Sunday, July 30, 2006

god, the devil and George Bush

god, the devil and George Bush

Unlike George Bush. I do not believe in God. Not the personal sort anyway. The sort you talk to.

If there is a God, she must be so far beyond our understanding, our conception, well I have things enough to occupy my mind. But sometimes when on the Underground or a bus, or when I should be working, I find my mind wandering to those scenarios some of us grew up with. (Maybe too many of us grew up with). God, ( a sort of grandfather), in heaven – white and robed and bearded, sitting on a throne that floats on a cloud or collection of clouds. The angels are strumming their harps, filing their nails, or cleaning the feathers of their wings. And of course St Peter is endlessly busy at the pearly gates.

I think of the early church fathers, or popes, or whatever, who thought this up. Or maybe it was the anchorites, hermits, self-flagellants. What was in their drinking water? Did any of them really think. . . well. . . . that it could be true? The anomalies are all there. I do not mean the theological anomalies. As in, if God made the universe and was omniscient did he not foresee the occurrence of evil. And if he made the universe and was the father of all souls and instructed us to love one another were then those who did ‘evil’ not worthy also of our love. Should we not love them more? In fact spend as much time with them as possible. As for Judas, well without Judas the divine plan for covering up the initial oversight of original sin would have come to nothing. Imagine, at the last moment before delivering that fateful kiss, Judas sees the light. Or chickens out. ‘Drat and double drat,’ thinks God, ‘now my plan for the salvation and redemption of mankind is up the creek.’

No. I mean the real anomalies. For example would St Peter not have been somewhat overwhelmed dealing with an endless stream of souls all on his own? What would he have done during wars or natural disasters, when obviously it would have been extra busy. Perhaps there was a heavenly temp agency he could call on. Or what would have happened, when, being a pillar of the church, Latin-speaking St Peter was confronted with a French speaking peasant. ‘Have you lived a good life my friend?’ ‘Pardon.’ ‘No, no. You must speak Latin. L-a-t-i-n.’ ‘Ah oui. Le Latin. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.’ ‘Yes, that’s very good but what about your life. Have – you – lived – a – good - life?’ ‘Pardon?’

More importantly, where did God get the throne? Did he choose it from an Ikea catalogue? or the tenth century version thereof. Did the delivery man move awkwardly from foot to foot at the bottom of the stairs leading to the pearly gates, muttering beneath his breath, ‘if you want me to carry it up them stairs mate it’s going to cost ya.’ And as for the harps. Are they ordered in bulk or does each angel have to bring their own? Plus every school-child knows a throne cannot float on clouds. Clouds only appear solid because of their distance. They are a collection of water droplets, vapour.

‘ But yes,’ the faithful reply, ‘the normal rules do not apply in heaven’. ‘You mean it’s a sort of magic.’ I say. ‘It’s extra-temporal.’ ‘Mmmm, like Santa Claus or what passes for music on today’s radio.’ (Though that has more do to with the Trade Descriptions Act than magic!)

On those long bus or train journeys or those even longer days toward the end of the month, (yea I have walked through the valley of death and it was a desert but on the thirty-first day a pay-check did come and indicated a measly amount had been made over to my bank account and that I would prosper and continue another three weeks), I find my mind wandering and longing. If only it were true. If only there was such a God. With his pearly gates and angels. What’s more, what would it be like if this God had a sense of humour. So I dream.

I see God hiding behind a column of the pearly gates with this favourite angels. There he is peeping around, his great white beard almost touching the ground. ‘Careful Gabriel you’re wings are showing,’ he whispers. He has given St Peter a day off. ‘Relax, relax. A saint needs a rest. Take a break. Go see your mother. Watch a movie. There’s a remake coming up of the Exo. . . .Exoc. . . you know the one I mean. Put the fear of me in you.’

St John is watching on the CCTV. ‘Shush, shush someone is coming’,’ he calls. They wait eagerly. Expectantly.

‘Can you see yet,’ asks God. ‘Who is it?’ There is a moment of silence. ‘Oh Jesus,’ giggles St John, ‘it’s him. God clears his throat, somewhat ominously. St John looks up. ‘Oh. . . ahm.. . .yes. Sorry, sorry.’

‘Ok, ok. But who is it,’ whispers God fiercely.

‘It’s him,’ replies St John. ‘The infallible one.’

‘Alex Ferguson?’

‘No. You're thinking of Jose Mourhino. And he's the special one. No the other. Who doesn’t play football. Wears a red and white frock with gold brocade. Carries a big stave. Came after the Pole.’

‘You mean? No!’

‘Yep. Him. Benedict XVI.’

God rubs his hands in glee. He turns to the angels. ‘Quick my sweethearts, I have an idea. One of you, a costume change.’

