I picture us worshipping Ingmar Bergman (among others), and showing his films at services, especially "The Seventh Seal" (yes, the one in which the protagonist challenges death to a game of Chess), which brings us to a game participants would be invited to Playa. Playa Chess, of course, which allows us to tie in to yet another ePlaya thread, the one about "Motorized Chess", in an homage to an homage to Bergman, via Lexx.

Other participants would be invited to "stake their lives" on the fate of the pieces. Those whose pieces were captured would be lead off to staged (mock) executions, after being counseled in a manner that should bring many of us flashbacks of our least favorite preachers, by "Christian ministers" who would "sneak in". Having been "executed", the victims are lead off to the afterlife, where they get the biggest surprise, yet - the Heathens were right! Jesus and the apostles are trapped in a Hellish underworld, where the outraged Norse gods take out their anger for the centuries of lost worship Christianity has cost them. Hey, we've started with cynicism, so why not push it to the limit? The satirical point of this is not an attack on Christianity or genuine Christian tradition, but on what some are willing to teach in the name of Christianity, much of which I think Jesus would have found particularly hateful, especially the "believe exactly as we do and give us your money or you'll burn" business.

If the requirement for getting into Heaven is that one's view of the Divine be without error of any kind, including errors of ommission, then common sense should tell anybody hearing that, that nobody is getting in, because the finite mind of Man can not contain the vast or even infinite complexity of any being who could even run, much less create a universe of the kind we encounter. Through what some would refer to as the blasphemous shock of what we'd be portraying, we invite the participant to examine his own attitudes toward those who believe differently than he does, and to ponder whether those attitudes are truly in keeping with the roots of his own beliefs, subverting the intolerance some would endorse in the name of Love. If experience is any guide, some will try to portray this as being an anti-Christian exercise, and if so, let them be challenged by a gently defiant stance, because their complaint is without merit, and because satire is not supposed to be nice. It should draw blood.

What are we getting at? Think of all of those who've lived as morally as they knew how, loving the Divine with all of their heart and striving to serve it as well as they knew how, who our preachers would have surprised by a postmortem arrival in Hell, because they had guessed incorrectly at the answer to a theological question. Imagine the Kafkaesque nature of the experience that is taken for granted, as an expression of Divine Justice! This view would have salvation become the theological equivalent of what survival becomes under a reign of terror - "choose your faction presciently, or pay the price", the ultimate in Man's warlike and tyrannical inhumanity to Man, this stance then being attributed to somebody called by some the Prince of Peace, by those who see nothing odd about any of this.

From where do such ideas arrive, because they certainly don't arrive from any form of Judaism, the supposed foundation upon which Christianity was built. From where does that very un-Jewish severity come? In placing Christianity in close juxtaposition with that which is pre-Christian, we invite participants to think about that, and draw what might be a fairly ironic conclusion, tying us into the "Brainstorm of ideas" thread, referencing a suggestion made there by "Dustbuddy" to subvert the Jack Chick cartoons, often passed out by Christian Fundamentalists. We'd be reminding people that while Chick may be unusual in his lack of polish, his views are uncomfortably close to the Protestant mainstream, in many ways.

Is this anti-Christian? Anti-Protestant? Anti-Norse? No, and considering how much mockery has been showered upon Catholicism, Judaism, and almost ever other non-Protestant religious presence in America down through the generations, in a popular literature in which the role of the Protestant minister invariably seems to be that of the bemused straight man (except when the minister is Baptist, for some reason) I find the hypocrisy of the complaint amusing. Mainstream Protestantism, especially its Calvinist varieties, is the sacred cow that is long overdue for skewering, and why hold back? Viewing one's own heritage (or part of one's heritage, as the case may be) with some measure of affection should not keep one from taking a good, hard look at it from time to time, and seeing where soul searching and some carefully measured amount of progressive change may be badly needed, because in the absence of such collective introspection, like anything else which has lost its ability to heal and to adapt, the tradition will have already begun to die. Those who would protect tradition from all scrutiny would love it to death, smothering it any time it showed a sign of life - and some of them have been doing so with great success.

If any action could be called genuinely anti-Christian, I think that it would have to be that, and I am amazed that anybody could pursue such a course of action and call himself "Christian". What is life, after all, but the self-sustained presence of response? A parody religion, then, can be far more than an excuse to joke around, but a needed opportunity to breathe life into the religions we do believe in by challenging our preconceptions and making us think about the way in which we think about religion, and if we have fun along the way, shaking up a few overly self-serious people who badly need to be shaken up? All the better. (More to come).

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