Warning: Religion Can Be Dangerous to Your Health (review: Whom God Would Destroy)

4 Mar

This cult and flu season, be careful what you’re carrying.

Turn on the History Channel this month and you’ll have no trouble finding any number of Lenten specials on the mysteries of the Life of Jesus.  Or on the mysteries of The Da Vinci Code.  Or that really bizarre 2000 adaptation of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”  But my favorites of all the sensational religion specials have always been those that deal with the “missing years” of Jesus of Nazareth’s childhood.  All the canonical gospels leave major holes in the narrative, and it’s almost as if they’re hiding something…

Like the possibility that baby Jesus didn’t just sit on Mary’s lap and smile for the Renaissance artist paining him?  Anyone looking for some vaguely sacrilegious reading for Easter need look no farther than the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, one of those fun apocryphal texts written by fun-loving Christians of the 2nd or 3rd centuries.  Thomas has some interesting insight into those missing years.  Apparently, a side effect of befriending li’l Jesus was, disturbingly often, death or serious maiming.  Wikipedia tells us this:

The text describes the life of the child Jesus, with fanciful, and sometimes malevolent, supernatural events, comparable to the trickster nature of the god-child in many a Greek myth. One of the episodes involves Jesus making clay birds, which he then proceeds to bring to life, an act also attributed to Jesus in Qur’an 5:110; although in the Quran it is not attributed to him as a child.

In another episode, a child disperses water that Jesus has collected, Jesus then curses him, which causes the child’s body to wither into a corpse, found in the Greek text A, and Latin versions. The Greek text B doesn’t mention Jesus cursing the boy, and simply says that the child “went on, and after a little he fell and gave up the ghost,” (M.R. James translation).

Another child dies when Jesus curses him when he apparently accidentally bumps into him. In the latter case, there are three differing versions recorded the Greek Text A, Greek Text B, and the Latin text. Instead of bumping into Jesus in A, B records that the child throws a stone at Jesus, while the last says the boy punched him.  When Joseph and Mary’s neighbors complain, they are miraculously struck blind by Jesus.

How badass is that?  Almost makes me wish I were a Christian… almost.

In any case, as I read Whom God Would Destroy, I began to mentally refer to the book as The Apocryphal Gospel of Commander Pants.  Because, honestly, what’s more ridiculous–a second reincarnation of God coming to earth in the 1980s to create a public access tv program and New Age incense store, or junior Jesus killing kids and growing up with delusions of messiah-hood?

That first clause is pretty much the plot summary for Commander Pants’s irreverent (and that’s way too inadequate or word for the blasphemy going on) novel of the second coming of the son of God: Jeremy Christ.

For 2,000 years, Jeremy was up in Heaven–tediously bored.  He must’ve been listening to Billy Joel instead of his choirs of seraphim, too, because it would seem that the Savior got an idea that chilling with the sinners would be way more fun than crying with the saints.  In any case, he plops himself back into the body of a charismatic thirty-something and sets out to renew the earth.  But like any tragic hero, Jeremy has a few mishaps–like killing a harmless receptionist with a too-divine smile.  Though, all things considered, literally dying of happiness can’t be too bad a way to go.

Then there’s the matter of celibacy, which Jeremy finds problematic–considering that he’s inexplicably attracted to a seriously schizophrenic young woman named Abby, who happens to be the love interest of Jeremy’s first apostle, the rock on which he will build his church, a mild-mannered zealot named Oliver.  But let’s not give any divine love triangle plot points away (not that I could explain in any coherent way just what the connection between Big Macs and eternal orgasms may be).

Whom God Will Destroy is, in a word, brilliant.  In another few: hilarious, irreverent, and downright heretical.  Commander Pants’s imaginative take on religion is as ridiculous as his (her… it’s…) pen name, and the writing is true laugh-out-loud quality.  But like all good science fiction, WGWD has a social commentary, couched as it is in the blasphemous and absurd.  In my opinion, it’s this quote from one of Jeremy’s interior monologues:

Like Abraham, the booty that Oliver possessed was far more important than charisma: he had faith.  And faith was contagious.  Jeremy wanted to be a virus, and here, sitting on the floor sporting headphones and a goofy grin, was his first carrier, Typhoid Oliver.

As readers will soon discover, the resulting pandemic can be catastrophic.  Astonishingly funny, but catastrophic.

Whom God Would Destroy is available as an ebook on Amazon for $0.99.

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