Incongruity and the Moment


Bloom County, by Berke Breathed. (n.d.)

The weather report for the next couple days is hardly catastrophic, but neither is it pleasant, and that in turn brings to mind talk of blustery, wet, generally unpleasant winter expected to be, overall, too mild to build significant snowpack in the Cascades, and while it is easy enough to hope such chatter is, well, merely chatter, it is also rather quite tempting to mutter something about, Damn it, Nature! stop wasting water like that!

Except, you know, we’re the human species, so the next thought to mind is also pretty obvious: Oh, right.

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Image note: I’m pretty sure I was playing around with the photocopy filter in GIMP. Never mind. It’s Bloom County, by the one and only Berke Breathed, and I’ve a date of 26 March 1982 for this particular episode.

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Vocabulary: Premillennial dispensationalism


This is not a comic strip:

Premillennial Dispensationalism: Designed by J. Dennsion Jr. Typeset by Clarence E. Veld. (via New York University; undated)

This is just one of those phrases that has escaped me. I knew there was a term for the scheme, but never knew what it was. Bill Maher raised the issue a few years ago on Larry King Live in 2003, and on his own show, Real Time, the next night. I mention Maher because I remember that episode. And I remember the Larry King appearance.

And that’s why I love the web. From Larry King Live, August 28, 2003:

MAHER: They don’t want what President Bush is trying to push for in the Middle East. They don’t want a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Because then, if you had a peace then the Palestinians, the Arabs would have part of Jerusalem.

And we can’t have that, because when Jesus comes back, which he’s going to any day now, it has to be the way he left it. It has to be that the Jews control Jerusalem, because when he comes back to take all the good people up to heaven, the Jews have a place in that situation. Which of course, Larry, is to die. Or to convert. So in other words, they want the Jews to retain all of Israel. Because when Jesus comes back down, the Jews have a job to do, which is to die.

KING: You lump Mel Gibson in that group?

MAHER: Oh, yes. He’s even further to the right than that. He’s truly in the wacko. He’s in part of that group, I forget what they call them, not conservative Catholics or something, but they don’t believe in Vatican II. In other words, Pope John and the reforms are no good. Do the mass in Latin. The Jews are the Christ killers.

And Real Time With Bill Maher, August 29, 2003:

MAHER: This is also the week when a little boy was killed because he was autistic, and his parents thought he was possessed by demons. So during the exorcism, they smothered him. This is all just to make the case, as I always love to do, that religion is stupid. [laughter] [cheers] [applause]

Now, in addition to this, with all the press Mel Gibson has been getting about making his movie about Jesus, I think people would like to know that the road map to the Middle East which our president is trying to put forth – and I agree, it’s a good plan – is opposed by some people in our government, including Tom DeLay – they call themselves Friends of Israel. And what they really are, are people who do not want to share the Holy Land, because in the Bible, the Jews have the Holy Land, and when Jesus comes back, the Jews have a part to play, which is, of course, to die.

As a punch-line delivered during unsettled times, I remember thinking it had some weight. The audience reaction noted in the Real Time transcript was not entirely comfortable. It sounded like a really crass joke, which it is, except that it’s not.

Enter Salon.com political writer Michelle Goldberg. In 2006, W. W. Norton published her book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. No, I’ve not read it yet; I only heard about it yesterday.

Which, incidentally, is the reason I bring any of this up. Earlier this year, Ms. Goldberg spoke in Seattle at Elliott Bay Bookstore, and KUOW, on Thursday’s edition of Speaker’s Forum, broadcast portions of those remarks. It’s a fascinating talk, and finally introduced me to the phrase “premillennial dispensationalism”.

Seriously. I knew there had to be a word for it.