Historians in the 21st century don't agree on every aspect of the Great American Millennial Wars. They do agree, though, that the die was cast in the year 2000 when the Hard Rock Lost Lambs o' God used crop dusters to spray Mossback Roman Catholics with a compound that made them allergic to holy water.
They also agree that the seeds of the war had been planted back in 1997.
It was in February of '97 that Judge Roy Moore decided not to obey a higher court ruling that he must remove the Ten Commandments from his Alabama courtroom wall and stop holding prayer meetings with the jury pool.
Judge Moore maintained he was obliged to practice his religion in court.
"My duty under the Constitution is to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian God," he said. But not the deities of religions that don't worship "the God of the Holy Bible on which this country was founded" (LJS, April 12, '97).
Alabama Gov. Fob James said that if necessary he'd call out the National Guard to defend Judge Moore's right to be religious in court. The U.S. House of Representatives voted 295-125 to support Judge Moore, and on April 12, 1997, thousands turned out in Montgomery for a rally on his behalf (LJS, April 13, '97).
But the real trouble, historians all agree, started a year later in the spring of 1998 when a Southern Baptist judge in Arkansas decided that if a little government establishment of religion was good, a lot would be better. A generalized Judeo-Christian court was too easy: he would set up a specifically Baptist court.
So he installed a baptistry and totally immersed witnesses before they testified. Theological dispute broke out when the courtroom janitora suspected Unitariangrew snappish over cleaning up the splashes on the floor and slipped a quart of indelible blue dye into the baptistry.
Other Arkansas sects, fearful they wouldn't get a fair shake if they refused total immersion, found judges in their congregations who agreed to run courts according to their religious convictions.
The practice spread, and by the beginning of 1999, nearly every denomination in the U.S. had its own home court advantage. A few examples:
In the Episcopalian court, sessions began with the burning of incense and the ringing of chimes. "Smells and bells," an indignant Quaker snorted.
In the Mormon court, you couldn't enter unless you arrived in twos and on bicycles.
In the Presbyterian court, no juries were needed, the verdict having already been predestined.
In the Lutheran court, sessions began with ritual denunciations of Garrison Keillor, followed by sacramental servings of Jello and Tuna Hot Dish.
In the Methodist court, witnesses had to repeat the Apostles' Creed, but they didn't have to believe it.
The Truth, Mainly
In the Roman Catholic court, everybody defendants, plaintiffs, lawyers, onlookershad to confess. Depending on what they confessed to, they might get anything from life sentences to 20 Hail Marys. In the Mossback Catholic courtLatin only, pleaseit was 20 Ave Marias.
And it was Latin, all the 21st century historians agree, that precipitated the final breakdown of American unity.
It came when a suit was brought in the Hard Rock Lost Lambs o' God court to do away with the Latin inscription on the Great Seal of the United States, "E pluribus unum." While the notion of "one out of many" was naively noble, albeit secular, it was unacceptable because it was in Latin.
Not just because the Hard Rock Lost Lambs o' God had long since declared English divinely ordained: "If God didn't want His Elect to speak English, why did we grow up talking this way?" It was also because Latin, by long Papist association, was clearly of Satanic origin, and therefore probably unconstitutional. By 2000, almost no one actually read the Constitution any more.
The anti-Latin bias naturally upset the Mossback Catholics and they began showing up on talk shows with Hard Rock Lost Lambs o' God jokes. In Latin, of course. The Elect couldn't understand the jokes, so they assumed the worst.
When their ethnic cleansing attempt"Send the mackerel-snappers back to Rome!"failed, their aerial spraying of the Mossbacks began. Massive retaliation ensued: Hard Rock Lost Lambs o' God lay leaders woke up one morning with 666 stenciled on their foreheads.
Soon other sects joined in and the Great American Millennial Wars were on.
By the time the carnage ended in 2020, the United States had disintegrated into 462 separate theocracies.
Judge Roy Moore, alarmed by the furor he'd set off, had converted to Islam and relocated in Iran back in 2002. There he was named the Ayatollah Roy and encouraged to continue his experiments in sectarian jurisprudence, free at last of religious diversity and outmoded ideas about separation of church and state.
Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes
to salvage clarity from his confusion.
His column appears on alternate Mondays.