Saturday, June 30, 2012

TSBOD Chapter 1 -- Bootleg

Bootleg is the first chapter of The Second Book Of Deak, which is the second novel in The Deak trilogy, which is the fictional autobiography of international rock superstar Deak.  I completed the first novel in the late nineties.  That one is called simply, The Deak.  You can read more about it and a few sample chapters by following this link to my website.  While The Deak is played mostly for comedy, the back story necessary to understanding Bootleg is pretty simple and tragic:  Deak married Podi when they were both twenty, and within a year their son Isaac was born.  Podi fronted her own successful band called The Belle Blossoms.  Their home was in New Orleans, and one night while Podi was at home with Isaac, Deak cheated on Podi with Charise, The Belle Blossoms bass player.  The adulterer slinked home to find his wife cradling the body of their baby in her arms, another victim of SIDS.  She recognized the trace of Charise's perfume lingering on Deak, and humiliated him before leaving him.  Distraught, Deak seeks relief in alcohol and comfort from his hobo friends who dwell on the bank of the Mississippi river.  Bootleg opens in the cemetery, where Deak is saying goodbye to his freshly buried son.

Chapter One

The afternoon evolved into twilight, which quickly declined into night.  Still, I sat there beside the footstone, sobbing and suffering.  Everything was gone—my Podi and our Isaac…my whole family—and suddenly I was alone…miserable, wretched and pining…an abject pauper in spirit….. 
It was the dark night of a new moon.  The few stars visible through the black shroud were quickly obscured by swirling storm clouds, which were like an impenetrable shroud of death.  It covered me like a blanket, clung to me like a second skin, smothered me with terror, and suffocated me with fear.  I dreaded what it portended.
I experienced the revelation that I had reached a crossroad in my life.  Since the path I most desired, to backtrack and change the past, did not appear, I became angry with the Fates, and violently cursed them.  That ineffable moment was simply bizarre, and when confronted with the choice between left into the light and right into the night, I trembled and went wrong.  I got to my knees, crawled across the ground, and with my hands pressed into the fresh dirt covering the coffin of my precious Isaac, I leaned forward and kissed his tiny marker, and broke into sobs over him one last time.  In that same instant the death clouds above burst and pelted me with bullets of acid rain.  I jumped to my feet, shook my fists skyward at the confusion, and unleashed a primal scream.   With the determined resolve born of passion I walked over to my guitar and calmly stomped it into splinters.  Then, without turning my head (though stifling sniffles and tears), I walked out of the cemetery and into a bar, where I took a glass of vodka, then another, and another, and another…until I was sitting on a stool in Cosimo’s, where I bumped into Arthur, my old friend who had formerly managed a number of Bourbon Street bands (see chapter 34).  And just as we had that night we hung out shortly after Isaac’s birth, we filled a couple of bags with beer, food and tobacco and went to hang out with the homeless drunks by the riverside.  But unlike that first night, this time when Arthur left at sunrise, I did not accompany him, but stayed there boozing with my new friends.
We were many and varied—the denizens of the riverbank—and came and went daily, but we all had one thing in common:  we had been seduced by the mesmerizing spell of alcohol.  Whether by addiction, escape or passion, we were a brotherhood in the bottle.  And we were in New Orleans, where every moment was an open spigot pouring party.
During the weeks that I lived at the water’s edge I met veterans of war and has-been musicians; broken-hearted losers and lovable bums.  I met all manner of man who for one reason or another succumbs to the false charms of liquor.  And not only was I among their number, I became one of their leaders. 
The first guy there I truly befriended was Shank the fisherman.  When Arthur had first brought me there, and then again the time I stayed, Shank was sitting on a stump at water’s edge with a fishing pole propped between his legs, a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other.
So at the break of the day following Isaac’s memorial, I staggered over to him with a spilling bottle of vodka and plopped myself beside.  “Sooo….” I slurred.  “Who are you?”
He turned to me with friendly smile and extended hand, and said:  “I’m Shank.  Who are you?”
“My name is Deacon, but my friends just call me Deak,” I answered.
“You’re Deak!” he cried.  “All right!  I knew I recognized you!”
He whipped out a harmonica, and tooted and sang, Down By The Riverside.

“I'm gonna lay down my heavy load
Down by the riverside…
Down by the riverside…
Down by the riverside…
I’m gonna lay down my heavy load,
Down by the riverside.

I ain't gonna study war no more
Down by the riverside…
I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside…
I'm gonna lay down my travelin' shoes
Down by the riverside…
I'm gonna lay down my gun and belt
Down by the riverside…
I'm gonna put on my long white robe
Down by the riverside…
I'm gonna put on my starry crown
Down by the riverside….”

