Monday, March 12, 2007

FINDING SALVATION

It is a sweltering heat. A different kind of heat. The kind of heat that can only be produced whilst sitting amongst strangers, in a country town, on a plastic chair, in a windless church, on the hottest day ever recorded in that town. That kind of heat.

Southern US preacher and former KKK Imperial Wizard Johnny Lee Clary starts out, like all of us, by sweating. But he soon warms to his task as he points out how he was "taught" racism. "That's right," he says. "Taught. Racism ain't something you are born with." Brilliant! Nor is the belief that Jesus Christ is our saviour, but i keep that revelation to myself. Johnny's simple stratagem seems to absolve him of all personal responsibility for his prior actions and beliefs. He was "taught" to hate blacks. Any notions of self-determination, free will or critical thinking would have gone right out the window, had one been open amongst all this airless piety. Johnny was simply "taught" racism.

I soon discover i have been labouring under a severe misapprehension. I had thought this man, a former KKK member who now preaches in a black ministry advocating civil rights, must have undergone some kind of epiphany. Johnny must be one of the Enlightened Ones, i thought. But Johnny, it seems, has simply traded one set of prejudices for another. White supremacist to Christ supremacist. "You won't get to heaven unless you follow Jesus," he says simply. "Mohammad ain't gonna get you there, the Buddha ain't going to get you there, old Krsna or whatever his name is ain't gonna get you there - only Jesus." This, apparently, is because Jesus is the one and only prophet whose bones are not laid in the ground. His Ascension has placed him head and shoulders above all the rest of them. Only Jesus has the flight plan to the Promised Land.

While in the KKK, Johnny was even prejudiced against other white, racial supremacists. He hated nazis and skinheads. (I can picture the skinheads accusing him of hairsplitting). Johnny particularly hated the nazis because of their attitude to Israel. Johnny tells us it says very clearly in the Bible that those who praise Israel will be welcomed into God's Kingdom. The rest of them can literally go to hell, it seems.

Johnny is an opportunistic survivor, a relentless self-promoter, and a persuasive public performer. He tells us how his mother was no good and how his father put a gun to his head and blew his brains out in front of him when he was only 11 years old. He tells of a childhood lost in the wilderness of East LA. Approached by the KKK, he embraced it like a family. "If the Church had come to me then, I would have embraced Jesus Christ," Johnny says. "But it was the KKK." Later in life when he is on the skids and is pointing a gun at his own head (a family heirloom perhaps) he looks across the table and sees a Bible. He decides to devote his life to Jesus. I wonder what would have happened had Johnny looked across the table and seen a pentagram. Such are my doubts as to his capacity for critical thought.

As Johnny proceeds with his Evangelism on Butcher Street, it suddenly strikes me that his career path is not so disparate as it had at first seemed. Johnny has worked in professional wrestling, with the KKK, and in car sales. Think about that. What kind of person a) convinces you to lynch those darn blacks b) convinces you to buy that Plymouth Barracuda with no money down c) convinces you that the Killer Hulk, lying, wailing, on the canvas in his leotard, mask and boots, is really struggling for his life, as Johnny Angel twists on that leg, and d) convinces you to Praise the Lord while handing over your money?

You guessed it. Plus ah reckon Johnny was wearing a durn toupee.

Nonetheless, i am held in thrall. This seems just too good an opportunity to pass up. I bow my sweaty head with the rest of the Congregation, close my eyes, and solemnly raise a sweaty palm when Johnny asks, "Who amongst you is not ONE HUNDRED PER CENT certain they are going to Heaven?" I raise my hand once i realise i would put my odds at around one quarter of one per cent.

Then Johnny the Evangelist does us a deal. All we have to do, we who have so recklessly raised our hands in the presence of the Lord (and He knows exactly who we are), is simply come forth, raise our hands, say a prayer for Jesus, and receive Salvation. But wait, there's more. Along with that we receive, for no extra cost, Johnny's own personal, rock-solid, a one hundred percent guarantee that we will all go to Heaven. Well, i can tell you, i just can't get out of my seat quick enough. What a fabulous deal, i think. In a flash, i am standing shoulder to shoulder with a few Aboriginal women, in front of the entire Congregation. Repeating after Johnny. Hoping to be struck hard upon the forehead, to fall back into the welcoming arms of the Congregation, amidst cries of Hallelujah! and Praise the Lord! But alas, it is too hot for such theatrics. Johnny touches each of our hands in turn, blesses us, and we are saved.

I stand with the Congregation and belt out a few more Gospel tunes with the Christian rock guitarist and his alleged drummer, and then it is all over. But as i leave the church (a few dollars lighter after the collection sack is passed around) i feel somehow cheated. Even though it didn't cost me much, i really think Johnny should have given me a three month warranty with that Salvation.

Visit Johnny's website and be taught how the Beatles are really the Antichrist.

3 comments:

WENDY BANDURSKI-MILLER said...

ha ha *snicker* that was a fantastic read btw*

Perception IS all.

Mark Roy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JK said...

Dude, amazing stories, amazing writing.