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Christian to Death

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Message Linh Dinh
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Philadelphia, 2012
Philadelphia, 2012
(Image by Linh Dinh)
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With its eschatological Bible, the West is constantly haunted by its death and hypothetical rebirth. Its apocalyptic imagination is unmatched.

Christianity promises a frightful ending, as in, "Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:5) The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. (Revelation 8:7) The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, (Revelation 8:8) a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. (Revelation 8:9)"


Downright evil. In Cormac McCarthy's The Road, you certainly get a variation of all this, though its first impact is only tersely described, "The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions [...] He went into the bathroom and threw the lightswitch but the power was already gone. A dull rose glow in the windowglass. He dropped to one knee and raised the lever to stop the tub and then turned on both taps as far as they would go." With electricity and running water gone, everyone's long slide from modernity begins.

That "long shear of light" was either a meteor or, more likely, an atomic bomb. Desperately wandering through a world of ash, soot, slush and blocked sunlight, a father and son would discover the cataclysm's ghastly results, such as, "The long concrete sweeps of the interstate exchanges like the ruins of a vast funhouse against the distant murk [...] The mummied dead everywhere. The flesh cloven along the bones, the ligaments dried to tug and taut as wires. Shriveled and drawn like latterday bogfolk, their faces of boiled sheeting, the yellowed palings of their teeth. They were discalced to a man like pilgrims of some common order for all their shoes were long since stolen."

Father and son are trapped in a man-eat-man world, and not just metaphorically, as we are. Essentially Christian, they reassure themselves they're still the "good guys," for they won't rob, murder or eat other people, and that they're "carrying the fire." When the father finally dies, the son is adopted into a Christian band, but this soothing ending runs counter to the Hobbesian tenor of all the other pages. The boy should starve to death, if not be butchered and eaten by feral humans.

This salvaged faith in Christ and man is not as convincing as the father's epiphany, halfway through, "He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it."

Among the broken people they meet on the road is a "spider thin," bent, stinking and starving old man, Eli. An inverted Elijah, he always "knew this was coming," but there's no use getting ready for it. In fact, it would be best if there's no one left. "We'll all be better off. We'll all breathe easier." And, "When we're all gone at last then there'll be nobody here but death and his days will be numbered too." Since humans are death's most ardent servants, he'll die too when we're done. There will be no more unnatural deaths.

As for God, there's none, according to Eli, "There is no God and we are his prophets."

The son urges his father to feed Eli, so he does, but after the old man has eaten, and been given canned fruits and vegetables from his benefactors' tiny stash, he refuses to thank the boy. Eli even states, "I wouldnt have given him mine."

With The Geography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency, James Howard Kunstler is a leading thinker about our civilization's unwinding, but in A World Made by Hand, he imagines a relatively civil postscript, at least for one community. After Washington and Los Angeles have been blown up, and much of the country overrun by violent thugs and wracked by race troubles, people in an upstate New York town manage to work together to restore order and sustain a basic economy. Though the protagonist is a Jew, like Kunstler himself, Christianity also features prominently, as a social glue and foundation for this distressed population. Two of the main characters are preachers, with one rather obnoxious but ultimately a good guy.

Neither's Christianity is very orthodox, to say the least, with the first admitting by the novel's end he has "lost God." Still, he would continue his clerical duties to cultivate the divine in man, the greatest of heresies.

The second preacher's compound has a female dormitory, with a "royal chamber" at its center to house an extremely fat and pale woman with a tiny head. Worse, she emits a "sweet funky odor" that pervades all surrounding cell-like rooms, each with a single bed. There are strong hints it's a procreation area.

The West's preoccupation with its demise is also stoked by its small historical size and relatively tiny population. Mongols, Turks, Moors, Gypsies, Sub-Saharan blacks, Chinese, Arabs, South Asians, Southeast Asians and Latinos take turns encroaching, or they all swarm in.

In Camp of the Saints, a 1973 novel described by its author, Jean Raspail, as depicting "the peaceful invasion of France, and then of the West, by a third world burgeoned into multitudes." Quite peaceful indeed. From page 102, "Everywhere, nothing but the howling, swarming horde. Thousands of human ants, streaming down the zigzag path from Fontgembar, in an endless column, bristling with fists, and sticks, and scythes, and guns""

While the West only invades with armadas, columns of troops, planes in formations and bank liens, the brown, black and yellow hordes just swarm in, as busboys, coolies, wet nurses and refugees, often from wars instigated by Western countries. It's definitely not fair!

Of Raspail's book, Kirkus Review opined in 1975, "The publishers are presenting The Camp of the Saints as a major event, and it probably is, in much the same sense that Mein Kampf was a major event. It takes important and chilling facts that very few people are willing to face, and digs into them like a hyena into carrion. Raspail's basic premise is irrefutable: in a few decades the non-white population of the world will outnumber the white by more than seven to one, essential resources will be scarcer than ever, and a lot of familiar issues will suddenly be perceived in racial terms [...] Lurid manipulation of sexual overtones, sneers at the knee-jerk liberalism of the mass media, fulminations against the U.N. and progressive CatholicismRaspail covers all bases of hatred. The Camp of the Saints can be said to make you think. So did the My Lai massacre."

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Linh Dinh's Postcards from the End of America has just been published by Seven Stories Press. Tracking our deteriorating socialscape, he maintains a photo blog.


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