Just as he was fading out I picked up, and sang:  “I’m gonna leave all my sorrows here, down by the riverside…Don’t want to spend my tomorrows here, down by the riverside…down by the riverside….”
Our rendition of the standard was beautiful, and the friendship sealed with a handshake.  Then Shank said:  “So, what troubles lead you into the fold?”
I had been waiting all night for someone to open that gate of my mouth, and darted through with a lightning tongue.  I berated him with my babble about Podi and Isaac for fifteen of his patient minutes before I suddenly halted my egocentric self and inquired about him.  “And what brought you here?” I asked.
“No troubles,” he nonchalantly replied.  “I’m just waiting to catch a particular catfish, and I’m not going to leave here until I do.”  He sipped whiskey from a filthy brown bottle, which he then handed to me.  “Well, maybe I want a wife, family and house, like you had…but I haven’t found my woman yet, and there’s a certain catfish I need to land first.”
“Moby Dick?” I facetiously asked.
“No, I just call it Fat Cat.  It’s a hundred pound channel cat I saw with my eyes right here six months ago, and I’m going to sit here pinning mudsuckers and nightcrawlers to my hook until she bites, then I am going to eat her, and share her with my friends.  Peace, my brother.”
He slapped my hand, cast his line back into the water and sipped a beer.  I went to meet some of the others. 
There was Chuck Barry—not THE Chuck Berry—but a carefree white fiddle player from San Antonio.  There were O’Malley and Liffey, the wandering Scots, and Abdul O’Doul, one the world’s few muslim Irishman.  There was Riley the sailor.  There were Zak, Arne, Covino and Woodman, who had run out of money on a road trip and were mingling with the locals till they had enough jack to refuel their van and go.  There was Callahan, who sang the Dada Song, and Big L, who had ostensibly been driven mad by his computer.
But with the high times came dry times, and so it was that after a full fortnight fat on the hog we crashed and burned, and for whatever mysterious reason, went a couple of days without food nor drink, and without the slightest motivation to walk the two blocks into the city.  It was the middle of August, and the broiling humidity was oppressive.  It was all we could do to haul ourselves into the water and then back out to flop onto the bank.  Night fell heavily.  The moon was full, but obscured by thick clouds, and six of us—myself, Shank, Callahan and Woodman laid there dreaming aloud of drinks and crawdads.  We had just resigned ourselves to a night without either and achieved a peaceable reverie when a gaunt man, all shadow and bone, appeared behind us.  I couldn’t tell if he was real or a craving induced hallucination, but he inspired a shiver that iced my blood.  He was a madman.  He leaped around menacingly, and taunted us with his sinister song.

When your booze is gone
And you’re all alone,
Watch out for Monkey Jones.
All shadow and bones,
You’ll shiver when he moans…
Here comes Monkey Jones.

The queer figure jigged about my head incessantly repeating those lyrics in a strange and sinister melody.  Suddenly the clouds overhead parted, revealing the full moon.  At the same moment fog rolled in off the river.  Then I heard a low, gravelly voice command:  “Monkey Jones, be gone!  Get out of here now, d’ya hear?”
I looked up and saw a strange figure approaching.  He was of diminutive stature, with a heavy beard and a thick head of long hair.  He had a pronounced limp in his right leg, and below that same knee I could see dazzling jewels sparkling in the moonlight.  His right calf seemed three times the size of the left.
Shank sat up and triumphantly said:  “All right!  Bootleg is here!  Monkey Jones is history, and we’re all set!”
“Bootleg?  Who’s that?” I asked.
“Him,” Shank whispered, pointing to the approaching man.  “Watch this.”
There followed a surreal confrontation.  Monkey Jones cowered.  Bootleg stalked and towered, waving the pinky and index finger of his left hand in Monkey Jones’ face, jabbing the air and growling:  “Bafongol to the bogey man!  Take the onus, take it and go!”

Monkey Jones meekly yelped once and melted into the shadows whence he had emerged.  Bootleg then hobbled over to us, seated himself on a rock by the embers of what had been our fire, and flipped a silver latch on the side of his knee.  His hollow wooden leg popped open, and he removed a magnum bottle of a clear liquid that splintered the moonlight like a prism.  I was mesmerized with curiosity and desire.  He got up and spread a few fresh pieces of wood on the coals, and splashed them with several drops of the liquid, which brought the fire blazing back to life.    Then he tipped the bottle and took a draught before passing it to me.
I was both bold and timid.  I seized the bottle, then hesitated to drink.  “What is it?” I asked. 
“Grapa,” he answered.  “Go ahead, I made it myself.  It’s an Italian drink, fermented from what’s left of the grapes when they’ve finished making the wine.”
I filled my mouth, swished it around, then eased it down my gullet.  It was a strong liquor, and a warm glow radiated throughout my body, to the tips of my fingers and toes, and to the very follicles in my scalp.  I gazed at the moon while my body embraced the spirit.  Then Shank took the bottle, swigged and passed it, and in moments we were gathered around the fire chatting and drinking, with spirits greatly raised.
Bootleg was quite the character.  He had the gift of gab, and kept us entertained with both his stories and jokes, and his witty repartee.  As we jabbered I studied his prosthetic by the light of the fire and the moon.  It was more a magnificent sculpture than a replacement leg.  It was made of teak, and burnished to reveal the very essence and soul of the wood.  There were dozens of pearls, garnets, rubies and emeralds inlaid with silver and gold.  There was fur trim around the top, a huge diamond in the tip, and a glinting silver spur.  It was a more beautiful a boot than I had ever imagined could exist, and my hypnotized eyes were riveted to its glory. 
The bottle quickly emptied into our bellies, and upon its conclusion, Duppy, Joop, Callahan and Shank drifted into contented drunken slumbers.  But Bootleg and I were not yet satisfied, and sat staring at each other and the fire, with the others snoring around us.  Our eyes locked, burning not only with the grapa, but with a bond we knew had been forged a million years before, and that had finally brought us together in that moment.
Then Bootleg said:  “Hey buddy, you still thirsty?”
All I wanted was another drink, and all I could do was to nod my head.
“I got a little something else—my special reserve,” he said.  He opened his boot again, pulled out a little glass and put in the empty grapa bottle.  He then buckled the boot back up, held the glass down by the heel, and opened the spur. It was also a tiny tap.  A thin stream of golden liqueur filled the little glass.  He offered it to me.  I sipped half then handed it back.  The feeling that suffused my flesh transcended drunkenness--it was intoxicatingly divine.  I had never experienced such euphoria in my life.  “What is that?” I finally asked.  I had never tasted anything like it, and was completely perplexed and befuddled.
“Church wine,” he answered.  “I’m friends with a priest, and he gives it to me.  He’s a compassionate man, and he knows it kills my pain like nothing else in this world, and so he smuggles me out about a pint a month.  It’s what they drink as the blood of Christ when taking communion.”
“You’re still in pain?” I stupidly asked.
“It’s called phantom pain, Louie,” he replied, “and it haunts me every moment of every day.  It’s like the leg is always there yet constantly being torn away.”
Emboldened by the drink, I decided to push him.  “How did you lose it, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I don’t mind,” he replied.  He refilled the glass from the spur, grimaced, swallowed his mouthful and handed it to me.  “The Crippler stole it.”
I drank my half greedily, and responded to him as if speaking from a dream.  “The Crippler?  Who is that?”
“Polio,” he replied.  “You probably don’t know much about it because you were born after Salk discovered the vaccine which spared you.  It’s a degenerating muscular disease, and for decades it ravaged the country, maiming and killing like a mad tornado.   I got it drinking from a mud puddle when I was two.  I probably passed the bug along to all my friends.  We the afflicted spent our childhoods in iron lungs and on crutches, and as outcasts from the untouched.  I—“  He caught himself, and then got lost in a mournful thought.  Then he tapped the hollow boot with a knuckle, and said:  “But knock wood, one friend lost both legs, another lost both arms, and four died, so I could be worse.”
I suddenly felt guilty that I had always taken my perfect health for granted, and apologized.  “No need to apologize, buddy,” he continued.  “God said two things about me:  that he made me ‘in his own image,’ and that ‘I am what I am.’  So notwithstanding the missing kicker, I still am whole.  But we have a bigger problem right now.”
“What’s that?” I dumbly asked.
“The leg is empty and I’m still thirsty.  How much money you got?” he bluntly replied.

