Many years ago, the now-defunct, innovative magazine Spy featured an amusing piece entitled “Name That Tune, Mr. Spock.” The lyrics of each song in question were camouflaged in Spockian vernacular to challenge the reader to name the tune, with a twist on the famous television game show of even earlier yore.
For example, “Please prevent a large celestial orb from committing fellatio on my person” turned out to be “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” by Elton John (whom my wife Jina insists is Satan–not because he’s been contaminating the world with shitty music since his talent dried up back in the mid-seventies, which might be a reasonable assessment of his identity from an aesthetic viewpoint, if you want to employ such a formidably judgmental yardstick–but I mean, come on; after all, he shares the spotlight with so many mediocrities, it seems a little odd to single him out, unless you want to refer to Scripture, alluding to all the manifestations of Beelzebub: “They are legion.” No, she just hates him because he’s gay.)
The irony is that she keeps insisting on involving me in a three-way with her second husband, a dude who goes by the name of Jesus Hallelujah Christ. No matter how vehemently I assert that I’m not interested, she keeps trying to persuade me that I don’t know what I’m missing, that the experience of loving Jesus is just sublime, as she attempts to force Him down my throat, as it were, as if she were a doctor performing an endoscopy.
Although it was a traumatic time, I think I’ve finally recovered from our epic squabble last Sunday (meaning the one three days ago), despite a sharp decline in my cardiovascular function. I made the mistake of not getting up until 10:25, and not waking Jina up until 10:45, even though the church service starts at 11:00. To say she was pissed off would be the understatement of the century.
Because it was already quarter past by the time we were both ready to leave, she glared at me as I stepped out of the bathroom, singing a little ditty I’d made up about suicide (a coping mechanism for having to waste an hour-plus of my life once a week in a place that I happen to think is evil). At first I thought she was just livid about my irreverent lyrics couched in a jaunty melody. Then I realized she was outraged because we had snubbed the Lord by succumbing to our sinful dilatory tendencies once again.
Rather than don sackcloth and smear myself with ashes, I shrugged as if to say, “What’s the big deal?” We stepped outside and started walking up the hill in the rain, but she balked.
“You go!” she said (and not in the same tone one would use to say, “You go, girl!” It was more like: “You go!” Just like the compact car.).
Committed as I was to lead the weekly dictation on the holy trinity for the old men’s class after the church service, I didn’t want to risk leaving her behind in a fuming mood, only to come back home to find our apartment building burned to the ground. So I followed her like Bill Sykes’ dog in Dickens’ Oliver Twist and figured that was that.
Not really, however, as I knew the battle had only just begun. Cued by the hot, sticky weather (it’s been monsoon season in Seoul for the last three weeks, and the past week in particular has been a veritable aqua-fest), I removed my suffocating trousers and cloying linen shirt, donning a Khaleid Sheik Mohammed chest-hair special, T-shirt and boxers instead.
We sat down to have breakfast, and to placate her I suggested we have a makeshift church service at home. We’d done this before on occasion, and it was relatively painless, even though it’s still an idiotic waste of time as far as I’m concerned. Besides, I shouldn’t be enabling her in her addiction by encouraging her to believe in phantoms and bogeymen. Unfortunately, the alternative is even more dreadful, and when I lapse into Clarence Darrow mode and argue from the position of rationality, she brings out the big guns and perforates me with shells made of Christ’s pristine venom.
As it says in the Bible, “Love thy neighbor, or burn in hell forever.”
Anyway, to begin the proceedings, she found on her smart phone the lyrics to a song by Rhea F. Miller entitled “I’d Rather Have Jesus” (the second part of the title was omitted early on, revealing as it is: “Than The Bubonic Plague”). The song was written back in 1922, during the dark ages of science, and the lyrics suggest that poor Ms. Miller may have been a tad sexually frustrated:
“He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; He’s sweeter than honey from out of the comb; He’s all that my hungering spirit needs; I’d rather have Jesus and let him lead.”
As Austin Powers might say, “Put on the dog lead, baby! Grrrr! Come to Jesus, and Jesus will come into you.”
I even adopted a tony soprano while singing the song to camp it up for Jina, not that humor and religion are allowed anywhere near each other in her book, not even within the range of the Hubble telescope. She pooh-poohed my behavior with a scowl, but I said, “It sounds more beautiful that way.”
The real reason I employed that tactic was to distance myself from the ritual that much more, and of course she saw through me, as she usually does (although I can’t understand why she thought I was a believer for so long; I had to say I was in order to humor her, but I thought she realized I was only kidding).
