Me? What do I like about the Pope? Lots of things. Like, say the two of you are having drinks and everyone starts talking about something a little, well … controversial: hip hop, abortion, the designated hitter, whatever. You know how it is; there are some people who don’t want to go there. They’ll be all like “whoa, let’s not go there,” and then maybe chuckle or do an impression. Not the Pope. The Pope goes there. He tells you what he thinks. In a nice way, too. And he’ll surprise you. Like we were out with a bunch of people, and it’s getting a little late, and everyone’s having a good time, and I just happen to be sitting right next to The Pope, to his left. But it’s not like I really know him that well so it’s a little, I don’t know, weird. I mean this is a powerful person, leader of the Catholic church, a guy who wears robes. Anyway, things are wrapping up, the check is on the table, and he leans over to me and says, “Hey, Zev, I have a question for you.” I was just psyched he remembered my name. “Hit me,” I say, and he goes and does the thing where he raises his hand and makes like he’s gonna hit me. Funny.
But then he gets serious, he’s no longer smiling, and he leans in real close to me and says: “Is it better to be loved, or feared?”
Well, jeez, now I’m the one that’s like “whoa!” But I’m not stupid. I’ve seen all those movies where the powerful guys takes the young guy aside and asks him “Is it better to be loved, or feared?” and the answer is always “feared.” The guy asking is always like Chaz Palminterri, but still. So I smile, and I say, “Pope, I know this one. I gotta tell you, I’m a big movie guy.”
“Yeah, so …,” The Pope says.
I take a deep breath, for effect, and then tell him: “Feared.”
He smiles, puts his arm around my shoulder and just looks at me for a couple of seconds. Then he laughs, gives me like a little friendly punch on the arm, and stands up. He puts his wallet back in his robe. He says his goodbyes to everyone. Then, as one of his guys is helping him with his, I guess it’s his outer robe, and he turns to me and winks.
“Zev,” he says, “it is better to be loved.” Then he splits.
Wow. You know what I mean? Just … Wow.
Anyway, ever since I’ve tried to sort of go out of my way to find out about what The Pope thinks about stuff. So the other day when I found out The Holy See presented a new 90-page booklet offering something billed as a “Christian Reflection on the New Age,” I was all over it. The pamphlet addresses where New Age pleasures like yoga, channeling, and songs by wind and whales stand with respect to Roman Catholic doctrine. It comes complete with a tranquil cover photo of white water running over rocks and chapters entitled “Wholeness: Magical Mystery Tour.” Not surprisingly, it may surprise you.
Downward Facing Damnation
Exercise that helps make the body more flexible can also be good for the soul, but it is important to remember that Jesus managed to have sinewy arms and a firm butt without openly mocking The Lord. Also, while yoga classes cost around $15, Church comes with a free drink. Finally, keep in mind that when chanting “Om” with one’s eyes closed, God’s eyes remain open and able to see who looks like a trendy heathen doomed to walk through the valley of the shadow of death alone, and soon.
Feng You-Paid-How-Much-For-That Shui?
Today’s Church understands there is much Christians can learn from the ancient traditions of Asia. But it asks: Isn’t paying someone to tell you where to move your ferns, and then letting them convince you to install an indoor fighting carp pond in your den, the kind of thing that not only makes the neighbors kids’ laugh derisively at your children, but probably makes God and his angels in heaven laugh at them, too?
New Age “Music”
Music that relaxes us is good. But what about music that sucks? Perhaps when Brian Eno starts composing “soundscape” concept albums meant to recall the Ganges in Spring, and Enya goes multi-platinum, time is nigh for, well, “holy war” is an ugly phrase, but, say, a Crusade-ish attack in which Christians who want to really matter kill to make the Earth safe for the kind of rock n’ roll, country, and slow jams favored by people who shower often, and have friends that aren’t cats.
Never with socks, but other than that The Church continues its support of anything promoting abstinence among creepy European men on vacation.
No matter how pleasant or relaxing terrorism is, it’s just plain ol’ wrong. And while not all New Age devotees are terrorists, many are, which is partly to blame for so many of them smelling bad.
Santa Fe, New Mexico: God’s Country?
This oasis in the high desert certainly seems like God’s country. For who else could be responsible for all the wonderful turquoise bracelets, the quaint shops featuring native American “dream catchers,” the petrified wood carvings of petrified wood, all that polar fleece, and the $59.95 prix fixe macrobiotic dinners? Who else besides … The Devil.
Silk-screened on baby tees, or airbrushed onto the side of a sweet van? Yes, and yes. Worshipped like Gods that demand human blood sacrifice, or unable to shut up about the financial benefits of class-action litigation? No, and see you in a court where The Lord is the judge and His verdict is your roasting in hell forever.
What kind of God would allow for a device that makes it possible to pause and rewind live television, and easily record your favorite shows without the help of a VCR? Well, how about … The Christian God!
Fusion Cuisine: Bread and Circuses?
Adding lemongrass or enoki mushrooms to a traditional broth soup is as Christian as blinding a savage to save him, or a delicious piece of mutton. But Thai fish sauce on duck confit served with bacon ceviche is the kind of dish God warns us against in the part of the Bible where He hints at giving a cash advance to those who still make jokes about Shirley MacLaine, and promises to smite everyone else.