Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Curious Correspondence with a Christian

Fans of the PRHOI may be aware of an ongoing dialogue I’ve had with one Mr. Batholemew Boge, head genius behind the neo-Classic Xian-Prog outfit Divine In Sight, and largely responsible for their 2001 magnum opus Sorrow and Promise. Mr. Boge, with great courage- for he was well aware of my loathing for certain strains of Prog, as well as my writing style which manages to match in virulence the vituperation of my hatreds- offered a gratis copy of his record with a direct challenge to review the thing and do my damnedest. True to his word, a package arrived last week, delivered by my landlord and opened with heart-a-palpitating by your humble Curator; upon opening the package, there it was, lovingly wrapped in a protective layer of toilet paper (and I am not kidding) and me barely able to get the thing open for my excitement of the Sorrow and Purulence I felt lurked within.

There was just one problem; this may not be to my exact taste musically, but Boge’s outfit is not that bad, other than his singing, which is so awful that if I was his wife I would leave him. (To his credit, Bart has fired himself and hired what sounds to be a rather large closested homosexual (nobody can sing that high and be straight) to practice his own brand of Mercury-poisoning, and who will be able to handle those insane Xian mosh pits that break out when the spirit doth move them.) Other than that- and an unfortunate penchant for a very dated Scholz Rockman distortion-in-a-box guitar sound (which Bart has assured me is a thing of the past as well)- there are moments on this album which actually flat-out rock; the first track takes eight minutes to get there, but the break (superbly introduced by a frenzied two-fingered assault on his Rickenbacker by the extremely talented bassist- sounding far more like Steve Harris than Chris Squire, BTW) allows Bart plenty of room to lay down an intricate arpeggiated guitar lead with his drummer showing it is possible to play very aggressively while not acting like a Portnoy and mucking everything up with unnecessary pyrotechnics when a clever fill will do. Incredibly, and almost unheard of for a contemporary Christian rock band, Boge also seems to know the value of a minor chord, instead of basing all of his emotion on the ecstatic power chords which these other bands utilize with the punishing insincerity of a used car salesman with a roll of quarters shoved in his polyester slacks. These guys have virtually nothing in common with other “Prog” Xian acts, which will probably doom them to curiosity status amongst the cognoscenti of such rubbish, but allows even the perpetually hate-addled Curator a moment of complimentary indulgence, as the sheer audacity of not sounding like these other horrible fucking bands demands at least a nod from this insomnia-plagued Palinurus.

For, as must be clear, this review is not really about Divine In Sight; I wanted to say a few things about this record because Mr. Boge has been a tireless correspondent and commenter here, but this blog isn’t going to turn into some kind of cheerleading section for followers of the single most destructive narcissist and plagiarist the world has ever seen- Paul of Tarsus, fabricator of the Nazarene legends and, like Mr. Boge, tireless letter-writer to indifferent pagans quite frankly dumbfounded by the intensity of their touching attachment to somebody who is, after all, dead. Between Paul’s bizarre emphasis on the cross and Mr. Boge’s obsession with Rush, I’m not sure who comes out more to be pitied but, regardless, these insensate idee fixes are not going to ruin my reputation as the nastiest and most defiant anti-Christian this side of H.L. Mencken; for, to borrow from Dennis Miller back when he was funny and not insane, when it comes to being “born again”, you’ll have to pardon me for getting it right the first time.

