Monday, February 19, 2007

Where is Mark Twain When We Need Him?

If you've only read Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer (which was a book by Mark Twain before it was a song by Rush), you're missing out. Sadly, the odds are against you having read even those, because they are long and have naughty words in them. You may have read The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County because it is only going to offend PETA. Mark Twain is the shit, and one of the reasons I'm proud to be a Midwesterner.

For reasons unclear to me, school curricula, where they touch on Mark Twain at all, tend to avoid his works which are most relevant today. His fiery, impassioned The War Prayer is missing. So is his Battle Hymn of the Republic (Brought Down to Date), written in response to the Spanish American War but equally applicable to Iraq, and thus, unlikely to be read on purpose by anyone other than a Twain scholar (or fan).

Today, however, I have another Twain work in mind. I present a small excerpt:

During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.

Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.

--Mark Twain
"Bible Teaching and Religious Practice"


Why is this on my mind today? Exorcism.

Irina Cornici grew up in a Romanian orphanage, which I'm guessing pretty much sucked. She also suffered from schizophrenia, which is also not a piece of cake. But things got much, much worse. A couple of years ago, she visited a friend at a convent and decided to stay.

Three months later, the priest Daniel Petru Corogeanu, with the help of 4 nuns, tied her to a cross, denied her food and water, stuffed a towel in her mouth, and left her to die. Because she's the evil one in this story? What? When the story first broke, the priest said (and sadly this is an actual quote), "I don't understand why journalists are making such a fuss about this," and claimed that her death was a miracle performed by God. Reclusive and uncommunicative as ever, God has declined to comment on his involvement in the incident. Daniel and his "dozens of supporters" from the pro-homicide wing of the Orthodox church plan to appeal his conviction.

The Orthodox Church has promised reforms, including allowing fewer people into the priesthood who are completely batshit crazy. However, they have not gone so far as to rejoin the 21st century, already in progress, or acknowledge that people don't actually get posessed by the devil.

One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.

1 comment:

Flannery Alden said...

God bless Mark Twain. He had a sharp eye for bullshit, that's for sure, and a quick wit to call it what it was. Also, he had a tender heart which broke because of the fallout of said bullshit.

I'd be interested to see the criteria for "not batshit crazy". Maybe something like:

1. Does not check into and out of revolving door rehab, shave head, get tattooed in order to get a dose of press-buzz and go back to continue rehab.

2. Believes all life sacred.

3. Does not single-mindedly believe what he/she wants to hear and then go to war over it.

4. Does not wear mini-skirts in the dead of winter.

5. Does not try to sell celebrity detrius on e-bay for insane amounts of money

6. Does not tuck sweaters in his/her pants/cassocks

Well, at least I got them started.