Today’s topic: Are all Christians crazy? Short answer: No. (Long answer follows.)
As you know from being a human and living on Earth, some people are mentally unsound. Normally, this is not a problem. They’ll spout weird opinions or do eccentric things, but they don’t hurt anyone, and they provide society with entertainment. Whether it’s the ranting hobo who lives in the park, or Angelina Jolie, these harmless lunatics are part of what makes life interesting.
When mental instability is combined with religious fervor, however, it can lead to trouble, as evidenced by two men who recently found themselves in the news for being 1) Christian and 2) insane.
First we have the widely reported story from last month of a man who leapt into the lion’s den at the Taipei (Taiwan) Zoo in an attempt to convert the lions to Christianity. The man is reported to have shouted, “Jesus will save you!” to the two lions who lived there. He seemed to believe Jesus would save him, too, because he dared the lions to “Come bite me!,” whereupon one of the lions did in fact bite him, an outcome the man apparently did not foresee. Lucky for him, the lion didn’t like Chinese food. (KA-ZING!)
Now, any fool can tell you that lions eat Christians regularly. (Hello? A little place called the Colosseum? Ring any bells?) I suppose the man’s minimal thought process centered around the Old Testament story of Daniel, who also broke into a zoo in Taiwan and attempted to convert lions. I hope the man’s faith is not shattered now that he realizes that when you do insane things, sometimes God just lets you do them. He’s not Superman, for crying out loud, flying around rescuing people from their own idiocy. If He were, He’d never get anything done.
Next we come to evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, a man so crazy and so full of himself that every few years, he says something repulsive just to get himself back into the public eye. Somehow, these repulsive things translate into dollars for him and his ministry. The preachers who have been relying on tired old messages of hope and peace should take note.
Swaggart was a minister for the Assemblies of God Church for decades, and has been a TV preacher since the ’80s. But he didn’t come to the attention of people who don’t live in trailer parks until 1987, when, as you’ll recall, all the TV evangelists were working full-time at committing adultery, taking only the occasional break to accuse their fellow TV evangelists of it.
Was Jimmy Swaggart the one with the wife who wore all the makeup? No, that was Jim Bakker. Was he the one who said if he didn’t raise $10 million by a certain time, God would kill him? No that was Oral Roberts. Jimmy Swaggart was the one who, in March 1987, called Jim Bakker “a cancer in the body of Christ” for committing adultery. A year later, Swaggart was sobbing on TV, begging forgiveness because he had — you guessed it — committed adultery. “I have sinned against you” was his famous catchphrase, “you” in this case being pretty much everybody, but mostly God.
When the Assemblies of God sought to punish him by banning him from preaching on TV for two years, he said, “If I do not return to the pulpit this weekend, millions of people will go to hell.”
In 1984, he said, “Sex education classes in our public schools are promoting incest,” a statement so absurd that even the guy who jumped into the lion pit was like, “Man, that’s crazy.”
In his TV broadcast of Nov. 10, 2002, Swaggart called the prophet Muhammad a “sex deviant,” “pervert” and “pedophile.” He added that airports ought to keep an eye on all airline passengers “with a diaper on their head and a fan-belt around their waist.”
I give you this background so you will know the sort of ignorant buffoon we’re dealing with here. (Hint: If you make your living telling people how to be righteous, don’t do unrighteous things like commit adultery and spread hate.) In his show on Sept. 12 of this year, he made these very insightful comments about gay marriage:
“This utter, absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. (Pause for purposes of comedic timing.) I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. (Laughs and cheers from the audience; whistling sounds caused by air rushing past missing teeth.) … And I’m going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that I’m gonna kill him and tell God he died.” (More laughs and cheers; sound of tobacco being spit; pistols firing.)
Now, I get that he’s joking. I know that in the unlikely event that a gay man ever did look lustfully upon Jimmy Swaggart — they’re gay, Jim, not blind — he wouldn’t ACTUALLY kill him. A man like Swaggart has millions of God’s dollars. He could hire someone to do it. But he probably wouldn’t even do that. It’s a joke, that’s all.
The trouble is, Swaggart preaches to a lot of people who are, how shall I say it, stupid. And even among his really, really smart viewers, both of them, there are surely some who are prone to bigotry and violence who do not need subtle nudgings in that direction. Even if your conscious mind gets that it’s only a joke, your subconscious picks up the underlying idea, which in this case is that Jimmy Swaggart is not gay and doesn’t have any respect for people who are. It’s the sort of joke you can make in a small group, among people you know, where it’s OK to be appalling because they know you don’t mean it. But on TV? To millions of people? When you supposedly represent the Lord? Not a good idea.
Confused by all the uproar surrounding his “kill-any-gay-who-leers-at-me” comment, Swaggart eventually sort of offered a quasi-apology, kind of. He said, “If it’s an insult — I certainly didn’t think it was, but if they are offended, then I certainly offer an apology.” So with that heartfelt message, the gays got over it and went back to their full-time job of threatening marriage and destroying the family. (They thank Britney Spears for her help, by the way.)
It’s not fair to blame Christianity itself for the lunacy of men like Lion Guy and Jimmy Swaggart. Many misdeeds have been done in the NAME of Christianity over the years, but they run contrary to what Christianity actually represents, which is love and forgiveness. Religion doesn’t make these people crazy; it merely gives their craziness an avenue to express itself. Lion Guy probably just needs medication. And the best thing Jimmy Swaggart could do is convert to Judaism, because at least then there’d be the chance something could go wrong during the circumcision, and he’d never have to worry about committing adultery again.
The Lion Guy story was, as I mentioned, widely reported, but you can find one account of it here at MSNBC. None of the reports I found mentioned the man's name, nor are the pictures very clear, so I am only guessing he is a native to Taiwan. Which still doesn't make him "Chinese," as in my joke about the lion not liking Chinese food, but no one ever talks about "Taiwanese food," and I really, really wanted to make the joke.
The Jimmy Swaggart data is all over the Internet, too. If you want to watch the video of his "kill him and tell God he died" stand-up routine, it's here. The crowd LOVES him!