The rest of the song is telling in its implications. It suggests that “having” Jesus is preferable to owning silver, gold, riches untold, houses, or lands–gimme his nail-pierced hand! Yea, verily, having that groovier-than-thou guy beats being “the king of a vast domain” since you’ll no longer “be held in sin’s dread sway”; instead, you’ll be held by the King Himself and get to rub up against those sacred six-pack abs. Maybe he’ll even let you caress his scar from where the Roman centurion pierced his flesh–hubba-hubba (or should I say, “hubby-hubby”?) (I guess gay sex isn’t necessarily a sin, as long as you’re doing it with Jesus.)
The song goes on to insist that “I’d” “rather have Jesus than men’s applause” or “worldwide fame.”
You know what? I’d rather have all those things Ms. Miller is so dismissive of than Jesus’ love, and not just because I’m turned on by shapely women’s legs and sparkling eyes instead of tortured six-pack abs. His love doesn’t seem to be doing my wife much good either. For all her admirable qualities, which are so often eclipsed by her tempestuous wrath, she’s probably the most hateful person I’ve ever met (and I know what it’s like to be gripped by hatred too–it doesn’t tickle and I can’t recommend it).
I know I’ve said and done some things to increase the suffering that feeds all this anger and hate in her, but I think she must have been traumatized much earlier on, because the displays she unleashes on me are extraordinarily spectacular, to say the least, not to mention absolutely terrifying. Apparently, God is crack (sorry to disappoint all you mescaline devotees).
After we finished singing her favorite hymn to her favorite him, we finally got to eat our breakfast. She snubbed me for only pretending to pray as she said grace.
“Why do you want to go to church?” she asked.
“To see some of our friends,” I said. That much was actually true. Surprisingly, my social life has gotten so abysmal I actually look forward to going to church, since we run into some pleasant folks at the cafeteria afterwards, seated under a huge mural of the Lord summoning his brain-dead flock. That’s when I’m not clamped up in my turtle shell, eating alone at one of the tables near the wall. Sometimes I simply don’t have the social energy needed to generate small talk with semi-strangers, much less fake it.
“Church isn’t social. Church is Jesus’ body,” she said.
(The poor guy’s got an awful case of parasites.)
Last week I read a book by Greta Christina (anagram: GREAT CHRISTIAN) entitled: Why Are All You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless. If Jina were open to the possibility of debate, she’d definitely benefit from reading it. Christina was preaching to the choir in my case, but she reminded me of a lot of the reasons I can no longer abide religion. She even gets in some digs at Buddhism; as one of the Big Four (along with Judaism, Islam, and Christianity), it’s likewise worthy of criticism.
One thing she says is that the burden of proof is on the believers, and not the other way around.
The rest of my day, after our altercation about the rights of gays (she doesn’t think they should have any; I said they’re born that way so it’s not their “fault” that they’re gay–not that I conceded to her negative terms), wasn’t quite as painful. I had to cajole her into staying when she threatened to move out, not that I didn’t want her to, but I was concerned about her potential vindictiveness if I let her go.
Later, after surfing the internet for awhile and watching the sun go down (yes, that sun) out the window, I asked her if she wanted to go for a walk. I was hoping we could make it a more intense event by climbing a set of wooden steps that lead to a mountain road and walking to the top. She burst my balloon from the get-go by not letting me wear the tatami-soled sandals from Japan my brother gave me last year (they look like two slices of white bread) and hectoring me to wear socks and shoes, even though it was raining. She refused to take the big umbrella though, preferring her petite floral model.
Since her legs are so short, she couldn’t keep up with me, and she didn’t want to go half as far as I wanted. I sighed and gave up on the project, then we went back home.
I set up the chess board and asked her if she wanted to play. She declined and asked if I wanted to read the bible.
“No, thanks,” I said. “I’m bibled out.”
She harped on the notion for several minutes, interrupting my concentration as I was playing chess. Eventually I lost patience and cleared the pieces to the floor in homage to the famous diner scene in the classic Jack Nicholson film Five Easy Pieces (directed by Bob Rafelson).
Then I grudgingly apologized for the tantrum, saying I needed to get some exercise. A little later I took the chess board into the next room so I could focus better and not have to engage in dialogue with her.
Eventually the day had the decency to end and I remembered my lesson: never miss church again. The alternative, don’t forget, is all too horrifying to contemplate.
Amen, by Jesus’ name.