August 28, 2006

The Messiah of Morris Avenue

Jesus has returned. Only he’s not called Jesus anymore. He now goes by Jose, or Jay if you’re a friend. And he’s not from Nazareth of Galilee, but Morris Avenue of the Bronx. He’s come, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, the sinners in this case being the Religious Right and others who have perverted the message of Christianity.

The is the premise of Tony Hendra’s The Messiah of Morris Avenue. For the most part, the book is difficult to read. Difficult because Hendra’s English tends to be dry and clunky. Some authors make their words sing. If there’s any singing in this book it’s tantamount to a group of tone-deaf choir boys who have just entered puberty.

That said, the book has one redeeming quality: the sayings of Jay. Upon reading the book, you can’t help but wonder what Jesus would say to the world today. Here are some of the nuggets that Hendra puts in Jay’s mouth.

  • Selfishness is behind every kind of inhumanity. It’s this country’s worst failing. USA stands for United Selves of America.

  • Screens of every kind kill meaning for those on them and for those watching them. People must talk to people; lives much touch lives. The Revelation will not be televised.

  • Can’t walk with me and carry a gun.

  • That homeless guy you gave a quarter to while you were gabbing on your cell phone? He’ll be in paradise long before you.

  • Whoever is near me will burn; whoever is far from me will freeze. There’s nowhere you’ll be comfortable.

  • The best path to salvation is to sell all you have and follow me. It wasn’t too popular the first time around, and it isn’t now.

  • How can anyone shop till they drop in a world where three billion people live on one dollar a day? A country that doesn’t do everything in its power to alleviate that reality can’t speak of its moral values.

  • Murder is not a mission or a career calling or a career. If you went to West Point or the Air Force Academy to get a degree in it, it’s still murder. All the fancy words your superiors come up with—retaliation, extreme prejudice, overwhelming force, collateral damage, smart this, and pinpoint that—cannot alter the fact that all these words mean murder…

    Wearing a uniform does not stop killing from being murder, killing for you country does not stop it from being murder. Clicking on an icon a thousand miles away does not stop if from being murder. Sending a command to a robot does not stop it from being murder. If your sergeant tells you to do it, it’s murder; if you are told by your officer to tell an enlisted man to do it, all three of you commit murder. It’s murder if a court absolves you of all wrongdoing. It’s murder if a man of God blesses the weapon you murder with. It’s murder if you vote for someone who tells others to murder in your name. It’s murder if the one you murder has murdered…

    And if you say God told you to murder, I say to you it is not God you are listening to…

    I have always hated wars waged in my name. God is on our side! Gott mit uns! Deus Vult! God bless America! I am on no one’s side. I am not on America’s side, or Islam’s, or Israel’s, or Europe’s. I have never been on the British, the German, the Spanish, the Dutch, the Catholic, or the Protestant side; I did not uphold the Crusaders, not the Turks or the Golden Hordes, not the sons of Ali or the sons of Muhammed. I did not guide the hand of David or Solomon, or the hand of Caesar or Alexander or Ptolemy. Thou shalt not kill. There are no exceptions…

    There are no just wars. War is a collective murder-suicide pact by members of the same family.

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