I was off guard and totally unprepared for such a response, and stupidly answered, “Uh, none.  Not a nickel.”
“Then you’d better start limbering up your fingers, cuz we’re gonna have to play some blues for booze.”
“I don’t get you,” I slurred.
He stood up, hobbled over to me, grasped one side of my head with his left hand and lightly slapped the other with his right.  “We’re going to play a few songs for the tourists and partiers, pass the hat, and as soon as we have a handful of rags, we’ll go somewhere for a few more drinks.  I know where we can get a hold of a guitar and a bass.  Come on now.”
He grasped my hand and yanked me to my feet.  I came to life like a sinner at the resurrection.  I suddenly no longer craved liquor, but only to play the guitar again.  We were just about to set out for the French Quarter—I walking and Bootleg hobbling--when the faint music of a harmonica drifted out of the dusky morning mists and into our ears.  We both turned and saw Shank lightly puffing on his harp. 
Then he said, “I heard every word, and y’all ain’t going anywhere without me.”
He set aside his fishing pole, came over to us, threw one arm around me, the other around Bootleg, squeezed us to his heart, and The Nightcrawlers were born.
We three wandered up the six blocks to Bourbon Street.  Bootleg seemed to know everyone we passed along the way.  He acknowledged a greeting or shook a hand at every step, and stopped to have a dozen conversations.  At last he brought us to a bar called Tropical Joe’s, where he knew just about everyone, including Joe the owner, who immediately treated us to cocktails. 
After a few minutes of chit chat Tropical Joe looked at us expectantly and said:  “Well?”
“Well what?” we replied.
“The first round was on the house, but you’ve got to sing for the rest, so get to it!”
The house band’s instruments were there onstage, so I strapped into the guitar, Bootleg had to mount a little stool so he could reach the neck of the double bass, Shank lubed up his harp and we showered Bourbon Street with a short set of simple blues standards.  Though we generated a certain chemistry playing together, we were far from tight—booze and blues don’t always mix.  Nonetheless, we brought in a few patrons for Tropical Joe, earned enough in the hat to drink a river of margaritas, and, most importantly, The Nightcrawlers were able to say they’d had a successful debut.
During the months of my bender I tried several times to sober up, but found that none of the pains in my heart had yet relented, and so always proceeded to get even drunker than before.  While before and since alcohol generally accentuated my happy nature, during those dark days it largely transformed me into a mean, nasty monster.  And the beast it unleashed knew nothing of love and loyalty to friends, nor of kindness and courtesy toward strangers, it only knew Deak slaking his insatiable thirst.
And my descent into the abyss of perpetual inebriation resulted in my frequently finding cuts and bruises on myself, with no recollection of how I’d acquired them.  On numerous occasions I woke up in strange places and strange beds, on and under benches, and once in a pile of leaves.  Twice I came to wearing clothing I didn’t recognize, and once thirty miles away in Metarie, across Lake Pontchartrain.  And at some point almost every day I’d feel as if someone had sawed off the top of my skull, basted my brain with iodine, then secured it back in place with fifty wood screws.
Throughout the bender I did manage to maintain playing with The Nightcrawlers a couple nights a week.  Our repertoire consisted almost solely of standards—“Built For Comfort,” “I Got a Woman,” “Kansas City,” “Money,” and “Sweet Home Chicago,” among many more.  We also worked up one trademark original, Bootleg’s ranting “Monkey Jones.”
I really don’t recall many specific details of those Bourbon Street performances—until the last couple.  My hasty downward spiral into the bottom of the pit began one morning when I awoke on a park bench in a rum fog so dense that I couldn’t tell if I was dreaming or awake.  Oddly, it turned out to be a little of both.  The dream was that The Nightcrawlers and I were performing “Monkey Jones” on Bourbon Street.  The reality was that a recording of the song was actually pouring from a nearby radio.  I shook my head to confirm that I was awake—or rather, that I had crossed that threshold from drunkenness to hangover—then tracked the song to its source.  The sound quality was excellent, but I couldn’t understand where a recording of “Monkey Jones” had come from.  Then, when the song ended and I heard applause, I recognized it as one of our Bourbon Street performances.  I was mystified by the song’s existence as a recording, but had only been pondering that for a moment when the deejay announced the next song, the latest release from The Belle Blossoms, a surefire hit called “Adios, Loser.”  It was Podi’s musical stab into my rent heart, and it stung like Cleopatra’s asp. 

