And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, "Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind; thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed; neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee."
Of all the bizarre events that marked the end of the millennium, the most traumatic, state historians now agree, was the Great Leviticosis Epidemic that swept through Nebraska during the last two months of 1999.
"Massteria," some called it, echoing the term coined by Prof. Harold Hill to describe the widespread conviction that playing pool would destroy the youth of River City.
But others said "Leviticosis" was a genuine psychic epidemic, the result of a toxic obsession with the book of Leviticus _ only a short section of Leviticus in more virulent cases _ to the exclusion of all other writ, holy or otherwise.
It all started, theologians believe, in mid-November, 1999, when a liberal denomination, noted for tolerance, defrocked one of its ministers for officiating at the marriage of a couple wearing garments mingled of linen and woollen.
"It's true that we are a liberal denomination noted for our tolerance," said a spokesman for the church, "but our duty was clear. We had to defrock the Rev. Jimmy Creche because he showed no respect for church authority _ and no respect for God's wish that linen and woollen not be mingled."
The Rev. Creche was unrepentant. He said he would continue conducting union ceremonies for any couple who asked him to, no matter what fabrics were mingled in their garments. He even said that the swaddling clothes of the baby Jesus could have been mingled of linen and woollen.
Outside the church where the trial was held, the Rev. Fred Yelps and members of his Topeka church, The Tabernacle of Leviticus Uber Alles, held up signs proclaiming that "God Hates Fabric-Mixers," Fabric-Mixers Are Burning in Hell," and "Fabric-Mixers Make us Sick to Our Stomachs."
Why, a reporter asked the Rev. Yelps, did he choose Fabric-Mixing as the priority sin of all those God warns Moses against in Leviticus? Why not cross-breeding cattle or hybridizing seed corn?
"Is it," the reporter asked pointedly, "because, as some have said, you have a phobia about Fabric-Mixing?"
"Don't be silly," the Rev. Yelps explained. "The rules against cross-breeding cattle and hybridizing seed corn are just little jokes God was playing on Moses. And I don't have no stinking phobias about no stinking Fabric-Mixers!"
But the Great Leviticosis Epidemic of 1999, like all else in the state, didn't get really serious until it involved the Nebraska football team. It started when an assistant coach said on his radio program that he once hated Fabric-Mixers. He used to call them "fops," he said, and he wanted to beat them up.
The Truth, Mainly
But now that he's been converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, he said, "I just love Fabric-Mixers to pieces. Of course they'll still have to burn in hell. It's in Leviticus."
The assistant coach was a fine assistant coach and full of good cheer most of the time. He often went to youth groups to warn them away from alcohol and drug abuse, but one of the youths said, "the next thing you know he's talking about Fabric-Mixing. He's got a thing about Fabric-Mixing."
Cornhusker team members said his thing about Fabric-Mixing didn't get in the way of his coaching.
"Oh, sure," said one nose-guard, "he lets us know that Fabric-Mixing is a sin because Leviticus says it is, and he lets us know that Fabric-Mixers will burn in hell. But he doesn't make the Fabric-Mixers on the team uncomfortable."
But other players raised disturbing questions.
"Do we want a coach preaching to us?" asked an anonymous junior tight end from Spalding. "Do we want a preacher calling plays?"
But by the time the team left Lincoln in December to go to the bowl game, most of the defensive unit was far gone in Leviticosis, convinced that Fabric-Mixing is not only a serious sin but an Abomination. They were absolutely repelled by it. The very mention of Fabric-Mixing gave them the fantods.
And that's when an assistant coach for the bowl opponent had a brilliant idea. He planted a story in the press that his team's quarterbacks, running backs, wingbacks, tight ends, and split ends had all decided to wear new uniforms in the bowl game.
Uniforms mingled of linen and woollen.
The Cornhusker defense was aghast. In fear of contaminating their souls by getting Fabric-Mixer cooties, they refused to touch the taboo uniforms.
They refused to touch the taboo uniforms even when the wearers of the uniforms had the ball and were running toward the goal line.
The result was that the Huskers lost the game, 178-49.
And as any Nebraskan could have predicted, that ended, among other things, the Great Leviticosis Epidemic of 1999.
Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes
to salvage clarity from his confusion.
His column appears on alternate Mondays.