So Divine in Sight is talented and knows how to rock out; I’d prefer to talk about some other bands, like Young Earth, who are- are you even remotely ready for this?- an Xian Prog band devoted to making music about the literal interpretation of Genesis, to the point that they denounce Darwin on the homepage of their website and really, truly seem to believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. I’m sorry, but- Mother of fucking Christ, are you fucking kidding me? The dazzling stupidity of Fundamentalists is so awe-inspiring as to invite pure whimsy and fantasy; surely, if their savior is as gullible as his flock, should Jesus actually come back my first impulse would be to approach the returned Semite and play “got your nose” with Him. The image of a cruelly disoriented Christ, undone by the same credulousness that has made him such a superstar lo these last 2,000 years, grasping hither and yon for a snout robbed as if from a Gogol story, gives your Curator silent, yet bountiful, heaving fits of mirth; the idea of his joyless epigones being allowed to inflict their “creation science” (sic) on impressionable children gives me anything but. Like the struggle of the Workers against the Bosses, there is no middle ground in the burgeoning war of the clusterfuck boob-boisie against the oppression they face from a rational world which has no place for fairy tales in biology texts; indeed, in this war, no one has the luxury of “going to Canada” to avoid the draught coming from between the ears of this baying rabble who long only to be siphoned off to Heaven in a fanciful mid-air naked jamboree that isn’t even in the goddamn Bible. And they’ll cut your throat, infidel, if they think it will bring Junior back one day sooner. Which side are you on, then- which side are you on?

What, then, could be the alternative for an Xian band trying to spread the message of their Lord, but without resorting to the criminal idiocy which plagues modern Fundamentalism like the rampant stench of putrefaction in a slaughterhouse? I’m glad you asked, because Mr. Boge also directed me- in one of his earliest letters- to offer any “advice” I might have for his next music project, which (surprise) will be some kind of epic about some kind of Christian thing. What Bart may not be aware of- for how could he, dealing with such an obviously evil man?- is that The Curator has a very deep knowledge of Scripture and can navigate the OT and NT with all the shoe-horning peregrinations of a preacher; for you didn’t think I came to my atheism by mere cussedness, did you? No, I learned disbelief the old fashioned way- I moved away from home, did some drugs and slept with some girls, decided this was better than betting the farm on an itinerant sky spook to come back and give me a transcendental hand-job, thought some things through and then the Nietzsche got hold of me and that was pretty much all she wrote. (And by the way, I’d like to make an offer to all proponents of “creation science” (sic): you can teach your young Earth nonsense to my (non-existent) kids if I can lecture your happy brood on Zarathustra and the Anti-Christ; we’ll see whose Idol is Master and whose is Slave, and with the inherent urge to belief of the typical fundy-youth, I will soon have the cult I have always wanted and unleash these reformed believers upon the world with bile, frenzy and dynamite; and yea, I shall be acclaimed a god.)

So, getting back to my point, let’s address the Christian Prog concept album that I guarantee will never be made, though it has quite a defensible basis in the scripture I know. For one, let’s imagine a savior tormented by his burden (LK 4:1-4) and only gradually realizing what must happen for his father’s plan to be fulfilled (MT 16:21) He is familiar with the OT prophecies, and sets out to fulfill them (JN 12:14- see Isaiah and Micah for all of these various prophecies, sometimes amusingly misinterpreted by the Gospel writers- “an ass, and yea, a foal of an ass” (MT 21:5). Sorry, Christian humor.) But when he arrives in the holy city- perhaps the very first victim in history of the “Jerusalem Syndrome”- he is so overcome by the surroundings, especially the magnificent Temple (2CHR 3:3) , that he loses sight of what is supposed to be his father’s plan...and remembers the Beatitudes (MT 5: 3-12) so recently uttered now that he is so close to the corruption of Annas and Caiaphas, quisling vassals of the ruthless Pilate. The trade in fowl for filthy lucre upon the very grounds of God’s house enrages him; having already made clear his ability to tear the place down to the last brick (JN 2:19) and with the fire of righteousness only a man convinced of his own destiny can posses, he makes the fatal mistake of kicking over the money changer’s tables (JN 2: 12-25) and thereby inviting the whole of authority in Jerusalem down upon his merely-human back. It is during Passover, after all; and the Romans know the full political implications of this festival honoring another time the Chosen had been released from a cruel bondage.

