WHAT’S A JUDGE TO DO?
By Peter Fredson
Once upon a time, in a benighted territory, where ignorance, poverty and superstition reigned supreme, a good old judge in Alabama decided that his religious beliefs had to be acknowledged by the entire country. He decided that he had to publicly demonstrate his beliefs and thus convince everybody that they should acknowledge all of his religious beliefs and practices.
He had attended church and Sunday Schools, all of his life. He had been preached over, saved many times, and felt fully reborn. He had attended seminars, conferences and meetings with like-minded religionists, all determined to make their views accepted as the law of the land. In other words, he was a dedicated, fully-committed, and enthusiastic True Believer
He knew what he knew, absolutely, and he knew that all desireable knowledge was enshrined in his Sacred Book, and that all law emanated from supernatural dictation to some person who had carved the divine law onto stone slabs. To question this would be insane, and politically incorrect.
He knew all that, because all his life he had been told that it was all truly true. He knew and believed all that, because not to believe all that would be a grave sin, and he would upon death immediately be cast into a lake of searing flame, and would scream his lungs out forever.
So he got out his chisel, pocket-knife, and a block of wood and carved some favorite slogans out of his favorite book for display and to gratify the heathen.
It did not suffice that he had several copies, or editions, of this book at hand, or that he could borrow as many copies as he wanted, or that the fundamentalist bookstores had a huge stock of the book, but he probably figured that to carve slogans from it in wood would be more solemn and dignified than in mere ink on mere wood pulp. More substantial, more solid, more dignified, perhaps.
It never crossed his mind that there were several million copies of his favorite book around for anyone to consult if they ever needed to consult it. It never crossed his mind that there were about 100,000 preachers around that could quote every verse of his sacred book if someone wanted to know something about it. And it certainly never crossed his mind that the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians, Mesopotamians and assorted other societies all had their own sacred books, from which his own was derived.
No, his mind was made up. He would personally deliver to the world, like Moses, a copy of some “Commandments” from his Sacred Book. And he would put these fragments of his book into a very public place, one way or another.
He did not think to put it up in his living room, bedroom, kitchen or bathroom. He did not think to put it up on his front porch, or in his front or back yard. He did not think to donate it to his church for display. No, sir, he wanted to put it up in his work place, a very public place, where people could not avoid seeing it. He probably thought that just seeing it would convert people immediately to his point of view.
Or, and this is very subtle, by putting it up in his work place, it would seemingly assure everyone that his employer approved of it and “acknowledged” it, even though this ploy was deceitful, malicious, and crafty. Or, perhaps his employer wouldn’t notice and after a while the judge could claim his plaque had been there from the beginning. Deny when necessary, claim on every occasion, install whenever the opportunity arises, and celebrate victory by loud crowd huzzahs. Any of this would be good fundamentalist stealth strategy.
Then the way would be open for his beliefs to be supported financially, socially, and politically forever. And all of the other petty rival beliefs and superstitions then abounding would wither on the vine. How wonderful that his God would finally be “acknowledged” by everyone, and that his Sacred Book would be made the basis for law and society, instead of some half-baked “Constitution”, made by half-baked deists, that barely mentioned his particular god.
Now, finally, he would be able to sentence homosexuals, abortionists, witches, adulterers and other categories of offenders to death, in the full acknowledgement that his Creator not only approved but commanded it. Now finally, sinners would get their just deserts by burning them at the stake, or by the garrotte, or he might even revive the guillotine. Perhaps he could modernize executions, administer poison or throw a switch personally to get rid of pesky deviant sinners, and serve them right!
Finally, Divine Justice would be acknowledged, the world would become healed, and the Apocalypse would come to pass! Oh, how well he served his God! Even without being asked! God certainly seemed to need help, what with all the sinning around. All those nipples showing, and using awful words beginning with F. Greater Love Hath No Man!
But, wait a moment. What if the employer does not appreciate having slogans on the walls of a public place? What else can a little old judge do?
Well, for one thing, he can intensify his prayer sessions, and get everyone to squinch up their eyes, fold their hands, and P R A Y, might and main, and really squeeze out those prayers like constipation. Doesn’t matter if they have different beliefs, what is important is what the judge believes, right? Just run rough-shod over the unappreciative heathen, and maybe a couple will get reborn. All their practices, beliefs, dogma, and gods are trash anyway. Why kill them if you can convert them?
But that is not enough. So this little old judge, to really attract attention, designed a monument of metal, about the size of a large washing machine, with the exact same slogans on it…but much bigger. And now it will weigh about 5 tons. This is really IMPRESSIVE! Anyone passing it must notice. Everyone must “acknowledge” it.
Where to put it? Well, near his office, in the most public place possible, where everyone going by MUST acknowledge it. They won’t be able to help acknowledging it!
But what if his employer doesn’t want the monument there? Well, let’s just put it there anyway. Let’s get a crew together and with stealth, deceit and muscle power, without warning, in “the middle of the night”, just put the damn monument up right where everyone has to look at it.
Then once it is in place, announce that it is a sacred monument, not to be moved again, to be in place forever enshrined in government, in law, in politics and in society.
Even though it is a hunk of metal, announce it is connected to Divinity, to God, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit and appeal to “public sentiment” of fellow true believers to celebrate putting the monument into a public place. Fait accompli!
Now you can “dare” anyone to move it. Because “it” is sacred, with the divine word of GOD, and to touch it would be sacrilege. And you can count on thousands of benighted superstitious followers to come to your aid, possibly even bearing Civil War muskets, ready to kill for the Lord. All it takes is a little haranguing, and you can start a civil revolution. My Lord, how powerful and moving it all is!
And how wonderful it would be to have similar monuments erected in every court-house in the nation. And why not have plaques of it in every school room? Why not put it in the rest rooms for further contemplation? And why not have every criminal in every jail recite the slogans every day, and twice on Sundays? Surely God will be pleased! Surely crime, the economy, education, disease, AIDS, the environment, and every aspect of this nation will suddenly, if magically, become HEALED!
What a wonderful occasion for oratory, to harangue the besodden mob of ignorant and superstitious believers into a frenzy of devotion. What a miracle! Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Christ is Risen, God is in the Heavens and all is Right with the World. What an opportunity for opportunists. Let everyone wear a little silver cross and have a picture of Jesus on the desk. What politician could possibly disapprove? That would be political suicide!
On the other hand, what a harvest of votes and cash and support to the canny politician, or preacher, to “acknowledge” the 5 tons of metal. And, this brash imposition foretells other impositions in putting slogans, icons, statues, crosses, prayers and other assorted items on the True Believer’s wish list, into practice. Let’s just go ahead and DO IT! Hallelujah!
And the little old judge can go on to become governor, and perhaps even president, with his hand-carved wooden plaque of slogans from his Sacred Book, and with his 5 tons of metal monument bearing identical slogans.
And the little old Judge can go to Mount Rushmore and carve the same slogans on the mountain for all to see, in letters 30 or 50 feet tall. Magnificent! So now his god is fully “acknowledged” and he can rest in peace.
And, finally, the theocracy that the televangelists sought so avidly, deceitfully, and maliciously, is at hand. For their strategy worked!
They bought an entire national political machine, and an entire Presidency: lock, stock and barrel.
The politicians sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. But Heaven is at hand!
(Amen: Christian code word for “in your face.”)