Brian M Downing
If you’re looking for insight on Terry Jones and his mission of burning the Koran and getting the Islamic world to despise us even more than it already does, I recommend HL Mencken. The caustic essayist of the early twentieth century was a great writer and a jaundiced observer of American life. So jaundiced was he that sometimes I wonder how he avoided slipping into a coma. I find him inspirational.
Consider Mencken’s observations on the Religious Right of his day. “Any literate plowhand, if the Holy Spirit inflames him, is thought to be fit to preach.” His theological training was held in a “single building in its bare pasture lot, and its faculty of half-idiot pedagogues and brokendown preachers.”
Hmmmm…. As best as I can tell, that plowhand in Gainesville has never even had the benefit of half-idiot pedagogues and brokendown preachers. He acquired his theological learning by watching Jimmy Swaggart on the TV and taking copious notes.
There’s a plowhand preacher born every time a pledge number lights up on the screen. But what about congregations? They must be coming even faster than the rubes at a carnival midway. “Step right this way and see the burning books!”
The Elmer Gantry of Florida has a congregation of fifty.
Fifty! If PT Barnum’s circus only pulled in fifty, he’d haul down the tents and head down the road to the next town. Or else he’d come up with a publicity stunt to pack ‘em in. An elephant stampede, with the strongman or Tom Thumb saving the day! Elephant stampedes are harder to organize than, oh say, book burnings.
Wait! I don’t need the Cartwrights riding at me to see a bonanza. I’ll start my own church. Yes, The First Church of Mencken.© I’ll get publicity by burning books. How about starting with Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”? No one seems to be familiar with it anymore. I’ll have over fifty in the FCM in no time. As one of the charlatans Huck and Jim encountered on their raft trip said, “If that don’t fetch ‘em then I don’t know Arkansas.”
The Aquinas of the South, we are told, carries a gun with him at all times. Whether this is due to high crime in Gainesville or to projection of his hatred onto the world, I know not. Apparently he has no military service. Had he served, he might have learned something about guns and come to see GIs as more than pawns in a Crusade playing itself out in his mind. And he might have been afforded insight into how his publicity stunt might endanger the lives of young soldiers. General Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Gates had to inform him. (Our courageous politicians are avoiding the issue.)
One of Jones’s acolytes assures us that burning the Koran will not endanger American troops. Associate pastor Wayne Sapp (I’m not making that name up) says that it simply isn’t so and that people are accountable for their own actions. Sapp wears a .40 big iron on his hip as he strides about the perimeter of the church grounds – perhaps humming Marty Robbins songs and looking out for Texas Red or Osama bin.
And of course our enemies in the benighted parts of the globe are illiterate hayseeds without any comprehension of the greater world, blinded by religious dogma and intolerant of those who don’t share their world skew.
You know in Afghanistan, before the wars began in the late 70s, the local mullahs were not especially respected. They were thought to be not well educated in religion (or anything else) and ever on the lookout for more money. When they tried to get involved in politics, they were often told – sometimes literally – to get back to their mosques. Well, during the wars a lot of the more responsible folk like the elders and landowners got killed or decided to emigrate. This left a lot of authority in the hands of those Pashtun plowmen, and Afghanistan has been in a shambles ever since.
Terry Jones is a lot like one of those grasping Pashtun mullahs. Thankfully, we still have enough intelligent people to counter him – and to laugh at him for the contemptible oaf he is.
© 2010 Brian M Downing and the FCM