Thus: a caring, passionate, truly human liberator, a nationalist, a Rabbi who respects and honors the traditions of his people...but also a revolutionary, a communist (or at least a socialist!), an early crusader for the rights of women, one who slummed with the lowest orders of the society in which he lived- oh, it’s a hell of a story, Christian. Could be straight out of Weil and Brecht to be honest- but we’ll never see it, because instead of proffering guidance for man to liberate himself, the current moribund Christianity offers only a dire choice between living on one’s knees or burning for all eternity in a lake of fire that didn’t exist until Dante imagined it- 1,500 years after the life of Christ. It demands fealty, acceptance, copious public displays of smug propriety, endless denunciations of “the world” while prospering in a society that has benefited like no other in history of the wonders of science and technology, is paranoid, militant, conspiracy-minded, hidebound, insular, intolerant, insulting, meticulous in its prejudices and slovenly in its curiosities; in short, the Fundamentalist is the perfect dupe for a cadre of Caligari’s so perfect in their manipulation that their sleepwalkers are blessed with life and revere only death, waiting for that magic day when they can be done with the troubles of the flesh and get massive amounts of revenge on the likes of The Curator, who so delight in pointing out the criminal failings of a philosophy that rises just above a suicide cult. My disbelief alone is worthy of a summary burning; in the name of Baal himself if they only knew what went on when I conned a lovely bird into nesting in my bed for an evening! But the obsession with any sex that doesn’t involve an immediate apology to Jesus upon ejaculation has always intrigued me; for a group that seems to think gays and lesbians want to get married just to piss them off, their leaders sure do seem to know where to get a blow-job in Kansas City at three in the morning; Christ, I don’t even know where to buy head in a strange town, and I’m obviously a degenerate of near-mythical proportions! And as for homosexuality...it astonishes me that a group of people who literally worship a guy who ran around the desert for two years with twelve “disciples” all wearing dresses and Birkenstocks are so worked up about a couple of queers who want to play house in Iowa. One look at Ted Haggard told me who was the “bottom” during his little soirees with American hero Mike Jones, and that the good Pastor had felched more of Onan’s seed (GE 38:9) than Elton John at a Theater District karaoke bar. This kind of murky hypocrisy isn’t exactly what I’d call living “in the light”. How much worse can I do going to Vietnam with my buddy Mike and buying a 12 year-old for a carton of cigarettes and some “Lime-taste” Jell-O (apparently, they’re nuts about it over there)? Saved, you want me to be? Christian, if this titanic fraud is what you call being “saved”, then damned I shall remain, proudly, even if the Man himself floated down from the Seattle heavens and had Mel Gibson with a crate of Zyklon-B for back up. I’ll not bow to madmen, no matter how much cache they register with my more credulous neighbors.

Thus, once again I have managed to “review” an album while really using it as an excuse to attack a segment of society that has had it way too fucking easy for way too fucking long; Bart, you’re a good guy and a talented musician, but I can’t let up for even a minute on the true purpose of my life: the destruction of all known values and the endless tyranny of tradition, eradication of all age-of-consent laws and the establishment of an enlightened dictatorship consisting of me and guided by my intimate knowledge of the folly of man and the desirability of the principle of Anthrocide, which is the one truly original contribution to Western philosophy that I have been able to make in my 37 years.

But that is for another time. For now, keep on rockin’ in the free world, and maybe sit down this week and try to write a song about a car. Jesus can be in the car, man- it’s cool. Think Red Barchetta, only less lame. You and Junior, out for a drive, kickin’ it Old Testament style- you gun the engine too hard, and break down in the desert and Jesus gets out, pops the hood, and smoke is flying everywhere and he says “The one thing I can’t save is this engine”. And everybody has a nice, life-affirming, laugh. But the car has to be the focus, and it’s gotta be fast and there has to be metaphors and stuff about getting the hell out of somewhere. Just my two cents. Cheers, Belial. - TR


  1. Tim,

    You can delete this entry immediately after reading it. The last name is "Boge", not "Bogle", Coincidentally enough, as I am typing I have a squirming 14 week old puppy in my lap. The breed? A Beagle-Boxer mic, i.e., a "Bogle."