Adios, Loser

In the beginning, I’ll admit, you were winning,
When you had me on your arm,
The world was your pearl when I was your girl,
When I was your sweet lucky charm.

But now it’s all over,
You’ve plucked not one…not two…not three…
But all four leaves from the clover,
And instead of singing “Hola lover,”
I’m screaming “Adios, loser!”

Adios, loser!  Adios, loser!
Adios, adios, adios, loser!
Now you’re the beggar, while I’m the chooser.
I’m the shining star, and you the wretched boozer.
You had a princess, but you misused her,
And changed your prince’s robe for a pauper’s rags,
Adios, loser!

And as if predetermined by Fate, the moment the song finished playing I espied Ricky and Podi across the street, walking together with their fingers interlocked.  My heart sank and burned, and from that instant events unfolded in rapid succession to the explosive culmination that same evening on Bourbon Street.  First I guzzled a pint of vodka and got a good buzz working.  Then a quick stroll around the French Quarter revealed to me that a bootleg tape of one of The Nightcrawlers shows had been pressed and released and was selling like proverbial hotcakes.  My anger, compounded, escalated.  I spent the day pissed off at Ricky for his betrayal, furious with the scoundrel who’d had the audacity to record and release a Nightcrawlers show without my authority, mad at life and the world for nothing but reasons of my own making, all the while chugging the booze that was fueling the bomb.
However, there was a calm before the storm.  Just after sunset I stumbled down to the riverside, where Shank, Bootleg and some of the others were sitting around a campfire passing a couple of bottles.  I had barely slurred ‘hello’ to everyone when Shank’s fishing line snapped taut and the pole flew into the water.  “That’s her!” he cried as he dove in after it.    “I’ve got her!” 
We jumped in to help, but he waved us off, saying that it was a fight he needed to wage alone; and after a momentous, two hour struggle that left him sweaty and exhausted, with palms striped with string burns and lacerations, he had successfully landed the approximately one hundred pound channel catfish that he’d so aptly nicknamed Fat Cat.  I was happy for him, but while our comrades cheered and congratulated and raised toasts to his conquest, I sat sullenly in the background, slowly sipping myself into an oblivious stupor.
The great fish was greatly admired, and through Shank’s impassioned recounting of the struggle to land it, apotheosized into legend.  Then there was a brief discussion as to what next, whether to take it to a taxidermist or to simply eat it, which determination was made by Shank when he plainly said:  “Well, since I’ve got no use for trophies, much less a place to display them….”
And so the fish was gutted and filleted, marinated in some wine, wrapped in some seaweed and an old blanket and thrust into the embers, and at midnight the legendary fish became a mere feast for ten drunks with the munchies.  I had a couple of nibbles out of respect for Shank, but my anger at Ricky and Podi, and the rogue who’d pirated a Nightcrawlers show, had festered to a height that killed all appetite, leaving only the unquenchable thirst for the liquor that was fueling my rage.
After everyone had stuffed themselves with catfish and laid belly up for an hour or so, Bootleg suggested we go up to Bourbon Street and kick out a few tunes.  I was incoherent verging on blackout, but recall thinking a jam might help to sublimate my anger, and so staggered along with them.  The next thing I remember was standing at Tropical Joe’s looking at the instruments.  Then the strangest thing happened, an occurrence that set the chain of events in motion.  Bootleg had left the room without my noticing, just a moment before I excused myself from Shank to go to the bathroom.  When I came out of the john I heard some strange noises in the hallway behind the stage.  I stuck my head around the corner, discreetly peered through a gap in some slats, and saw Bootleg loading two microphones and a recorder into the hollow of his prosthesis.  I was infuriated around the moon and back, and almost confronted him on the spot, but for some reason refrained and went back to Shank to await Bootleg’s return so we could begin the jam session.  He came out a few moments later, and we set up and started the performance.  That night may have been the worst guitar I’ve ever played.  Between my extreme intoxication, and my intentionally not wanting to produce quality music for Bootleg’s bootleg, I stunk up the joint.  The people that didn’t boo or hiss gave me funny looks as they walked on by.  Then I noticed Podi and Ricky in the distance, arm in arm, pointing at me and sniggering.  I proceeded to scramble the tuning nuts and to ferociously pound the guitar—discordant would have sounded ordered compared to the noise that I produced.  Then Bootleg tapped my shoulder and said:  “What the hell’s the matter with you tonight?”
While his tone was one of genuine concern, I heard only what I wanted, which was a pissed off and antagonistic someone confronting me.  “What’s the matter?” I slurred.  “What the matter?  I’ll show you what’s the matter!”
I unstrapped the guitar, grasped the neck with both hands, cranked it behind my back and swung it with all my might.  The solid body guitar crashed squarely into his wooden leg—the guitar cracked in half and his leg splintered into fifty pieces.  The tape recorder and microphones spilled onto the sidewalk a moment before Bootleg landed up them with a crunching thud.  
“That’ll teach you to steal my music!” I screeched at the top of my lungs.
I had not disabled him, however; I had enraged him, much like throwing mud on a hen, water on a cat, or wagging a dog.  After letting out a blood chilling howl of anguish, he hoisted himself up onto his good leg, hopped three steps towards me, and in one motion clamped my throat, thrust me backwards and landed on my chest, knocking me windless.  His eyes were two blazing infernos of rage, and I could see that I’d fractured the tip of the small piece of fibia that remained extended below his kneecap.  He yelled—not screamed—at me, and his words were punctuated with the droplets of spittle that speckled my face.
“You arrogant, egotistical, reeking piece of crap!  The music is ours, not yours; and the money from the tape is going to help some of my less fortunate friends with polio, since our government thinks it’s more important to know the effects of outer space on pregnant vermin than to care for a cripple here on earth.  I didn’t realize you needed the money on top of your millions…next time I’ll be more considerate!”
The last thing I remember through the haze is his fist rapidly growing large before crushing my face.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What The Bible Says About Mormons -- Part Three

