself. Quiet, sincere pleadings are far more likely to do the trick with your average Christian varmint.

Which is, I think, the way God actually works. In my limited dealings with him, he’s generally been pretty calm and peaceful. When I get stubborn, he does tend to whack me over the spiritual head with a spiritual brick, but that’s only when I had it coming. I can’t imagine him waking me from a deep sleep by hollering at the top of his lungs — unless I really HAD passed out drunk in a soup kitchen, in which case he’d probably want me out of there before the paparazzi showed up.

What's really strange is that as I kept hitting my snooze button and sleeping through long portions of the Christian minister's diatribe, it actually occurred to me -- in my half-asleep state -- that I should write a column about it all. I don't often get ideas in my sleep. (Well, not intelligible ones, anyway.)