    I'm dead serious. My wife bought it as a gift for herself, commemorating her completing of her Masters degree. But here I am, in my studio, with the brindle coated yap machine on my lap.

  2. Sorry- I'm on total lack of sleep for four days. I'll correct that later, I'd probably screw it up even more right now.

    All criticism is welcome here- nothing gets erased, ever, except my own stuff, by me. This is not an "Anonymous" board- we're all about letting the hoist coming from thine own petard, Bagel...

  3. Tim, (this comment's a keeper)

    So if I read your thesis correctly, you are an anti-Christian provocateur who only incidentally hates bad prog? And when, precisely, was this forum ever "cheerleading" Christianity? Whining, hyperbolic nonsense. Not even in my posts, let alone yours. My comments dealt strictly with the practicality of your postmodern PC anti-Pauline angst as it pertains to what I THOUGHT was the point of the PRHOI--identifying and vilifying bad prog.

    Perhaps you should have started the Christian Dogma Hall of Infamy--and there blast the blatant pop sellout tendencies of ELP's later work. Makes about as much sense.

    I don't doubt the strength of your indignation for all things Christian, and especially conservative evangelicals in America, but I fear you are losing credibility with anyone who really just wants to laugh at wooshy synths, mellotron flues, pointless instrumental noodling, and clear-eyed ballads about elves and ogre battles. Not everyone who likes prog hates Jesus, and not everyone who HATES prog hates Jesus. You might as well rail on about how much you hate the color beige--it's just about as relevant.

    But you've obviously got an axe to grind. With this post I will end my pleadings. If you want to turn your PRHOI into an anti-apologetics soapbox, so be it. I will still check it out from time to time to see if you can let go of your primary obsession long enough to discuss progressive rock.

    As far as your review is concerned, I appreciate it very much, as least the one paragraph that actually WAS a review. I realize it was a stretch to actually say some positive things about a Christian project, but you managed to swallow hard and do it. (here's where you snicker and add the Beavis & Butthead "..heh..heh..he said 'swallow hard'")

    Your words mean more than a thousand glowing reviews from charitably Christian reviewers, in that the bar is set incredibly higher and the peril much greater here. Also, I think you GET what we were going for, even if you hate the concept. A lot of Christians didn't understand how such a dark project could be "Christian" in any kind of uplifting way, which might be from a steady diet of happy-happy joy-joy CCM. Old skool Puritan hymns were often in minor keys and outlined theology in dark, fierce, and densely inventive lyrics rich with poignancy. I guess I'll always come at this from a darker angle. I hope someday our approach will be appreciated.

    So I won't be renting a tux or flying out to Seattle for the induction ceremony, seeing that Sorrow & Promise was denied entry into the PRHOI. I was as sure of this as Meryl Streep on Oscar night, but alas, it was not to be. Well, there's always O Nox Ultima.

    I'll still be praying for you, Tim. And no, I won't be Google Mapping your home address while cleaning my best .50 caliber sniper rifle.

    Aw, who am I kidding? Best? They're ALL good, and they're all clean and sighted in! And what is that--a water tower? Interesting...


  4. Edited for Curator's sloppy work. Cheers, Bart.

  5. I don't know if you will smirk at this, or ban me from your blog for life, but I just have to say it:

    I think you are secretly a repressed and closeted born-again Christian.

    "Me thinks thou doth protest too much" about this religion/ideology you claim to despise but can't seem to stop talking about. You go to extreme and cartoonish lengths to be perceived as blasphemous, to proclaim yourself as accursed by a God you claim not to believe in. It is all smelling a bit fishy now.

    I have read and heard interviews by prominent atheists. They put forth very carefully reasoned arguments against a deity. But not one of them goes on such campy, theatrical, venomous tirades as the ones you write--on a blog supposedly dedicated to bad prog.