Read What The Bible Says About Mormon revised and in its entirety here.  

Although Joseph Smith received his first ‘revelation’ when he was fourteen, he never recorded a final account of it until 1838, when he was 33.  The Mormon church had existed for eight years, and he’d had plenty of time to tailor the event to his needs.  So did his second momentous encounter have years to incubate in his imagination before he offered a final version of it.

After money digging for a couple of years, Smith claimed he realized he’d gone astray and lost his way.  In 1823, when he was seventeen, he repented, and one night in his room offered up to God a prayer for forgiveness.  It was answered that night by the appearance of the angel Moroni.  He was the last prophet of a race that had vanished from ancient America.  He revealed to Smith the existence of a collection of golden plates containing a history of the religion of his people.  Moroni explained that he and his father, Mormon, had engraved them with Egyptian hieroglyphs many centuries before.  Moroni told Joseph that he was chosen to go get them.

Moroni appeared three more times that night and the following morning, and directed Smith to the location of the plates that very afternoon.  Smith went to a hill ‘convenient to the village of Manchester,’ and on the slope found a round stone beneath which was hidden a stone box containing the golden plates and an instrument for translation: two transparent stones fixed like eyeglasses to a breastplate that Moroni identified as the Urim and Thummim used by ancient Israelite prophets.  He tried to remove the objects from the box but could not, and was chastised by the angel for ignoring the commandments of God and intending to use the plates to get rich.  Moroni commanded him to return to the hill once every year “until the time should come for obtaining the plates.”  Then the angel departed.

Most Mormon temples have huge golden statues of Moroni mounted atop their spires.  Here is a good link for a few photos and more information about how the statues fit into the LDS tradition.  And here is a picture of the one at Hill Cumorah, where Smith claimed the original plates were found.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God
.  Exodus 20: 4-5

Furthermore, it is also written:  The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.  Deuteronomy 7:25

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What The Bible Says About Mormons -- Part Two

Read What The Bible Says About Mormon revised and in its entirety here.

So after his visitation from God and Jesus, what did the pubescent, self styled prophet Joseph Smith do?  Did he study the Scriptures? wherein it is written:  Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.  Proverbs 8:10

No.  Did he seek and pray for wisdom? because it is written:  How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver! Proverbs 16:16

 No.  Did he become a true follower of Jesus Christ? because it is written:  Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  1 Peter 1:18-19

 No, he commenced on his lifelong quest for his true god—the gold.  Rather than seeking the divine, he sought to divine.  He dreamed of finding buried treasure, and with his father began to search their farm and the land around Palmyra for gold--by which search Smith revealed his heart’s true lusts after earthly wealth.

The large Smith clan had a reputation as superstitious ‘money diggers.’  They tried to divine the location of treasure hidden in the earth using peep stones: magical stones which, when placed in an upside down hat and gazed in upon, revealed secrets to a special few blessed with the ability to see them.  Joseph Smith claimed to be just such a seer, and armed with a hat and some rocks, he started selling his services as a treasure hunter.

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. 
Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD.
  Deuteronomy 18:10-12

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What The Bible Says About Mormons -- Part One

Read What The Bible Says About Mormons revised and in its entirety here.  

And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.  Matthew 24:11

Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.  Jeremiah 14:14

The Mormon church was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, who the Mormons regard as their Great Prophet.  He lived in America from 1805-1844.  Smith claimed to have had numerous visions, to have been visited by an angel named Moroni, and to have been guided by Moroni to the location of the text of the Book of Mormon, which was engraved in hieroglyphs on golden plates hidden under a rock in a hillside.  The Book of Mormon claims to be another testament of Jesus Christ, but it reads like bad fiction, and there is absolutely zero archeological evidence to support any of the history it purports.  Since many points of Mormon doctrine directly contradict the Bible’s authority, and since Mitt Romney believes this grand lie, I thought it meet in this election year to dissect the false religion and compare it to true Christianity.

