The Truth, Mainly - 10/18/1999

Wrath of the right visited upon the impious
by Leon Satterfield

I have a black eye that has no apparent cause.

It was not there when I shaved, but 45 minutes later, when I looked in a mirror, there it was. And nothing had hit me in the eye in the meantime.

"Hey," I tell my wife, "I have a black eye that has no apparent cause."

"You probably broke a blood vessel," she says. "Or perhaps it's an Immaculate Shiner. You may have had a Divine Visitation. I'd phone a doctor. Or a priest."

I opt for my doctor. She sounds interested. She tells me to come right in. I do.

"Either you broke a blood vessel," my doctor says, "or you've experienced a sudden-onset Divine Visitation and have a third-degree Immaculate Shiner."

"Is it serious?" I ask.

"Might be," she says. "Celestial Coreopsis could set in."

"And the treatment?" I say.

"I'd rather not say," she says. "It involves an inflexible sigmoidoscope that often produces acute deleterious effects that persist even beyond repeated applications of the Heimlich maneuver."

"Is there," I say, "no other way?"

"We could try to get to the root cause," she says, "but that may require some intensive-trauma metaphorical surgery. Let's take a look in that left ear."

She pokes a Q-Tip in my left ear, pulls it out, and examines it in silence.

"I'm afraid," she says finally, "that you have toxic levels of malicious mirth and impious impudence inside your head. Have you been laughing at the Religious Right again?"

"A little," I say. "Not much. Just now and then."

But she's got it. I can't help myself. I laugh when Religious Right enthusiasts attack one another for not being enthusiastic enough.

I chortled when Rev. Fred Phelps, the Topeka minister who's the Patron Saint of Homophobia, said Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family is "fag-infested." I guffawed when Dobson's staff said Phelps is "fundamentally anti-Christian."

And I nearly wet myself a couple of weeks ago when Gary Bauer's presidential campaign was seriously sabotaged. Gary, you remember, is the most religiously right of the Religious Right candidates.

There he was, holding a press conference on C-Span, wife and children at his side, looking grim, denying something.

"These rumors and character assassination are disgusting, outrageous, evil and sick," he was saying.

I'm ashamed to say I immediately thought of Bill and Monica. I smirked.

It wasn't until the next day that I laughed out loud. That's when the Washington Post revealed that the source of the rumors wasn't some dirty rotten secular humanist. The source was Gary's own staff. Two of them were resigning to protest what they called his "inappropriate behavior."

You know what the behavior was, don't you?

He spent time alone with a woman not his wife. Sometimes behind closed doors. She's his deputy campaign manager. And sometimes they traveled alone together—at least as alone as you get on a commercial flight.

And that's it. That's all anyone charged him with. That's the whole scandal. But it was enough, the Post reported, to produce "a growing firestorm" among "Christian conservative activists" who are his strongest supporters.

That's when I laughed out loud. Then it got funnier.

One of the guys who resigned said that Gary "as a married man, candidate, and pro-family leader…has no business creating that kind of appearance of impropriety."

Pat Robertson questioned Gary's judgment in violating the following three rules for a Christian leader: "One, never be alone in a room with a woman not your wife. Two, never be alone in a room with a woman not your wife. Three, never be alone in a room with a woman not your wife."

One of the resigned staffers, Charles Jarvis, went over to Steve Forbes' campaign. "What's wonderful about Steve Forbes," Jarvis was quoted as saying in The New York Times, "is that he will never be alone with a woman. Period."

That's when I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself. That's when my malicious mirth and impious impudence must have reached toxic levels. That's when the Wrathful God of the Religious Right must have decided I needed a Divine Visitation and an Immaculate Shiner.

Alone in a room with a woman not my wife, I tell my doctor all this. She nods sympathetically, trying to keep a straight face, but when I tell her that Jarvis thinks it's wonderful that Steve Forbes will never be alone with a woman, she loses her professional detachment.

She smirks. She chortles. She guffaws.

And suddenly she has a black eye that has no apparent cause. It looks a lot like mine. This may be an epidemic.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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