    There is something, deep down in your soul, that you are dreadfully overcompensating for. Somewhere in that heart you try to paint as so very black is the glimmer of faith. So you try to loudly proclaim your indignancy for God in order to bury it, or to utterly damn yourself away from it (so you think). But it's there, brother. You attack Christianity with malevolent rage, but deep inside you are secretly hoping that, despite the glaring failures among so-called spiritual leaders of the faith, there is something TRUE to it after all. Something you've missed in your analysis. Something that could give your life meaning and hope beyond satisfying the urges of your basest instincts or the self-congratulating intellectual gymnastics you do in your rants.

    I'm "outing" you, Tim. Jesus loves you, and deep inside, against all odds, against the well-erected defenses, under the thick layer of cynicism and smugness, you know it.

    Saul of Tarsus was a Christian hater in deed, not just in word. He witnessed firsthand the execution of Stephen and cheered it on. He was actively involved in JAILING believers. He hated Christians and Christianity far more than you ever will. But on the road to Damascus, he was changed.

    You will soon meet Jesus on your own road to Damascus. Soon thereafter, you will call me your "brother" and actually mean it. You are no further from God than the most pious believer you can name, regardless of your attempts at feigned wickedness. You are, in fact, closer to Heaven than most people who think they are righteous. You are an instant away.

    Just as I am, without one plea,
    but that thy blood was shed for me,
    and that thou bidst me come to thee,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    Just as I am, and waiting not
    to rid my soul of one dark blot,
    to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    Just as I am, though tossed about
    with many a conflict, many a doubt,
    fightings and fears within, without,
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    C'mon out, Tim.

  6. Bart, I understand you people have a quota and it's safer w/ me because you know that, unlike, say, a Muslim guy I won't blow myself up in protest, but wow man...even if for no other reason, the sheer obstinancy and spite that makes me the malignant curmudgeon I be obviates completely against any kind of "conversion". It just ain't gonna happen, brother.

    Being a handsome man, I have to give this speech every so often at bars here in Seattle, a town completely overrun with queers. I guess I should be complimented, as I am with the fellas, but why is it that I feel a drunk gay guy at the pub is more sincere than an ascetic Christ-lover only out to find the worst of the worst and bring him to the fold? Vanity, thy name is proselytizer; clever inverting of the "closet ritual" changes not the fact that you think you've found the truly most black-hearted sinner of the bunch (here, you may be right), and that you alone can "save" me- with the help of Junior, of course. Hate like mine breaks Nazis, Bart; best to find some bikers or something, they might have the sentimental streak needed to buy some gibberish about an imaginary Apocalyptic Jew who loves me so much he didn't have sense enough to get the fuck out of Dodge after he'd been warned the neck-tie committee had been formed. Keeping it up here will wreck that quota, guaranteed.

  7. Tim,

    I have no quota. I cannot "save" you, and bear no responsibility for doing so.

    There is some truth to the "vanity, thy name is proselytizer" comment, I suppose. To take the risk to share one's faith does presume that one has found a truth the other has not, and some tend to take an attitude of moral superiority when doing so.

    That does not explain it all, however. The "Great Commission" mandates the sharing of faith, so to some extent Christians must be ready and willing to do so, even if they are considered obtrusive and self-righteous in the process.

    I have not, as you imply, gone on some kind of search for the blackest of sinners, for an ideological Goliath that I can humbly slay with a few well-placed stones. I get no "brownie points" for "converting" the wickedest reprobate. Your "hate" is confined to the postings on a blog and a few great drunken tirades at a local pub. Have you spat upon anyone? Thrown a few punches? Oppressed Christians legally/politically? Had them killed? Your "hate" is bluster, nothing more, Tim. Saul of Tarsus has you totally smoked.

    Theologically, the whole idea is preposterous anyway. You are no less wicked than me. I really mean that, Tim--that's not a line of BS intended to falsely equivocate us for effect.

    To be absolutely honest with you, I have no firm idea why I am writing any of this, except that I feel compelled to do so. If anything, my recent theological struggles with dispensationalism and Reformed theology have caused me to rethink a lot of these issues and how they apply to how we approach others.