For full disclosure, my sources, thus far, are the 2007 PBS documentary The Mormons, which you can view online here; and a couple of library books:  THE MORMON EXPERIENCE: A HISTORY OF THE LATTER DAY SAINTS, by Leonard Arrington and David Bitton; and JOSEPH SMITH AND THE BEGINNINGS OF MORMONISM, by Richard Bushman (a Mormon himself).  I have also utilized the Latter Day Saints’ website.

When Joseph Smith was fourteen, he claimed to have been plagued by the question of which of the many Christian sects was the true church of Christ.  He went into a grove of trees near where his family lived in Palmyra, New York, where he prayed aloud for God to answer him. There are numerous versions of the event--the story evolved over the years as required to support the evolution of the Mormon church.    (Read one of the accounts of the vision in Smith’s own words here.)  The essence of the event was thus: Brilliant light flooded the trees, and the forms of two men appeared hovering before Smith.  One was God and the other Jesus Christ.  God looked at Smith, pointed to Jesus, and said:  “This is my Beloved Son.  Hear Him!”

This is in direct contradiction to Jesus Christ, who said: No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him.  John 1:18

Did Jesus Christ really contradict Himself by appearing with God before Joseph Smith?  Read on and decide for yourself. 

Smith maintained the presence of mind to ask which sect was the true one that he should join.  The answer he received from God and Jesus was that he should join none of them, as they were all abominations, and their adherents corrupt.  God and Jesus went on to tell young Joseph that he would later be used as an instrument in restoring the true church to the earth.

How monumentally arrogant, to claim that after Jesus was crucified, every church and all its congregants founded in His name were abomination in the sight of the LORD—for EIGHTEEN CENTURIES!  Smith’s claim renders Christ irrelevant for the billions who lived and died during those eighteen hundred years.  And that Smith was the chosen one to bring clarity back to the world--would a precocious prophet truly be so shamelessly bold?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Sojourners in America

The land shall not be sold forever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.  Leviticus 25:23

When President Obama announced his new immigration policy last week, Mitt Romney immediately pounced.  He released this statement, the gist of which is that he would support allowing immigrants to stay here  only if they joined the military.  How conveniently that dovetails with Romney's blatant rhetoric about attacking Iran.  Just yesterday on Face The Nation, Romney said: "I can assure you if I'm president, the Iranians will have no question but that I would be willing to take military action, if necessary, to prevent them from becoming a nuclear threat to the world."

How calculating and downright evil, and not in the least wise the compassion of a Christian: to take the children who were brought here underage by their parents, and to grant them some form of amnesty provided they are willing to go die in Mitt's military endeavors.  The overtures have been plentiful and loud, and make no mistake: Mitt intends to be a wartime president.

Lately one of Mitt's favorite attack phrases against President Obama is to accuse him of being 'out of touch.;' on everything from the economy  to the message the voters sent in protecting Scott Walker in Wisconsin's recent recall election.  Almost daily Romney demonstrates that he's out of touch with just about everything but the vicissitudes of the rich, and yesterday, also on Face The Nation, when pressed to respond to President Obama's new immigration policy announcement, Romney said: "He was president for the last three and half years and did nothing on immigration."

That is yet another clear demonstration of Romney being out of touch.  Since he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2007 and 2008, it is obvious now that all along he planned to run again this year.  That being the case, one would think that he would have paid very close attention to Obama's every move during the interim.  Instead he's ignoring the facts to propagate his own fictional revision of recent history.  President Obama and the Democrats have broached the immigration issue several times, and on July 1, 2010, Obama gave a major address asking congress to join him in tackling immigration reform.  A bipartisan effort is required to make that happen, and the Republican response to President Obama's speech was swift and decisive: there would be no discussion of the issue. Period.  I even recall John McCain saying:  "Now is not the time to address immigration."  He gave no particular reason why, just those words.  And with that decree there was no further discussion and the issue was dead.  Just a few weeks later the Republican congressmen and senators running for re-election in the border states were heavily criticizing President Obama and the federal government for failing to act on the immigration issue, like the true and despicable hypocrites that they are.

President Obama is a Christian.  Mitt Romney is not.  Romney is a Mormon, which is a false religion that was started by a false prophet, and which claims to be a Christian denomination but cannot be, as is at odds with the Bible on numerous immutable points of its doctrine.  As the right wing Christians start to grasp for ways to justify voting for Romney, one of their rationales is to claim he is more in line with biblical principles than Obama.  The Bible is very clear on the topic of immigrants: the Israelites spent four hundred years in bondage in Egypt specifically so that God could reveal how He expects His children to treat foreigners sojourning in their land.

In scripture the Holy Spirit often repeats for emphasis sentiments of particular importance.  This is clearly a major deal with the LORD as it is addressed dozens of times throughout the Old Testament.

God said:  Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.  Exodus 20:21

And God also said:  Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.  Exodus 23:9

And lest it failed to sink in, again God said:  But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.  Leviticus 19:38

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Disciples of Hate

Ever since President Obama announced his support for gay marriage, the right wing 'Christian' community has been up in arms about the issue, with several stories having made the news.  Methinks it is an election year tactic, to justify their hatred of Obama and support of Romney.  But I wonder...Mormonism is a strange religion that mentions Jesus Christ, and incorporates him into their bizarre, completely fictional history, but it is NOT a Christian denomination.  It is about money, and satisfying earthly lusts, and more money, which may explain why the money worshiping Romney subscribes to their doctrine, which is a load of baloney. 

