Loyal Readers™ will no doubt recall the Palace’s noble mission to extract $82 billion worth of benefits from the Religion-Industrial-Complex on behalf of U.S. taxpayers, on account of our $82 billion yearly taxpayer subsidies to same. Our primary means of accomplishing this feat is amusing ourselves by regularly mocking a particular church sign in the small town where my mother lives. Sadly, this week the sign displayed nothing mock-worthy: it just announced a “love and hope gathering” or some shit on Friday night at the town’s little park. So it went ignored and I forgot about it.
Until, that is, I happened to be making my way to a pub across the street from that little park last night around 6:45. And wouldn’t you know it, just as we arrived at the front steps, my Amazing Lover™ had to take a phone call, so I wandered over to the edge of the park to give him some privacy and kill some time. Now I had assumed that whatever went on in Trinity United Methodist Church was just your typical liberal Christian, happy-clappy, hippie-Jeezus shenanigans. After all, from what I’ve observed the congregants seem friendly, the church runs a food pantry, and they at least try (but fail) to be cute and clever with the sign from which we have derived so much merriment. Imagine my surprise, then, to hear a rabid woman barking into a microphone all Palin-style: “When I was in high school, we prayed to god every day! And no one was killing each other! We need to put god back in our schools!” she shrieked. Enthusiastic applause erupted from the crowd of a hundred or so Whitey McWhitepersons, and the barking woman directed everyone to sign the petition being handed around.
Oh, boy, I said to myself as I leaned up against a post, wishing desperately that I had brought popcorn. This is going to be soooo fucking good.
Next up was a gregarious d00d in jeans and a bright blue t-shirt neatly tucked into his belt. He was introduced as coming from some other church, “and he drove an hour to be here tonight!” I thought that was weird, but people seemed to love it and clapped as he took the mic. His spiel turned out to be about…faith healing.
In the Year of Our Lard twenty fucking fifteen.
Oh, how he went on and on about personally witnessing cancer and brain tumors and all sorts of horrible maladies cured by the miraculous power of prayer. “And please, if anyone is having any kind of health problems, or anger issues, do not hesitate to contact me, or any member of the prayer team! We can help! Can I get an Amen?” He got about a hundred Amens. (Wait, anger issues…? I had a powerful urge to shout.)
The announcer said that some kind of musical skit would be performed next, and various people shuffled around the little bandshell setting the stage. I was sure this was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle worthy of a Christopher Guest mockumentary, but now I’ll never know because of what happened next.
It turned out that the faith healer d00d had parked his car right next to the post upon which my arse was resting. (A sign from the heavens! A goddamn miracle!) He loaded something in the back and was about to walk back to the gathering when I said, “Hey, are you the faith healer?”
“I’m one of them, yes,” he said, and came closer.
“Why doesn’t god heal amputees?”
“I said, how come god never heals amputees?”
“No, he doesn’t. Have you ever seen it?”
“Well no, I haven’t personally, but other people have!”
“No, they haven’t. Humans don’t regrow limbs.”
“There is plenty of witness testimony, and you can find it online!”
“People say a lot of things online that aren’t true. They believe all sorts of stuff that just isn’t true. Like humans regrowing limbs, for instance.” Christ, had this d00d ever even been online?
“You just have to have faith!” he said, which was sort of a non sequitur, kind of like that drove-an-hour-to-be-here-tonight thing.
“But see, I want to know why god only heals diseases that sometimes go into spontaneous remission anyway. Don’t you think that’s a little convenient?”
“I have seen deaf ears opened! Prayer works!”
“No, it doesn’t. Nothing fails like prayer. You know, people can actually study whether prayer works, and they have. It doesn’t work.”
“I have seen deaf ears opened,” he repeated. “Have you?”
“Okay, ears don’t ‘open.’ That’s not how ears work. Just like regrowing limbs is not how humans work. And a lot of people, especially veterans, could really use god’s help. An octopus can regrow limbs, though! An axolotls! Not humans, though.”
He shook his head sadly, as if I deserved nothing from him but pity, and perhaps scorn. I got the feeling that no one ever challenged him on much of anything. He was quiet for a moment, then he looked like he was about to say something. But I was done.
“Good luck healing those amputees!” I chirped cheerily as I turned and walked back to the pub.
I wondered if he would even give a passing thought to our conversation. Then I giggled as the thought crossed my mind that maybe he got himself all worked up and figured me for Satan Herself, tempting him with sinful, delicious doubt, with many a sleepless night ahead of him. Shit, that’s the least these hardcore Christians deserve for terrifying little kids with stories of hell. But seriously, my sincere hope is that I planted just the tiniest seed of skepticism that would continue to grow and itch like a motherfucker until he finds the only balm to soothe it: the truth.
Because the truth is that people die, little kids die, for no fucking reason but belief in faith healing.
I don’t really get many opportunities like this. (Hey, I live among the godless heathens of the West Village for a reason, people.) But rest assured that when I do, I fully intend to make the most of them.
$82 billion worth.