    I used to be guilty of some of the motives you suggest, when I was an Armenian-leaning evangelical. As such, I placed far, far too much emphasis on the role I would play in "leading" another to Christ. Now, through a more Calvinistic lens, I see that God in fact does 100% of the real work, pretty much letting me completely off the hook. I am much relieved. I also see that when it is God's purpose to use someone, his calling and redemption are more or less irresistible. I certainly had no desire whatsoever to become a "born again Christian." I grew up in a family where evangelical Christianity of any type was considered evil, backwards, and dangerous, and more or less believed that without much struggle. I would have bet the farm that I would never join that crowd, right up to the moment I heard "Just As I am" (quoted above). That song broke me. 25 years later I am still held in that inescapable grasp.

    Look, Tim, I am not trying to score points or impress family and friends, let alone God. I just came to your site to have a laugh at the expense of the music genre I love the most (but is the easiest to lampoon). I am not trying to hijack your blog, either. Still, I thought some things needed to be said, and you have been gracious enough to permit them to remain. The discussion has been enjoyable, actually. I certainly had no intention of being the #1 poster on this site aside from you and Mr. Micah, but I couldn't resist.

    Your "road to Damascus" moment will come. Drop me a line when it does, okay? Until then, rail on!

    Praying for you,

  8. Bart, oddly enough, it was "Come to the Sabbat" by Black Widow that "broke me"; do you know those guys, man? They really fell apart once they dropped the Satanism, but that first album is so great that it makes me wish the Devil was real. I don't know if you could listen to it or not, but the "concept" of the album often gets lost in the shuffle for people who listen to it; I think it's clearly a warning to people who dabble in the "Black Arts", as things don't turn out so great for the guy who conjures the girl demon Astreoth. She sounds so smokin' hot though; I can't imagine trying to step in after Satan has had a girl, though. He's gotta be a tough act to follow in the sack.

    But seriously...I have enjoyed the correspondence, and genuinely like you, Bart. Like most Xians, you completely misunderstand what my positions are in re religion and such, but I firmly believe anybody in America has the right to do pretty much as they want so long as it doesn't injure someone else. If your "thing" is praying to a cloud being, have at it; even if you choose to go to a church that preaches what I consider to be hate (not saying YOU do, just as a fer instance) it's your business and I've defended everyone from the Panthers to MOVE to Randy Weaver and even David Koresh until he started fucking kids and violating gun laws. Then, you know, you just gotta kill that sumbitch.

    One thing though: when an Xian says "I'll pray for you", most hep-cats on my side of the fence realize this is the ecumenical equivalent of "go fuck yourself". I know it, and c'mon Bart- you do too. I'm not so out of control that I get offended over it (even Richard Dawkins drives me nuts w/ how quick he is to be "offended") but what if I offered to strangle a chicken for you, my friend? Or burn some incense, or drink some blood, etc., etc., whatever nonsense people do to petition their lord w/ prayer. Please save your prayer for those who need it; I'm an unusually gifted man w/ great hair and a command of the English language that can best be described as "masterful". Surely somebody else needs your sky spook points more than me. Just saying, - Tim

  9. How have I misunderstood your positions? You hate Paul and think Jesus is an imaginary Apocalyptic rabbi. You think born-again Christians are narrow-minded religious bigots and hypocrites--reactionary and potentially violent mouth-breathers who've never read a science book but can field-strip an AR-15 blindfolded. That about right?

    I totally understand the reaction to "I'll pray for you." It sure can sound smug and spiritually condescending, and I don't blame you one bit for taking it that way. All I can say in my defense is that I claim absolutely no place of superiority, real or imagined, to you. I pray as a wicked sinner for the well-being of another wicked sinner.

    If dropping the f-bomb every other sentence is "masterful" eloquence, then Andrew Dice Clay must be a genius on par with Shakespeare in your estimation!

    Thanks for your advice, but I'll continue praying for you all the same, because I care about what happens to you.

    I tried to listen to some Black Widow clips on iTunes, but they were too short to get the whole vibe. The chanting and flute playing was hardly terrifying, but I'm sure there's more to it than that.