I also wonder...with only one Christian in this presidential race--that being Obama--how are Christians going to explain and rationalize voting Romney.  The truth is simple--they are not Christians either, but liars.  Many of these self-styled Christians in the public eye are in truth Republican operatives abusing the faith for party support and votes.

Anyway, since Obama's announcement, a number of people have made the news as Christians speaking and/or lashing out against the homosexual lifestyle.  Pastor Charles Worley of Providence, North Carolina offered his solution during a Sunday sermon:  to gather all homosexuals behind an electric fence and airdrop them food until they die out.  Since all homosexuals are the products of heterosexual unions, I suspect there would be plenty of young homosexuals to replace them once they died out.

14 year old Christian radio host Caiden Cowger said that President Obama's policies are making kids gay.  He was later removed from the airwaves on account of the controversy.

A 50 year old librarian was fired from Baptist University for failing to sign a new contract which includes a pledge to condemn the homosexual lifestyle.

Then there is the Target controversies, which have lodged the retailer firmly between a rock and a hard place.  I somehow wound up on the email list of the Family Research Council, or FRC, and last week received an email from their president, notorious 'Christian' hatemonger Tony Perkins, beseeching me to sign a petition protesting Target while asking for some money (which every email they send requests).  FRC is angry with Target for selling gay pride tee shirts and donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the Family Equality Council, a pro-homosexual organization.  A couple years ago Perkins caught my attention during the health care debate. As a 'Christian' he was opposed to national health care, and likened health insurance to the price of milk, saying to the effect that if it's too costly, individuals and families who can't afford it simply have to make do without.  How very Christian....  At around the same time, Target was donating 150,000 dollars to a group called Minnesota Forward, which was running political ads for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who was campaigning on an openly anti-homosexual agenda.  Target's political donation received national attention when Randi Reitan, the mother of a gay son, released this video--which went viral--bringing attention to and protesting Target's donation.  Target is shameless in their lust for cash; their left hand is reaching out and taking money from the lgbt community, while the right is handing that cash to people who want to strip the lgbt community of their civil rights.

The most disturbing anti-homosexual Christian story of the past few weeks was the four year old boy who sang a song called, Ain't No Homos Gonna Make It To Heaven, during the Sunday service at the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greenburg, Indiana.  His performance was met by rousing applause and approval from the congregation.  Throughout his song the boy repeatedly sings the lyric, "I know the Bible is right...."  Alright then, let's apply the Bible.  In 1 John 4:8, it is written:  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.  In Matthew 7:2 it is written:  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.  And while Christ never condemned homosexuality, he gave dire warnings about the fate that awaits those who harm children.  In Matthew 18:6, it is written:  But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  And so it is that, according to the Bible, inculcating a child with hatred sets him at odds with God; and, according to the Bible, teaching him to judge his neighbors is teaching him to condemn himself; and thusly, according to the Bible, that church would be better off dead than facing the fate they have determined upon themselves with their disobedience to the Bible. 

When I first saw the story of the little boy singing such a despicable song in a church of all places, I immediately called to mind a Scripture which appears several times in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy 5:9, wherein it is written:  ...I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.  If the son learned the disobedience to God from his father, who likely learned it from the grandfather, then the only way to prevent the son from passing it along to his children is to root out all the generations.

All the (un)Christian hatred of homosexuals stems primarily from a couple of verses in Leviticus and Romans 1:26-27.  In Leviticus 18:22 it is written:  Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination.  The same is repeated in Leviticus 20:13:  If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.  The passages in Leviticus are part of what has been given the name of the Holiness Code; a list of human acts and deeds that God regards as sinful.  But nowhere does it rank the sins by degrees, where one sin is described as greater and/or more damnable than another; in this section of the Scriptures they are merely listed.

Leviticus 18:6-18 describes the perils of engaging in sexual activity with family members and/or their spouses.  In Matthew 5:28 Jesus said:  Whosoever looketh at a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.  So, isn't it fair to reason that any Christian who has condemned homosexuals to hell, but has harbored sexual fantasies about a family member or a family member's husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, is going to lead the way into the inferno? After all, the Bible is right.  And Leviticus 18:19 forbids sexual relations with menstruating women.  Have you ever released a little blood during relations?  According to Christians who condemn homosexuality using the verses of Leviticus, you are going to hell.  Leviticus 20:10 warns against committing adultery with your neighbor's wife under penalty of death.  Jesus never uttered a word about homosexuality, and the only time anything specific to sexual sin appears in the gospels is when the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), and according to the law, they were preparing to stone her.  In response Jesus uttered the famous words:  Let he among you that is without sin cast the first stone.  Her accusers dropped their rocks and dispersed, and Jesus told her that neither did he condemn her, but he forgave her, telling her to go and sin no more.  So if Jesus forgave the sin described in Leviticus 20:10, which according the law of Moses is punishable by death, then isn't it fair to entertain the possibility that Jesus would do the same for the sin described in Leviticus 20:13?

