A few months ago, I somehow got put onto the email list of a woman named Stacy whom I’m certain I’ve never met or interacted with. I have one of those email addresses that is easy to mix up with others — for more than a year, for instance, I’ve been getting scheduling emails for a nurse named paulita who works out in California. I’ve tried writing back to her/his supervisor at least three times explaining that I’m not that paulita but to no avail. The good news is that apparently all these missed emails have not yet cost paulita her/his job, though I’m certain s/he has missed some extra weekend shifts.
But back to Stacy. She sends out overtly Christian, ostensibly inspirational emails about twice per week. Nothing too obnoxious. There was one I remember where this old horse was supposed to be sent to the glue factory but the farmer didn’t have the heart to do it. Then the barn caught on fire and the old horse was the only one who knew how to open all the pens and rescue the young foals. And it was BASED ON A TRUE STORY!! Just now, while I was writing the last paragraph, Stacy sent out this link with the subject line, “The way it should be :)”. I keep meaning to write to Stacy to ask her (politely, of course) to take me off her email list but, truth be told, I actually sort of like her emails. They’re sweet and well intentioned, and it’s a glimpse into a world I don’t interact with very often.
But earlier today she sent one out that hinted at the darker underbelly of these types of emails. The subject line read “Groom, Texas” and Stacy’s message read, “This is TRULY amazing and I hope someday to see this in person.” Below that was a message that, as evidenced by the blue forward lines along the left margin, had been forwarded many, many times. It was about this place, and read in part:
This is about 70 miles from Amarillo outside of town called Groom, TX Read message at the end of pictures! These are the pictures of the crucifixion of Christ, Sculptured from metal by a man near Amarillo , TX The crosses are made of metal also. The man did this out of the kindness of his heart. Someone donated the land on which to erect them.
If you don’t feel like clicking, it’s a gigantic sculpture garden that shows the crucifixion in life-sized detail. None of which is the creepy part. Hey, this isn’t my thing, but it seems a labor borne of love and devotion, and an obvious balm for believers. I got no problem with it; it’s the kind of place my family would have visited when I was growing up. Plus I like the part where it’s on donated (i.e., private) land.
No, here’s the oddly creepy part of the email:
What an incredible display.This could be one of the last surviving Christian symbols in the country!
Which is the kind of thing that makes me take a step back and wonder, Who the fuck are you people? One of the last surviving Christian symbols in the country? What plane of reality do you inhabit? Was there a pogrom or two of which I am unaware? Do these people really believe that they live in a culture where “Christan symbols” are systematically destroyed, à la the Buddhas of Bamiyan?
The closest example I can think of is Dixie County, Florida, where a judge ordered a six ton monument of the Ten Commandments be removed from the front steps of the courthouse, perhaps due not to the commandments themselves (the simple display of which in other courthouses has been found to be secular and therefore not in violation of the establishment clause) so much as the accompanying message, which reads, “Love God and Keep His Commandments.”
And the monument hasn’t been, by the way. Removed, that is. And if and when it is, it certainly will not be destroyed, but will find a home on private land, where it belonged in the first place. (It was erected only in 2006 by a local businessman, who “challenged the Board of County Commissioners to have the courage to allow him to put it up.”)
To which I’d say, Courage?! The County Board of Commissioners? Who do you think they are, the Planning Board?
What freaks me out about the “last surviving Christian symbol” business — and the whingeing and pervasive wingnut pity party it reveals — is what it says about the apocalyptic, Mad Max world these people think they inhabit, some sort of fight to the death between the Christians and the forces of Islamosecularevolutionaryhomosexualism. In their world, the Last Remaining Faithful are barely hanging on, surrounded on all sides and down to their last rounds of ammo. Meanwhile, the rest of us are all, “Huh? What?”
This issue was well covered in a recent article on AlterNet called Why the Christian Right Becomes More Extreme As America Grows More Tolerant.
To understand how this Christian Right movement evolved, Palmer said, one must look back at catastrophes that struck Christian Europe some eight centuries ago.
The Plague created disillusionment with the Church’s ability to protect the faithful. To counter those doubts, a school of thought emerged insisting that some other forces must be at work, with the devil and his agents doing battle with the Church, with goodness and with God.
This fear of the devil gave rise to witch trials and images of a cloven-hooved demons selecting victims and recruiting co-conspirators. It became common for populations to blame “evil” for virtually any failure of an endeavor, bad crops or disease. To eliminate these Satanic forces, the devil’s suspected agents were burned at the stake as witches.
As for me, I’ve got my eye out for new messages from Stacy.