Pope Benedict comes slowly up the steps. There is a look of calm self-assurance upon his face. Self-satisfaction. Sanctity. Like a rich man about to buy the biggest car in the showroom. He reaches the top. Then his jaw drops. His eyes open wide. The blood drains from his face.

For in place of St Peter is Martin Luther. Wearing a leather jumpsuit. A Zapata moustache and a gold earring. He is on his mobile phone. (Motorola V3i – pink - of course) A cigarette dangles between the fingers of his absurdly limp wrist. (Larry Grayson’s Generation Game was very popular in heaven during the seventies.)

‘He did zat. Did he? Oh ze bitch!’ Martin Luther is saying.

He catches sight of Benedict.

‘Hans I must go. I have eine customer. I vill see you zis evening darling. Love you too. Do not forget. Bring ze Kylie CDs.’

He turns to the Pope.

‘Ja. Can I help you?’

Pope Benedict is speechless. He has gone a grey colour.

Behind the Pearly Gates God and his angels are doubled over. Tears come from their eyes. ‘The look on his face,’ exclaims God between peals of laughter. The angels roll around clutching their sides.

You can imagine many such scenarios. Dr Ian Paisley filling in the entry form. ‘Just a small amount of paperwork sir,’ says a suited and sensibly–shoed angel. We need your most recent address, date of birth and signature. Oh yes and please remember to tick the - I accept the terms and conditions - box.’

‘And what would those terms and conditions be?’ thunders the good (note; do not take literally) reverend.

‘A mere formality sir,’ replies the angel. ‘You see God and his angels and most of the heavenly host are of the Roman Catholic persuasion and we do ask those of our entrants who are not of that persuasion to desist from making any defamatory comments while here. It could be somewhat upsetting.’

‘And if I don’t?’ booms that infamous voice.

‘Oh then,’ says the angel, its lip puckering. ‘There is always. . . you know, the other place. Down below. ‘

‘Do you mean hell? Speak plainly man.’

‘Hell. Oh no. Certainly not,' replies the angel, smiling superciliously. 'I mean Torremolinos. It is certainly not as busy as it once was. And there are extra cheap packages now. Though I have heard it is rather slack on the air-conditioning during the summer. Not unlike the Piccadilly Line.’

All of which brings me back to George Bush. It would be funny to see him stand before the pearly gates and the look of stupefaction (I mean no irony) on his face when greeted with a middle-eastern looking man with a long greying beard bursting out from under his Kuffiyeh. He peers at George with dark, smouldering eyes. He is wearing army fatigues and has a Kalashnikov over his shoulder. Suddenly he smiles. ‘Yo Bush,’ he says.

For after the debacle of Iraq it now seems we are about to slide into another debacle in Lebanon. Condi was bristling yesterday, (July 27), when Kofi-Anan said that any agreement should include Syria and Iran. Not so think the Americans. They will do it their way.

No doubt George will be talking with God again. (The Santa Claus God that is, not the one with the sense of humour). He has been listening too by the hole in the wall next to Dick and Don’s office; the corporate and military boys. With Israel involved we can expect that old chestnut about divine guidance of the US’s foreign policy to resurface. For the Bush administration the devil is certainly not in the detail. But Condi’s body language suggests it believes the curious smell of sulphur recently has been coming from the vicinity of Tehran and Damascus. Certainly not from Washington or Tel-Aviv. And as one born-again Christian told me recently, ‘the Devil is real you know’

I do not know what worries me more. The fact that the president of the world’s remaining superpower would believe this sort of nonsense. Or that the administration is sufficiently cynical to manipulate public opinion with it. And there’s the rub. For if enough of that country’s electorate is so disengaged from reality they accept that their president (a small, somewhat inarticulate rich-kid) has a hot line to the Christian God, then the rest of the community is deprived of a genuine ethical position. Mr Blair will no doubt bend backwards as he has done before so as not to alienate the poor man. Chirac will flounce about, trying to appear statesmanlike and sartorial at the same time, one eye on France’s Muslims. Merkel is an unknown quantity. However the UN will be pushed to the back like a flower-girl at her ex’s wedding.

But none of this will matter. For in middle-America they will be praying. And when George tells them that he too has had word from God then they will know that Santa Claus will be coming down the chimney as usual this Christmas. All is well. The destruction, the suffering, the poverty caused by pursuit of the Unites States's long term strategic and military interests in the middle-east will be made light of. They will become necessary ‘difficulties’ on the road to ‘freedom.’ Hey, we might even throw in complimentary bibles. Or double-episode DVDs of Stargate.

Me. Well I will return to wondering how the hell, (sorry, I mean heaven) He, (the one with the sense of humour), got that throne up the stairs and onto the cloud, as I sit back and clean the feathers of my wings.

Copyright (C) Peter Millington 2006