When asked to explain the greatest commandment, in Matthew 22:35-40, Jesus answered: Above all love God, and thy neighbor as thyself.  The Bible is right, and nowhere does it say to inquire of thy neighbor's sexual proclivites before proffering thy love.  So not only do judgmental Christians who condemn homosexuals disregard the Bible, in misconstruing it they also fulfill it by condemning themselves, for in the Bible which is right it is also written in 2 Peter 3:16:  As also in all his (Paul) epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Curt Schilling: Arch Conservative Christian Hypocrite

Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Matthew 13: 5-6, from the parable of the sower, Matthew 13:1-23

Early last week, former mlb pitcher Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 studios, laid off its entire staff after defaulting on a 75 million dollar loan from the state of Rhode Island.

Schilling pitched two important games for the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 playoffs in helping the team to its first World Series victory since 1918. Following those games Schilling openly professed his belief that God was with him on the mound, and several years afterwards said: “I am proud of what we did that night, but I am far more excited about what I was able to experience in my relationship with Christ that night.”

Yet within hours of the Red Sox World Series victory in October of 2004, Schilling was on Good Morning America endorsing Bush, and continued to campaign for the president while voicing his support of the war in Iraq. 

Also incongruous with Christ, Schilling is an outspoken conservative member of the Tea Party who uses his celebrity to get on the airwaves and preach smaller government, less reliance thereupon and more individual responsibility. He also espouses the virtue of the free market economy, and with this recent debacle has implemented that detestable tenet of great capitalists: socialize the risk, privatize the profits.

Schilling made roughly 114 million dollars in his baseball career, so how did he choose to honor Christ after retiring from the sport? He decided to try and increase his wealth by starting a video game company whose first and only offering to the public was a violent fantasy role playing game called Kingdoms of Amalur. Not any of that sounds very Christian to me.

Schilling also has an autistic child. Autistic births have spiked in recent decades, and since there is ongoing research and strong reason to suspect that contamination of the environment and/or food supply are possible factors in the phenomenon, I find it mystifying that Schilling would continue to back the Republican party—which former congressman and current candidate Alan Grayson so succinctly describes as a 'wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America'—whose stated goals include a continued fight for the deregulation that leads to the suspected contaminations. Would a child of God truly participate in foisting that upon the neighbors he’s instructed to love as himself? I think not.

The population of Rhode Island is just over one million people, so 75 million dollars equals just under 75 dollars from every person in the state—including the 11 or so percent who are unemployed.  But because the loan was financed by the sale of bonds, Rhode Island is actually on the hook for more than 100 million dollars—100 dollars from every man, woman and child in the state.

And while Schilling secured the loan when former Republican governor Carcieri was in office, he is now, with bitter nastiness, blaming current Independent governor Chafee for the company’s failure, citing a failure to offer tax credits and a deferment of payment, and for what Schilling called 'devastating' public comments Chafee made regarding the matter.

So Schilling preaches that everyone should take responsibility for the themselves, yet practices that the people of Rhode Island take responsibility for his abject failure in business--a most despicable hypocrisy.

While Schilling clearly sees Christ, he just as clearly does not know Him, or he would have followed a path to Jesus rather than one toward mammon.

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. James 5:1

My Summer Of The Lion

This has been my summer of the lion.

First, word got out to my co workers that I had never seen The Lion King.  I was the only one.  Everyone had seen it.  Except me, and they were thunderstruck that I could have gotten through lo, these many years without having seen the film.  So I got a copy and watched it and enjoyed it and showed off my new knowledge of the film and was applauded by everyone around me.

Then a couple weeks ago I was struck by the magnificent description of Solomon's throne in the First Book Of Kings.  I couldn't get it out of my head for days.  I had read it several times in the past, but had never been struck by the sheer grandeur of the thing.  Jesus is the lion of Judah, and the twelve apostles will judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold.
The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays.
And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any kingdom.  1 Kings 10:18.

A couple mornings ago I went to youtube to listen to Young Lions, by Adrian Belew.  Young Lions is the incredible title track.  I knew there had never been an official video made, but went to youtube just to listen to it.  But then I found this fantastic homemade music video that had been made by a guy called Metal Guru Messiah.  I left him a complimentary comment, he wrote back to thank me, I remembered a story I hadn't thought about it some time, youtube wouldn't allow me enough characters to tell it, so I wrote it this blog and posted Metal Guru Messiah the link.

In 94 I moved to New Orleans and in 95 was there living out of a backpack with a hammock.  I was friends with the transient street performers, and after I had spent one night on the streets they invited me to come stay with them.  They had rented a small warehouse to use as a combined practice space and living quarters.  There were two huge support shafts in the middle, and my hammock hung perfectly between them.

I had gone there with a friend who was a mime.  He was an older guy who dressed as a silver robot; he took the money he earned, kept himself in coffee and cigarettes, then dumped the rest into video poker machines.  There was another guy named Paul, a rubbery Australian gymnast who by day juggled on a six foot high tight rope strung between two stepladders and made 300-400 for two performances; and by night he was banging his European girlfriend in the loft.

I would sing the praises of Adrian Belew and Young Lions to everyone who would listen.  I went on and on and on.  One afternoon Paul came in and handed me the cassette.  He’d seen it in a dollar bin in the record shop.  It was not a common item, the album had not sold well at all and was out of print.  I went out of my head.  They all left to perform for the afternoon and I had the place to myself and drank beer and cranked it for a couple hours.  I’d forgotten all about that joyous afternoon dancing in the warehouse on Frenchman Street till listening to Young Lions again the other morning.

And so continues my summer of the lion.