When fantasy role-playing replaces faith (cont’d.)

When fantasy role-playing replaces faith (cont’d.) March 2, 2015

Linda Wall doesn’t like dark, creepy basements. I’m right there with her on that one. Dark, creepy basements are dark, after all. And also creepy.

But while I share Wall’s general aversion to such places, I don’t think of this as part of an epic, cosmic struggle between Good and Evil. That’s apparently because I also don’t think of myself as a champion of the righteous remnant standing firm against the onslaught of Satan himself, who is sending his legions of Gay Demons to deceive me and enslave me in thrall to his Unitarian servants.

In the previous post, we looked at the introduction to Wall’s “Satan and the GLBT Demons.” She’s inviting anti-gay Christians to regard her as a heroic champion of the faith. In exchange, she encourages them to entertain the same fantasy about themselves. Christians like herself and those who agree to play along are, she said, battling toe-to-toe with:

… none other than Satan himself. His task is to make war with the remnant that keeps the commandments of God and has the testimony of Jesus Christ. He still comes as “an angel of light.” He knows scripture and can add to it and twists it so that the elect would be deceived if that were possible.

Deceiving the elect is actually Wall’s entire agenda there — with Deception No. 1 being the idea that they are, exclusively, “the elect.” As such, she urges them to accept that they are immune to deception — that they have unique access to the meaning of scripture and “the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Others have fallen away, bowing to “none other than Satan himself.” But we — Wall and anyone who accepts her invitation to participate in this deception — we are “the remnant that keeps the commandments of God.”

The self-aggrandizing fantasy here would be hilarious except for the fact that so many people aren’t in on the joke. Not only do many white evangelical Christians see this fantasy as deadly serious, they’ve accepted the bargain being offered by Wall and countless others — the agreement to help one another fantasize that their otherwise unremarkable lives set them apart as ultra-special saints who are better than everyone else.

It’s easy to see how such fantasizing can be briefly intoxicating. I fully understand the allure of imagining ourselves to be exceptional. Most of us understand this — just look at our most popular stories, from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Buffy to Cinderella in all its endless iterations.

But it’s one think to relate to the longing that Luke or Harry or Cinderella feels and to indulge in those escapist fantasies. It’s something else entirely to decide that you actually are a Jedi knight or a wizard or a princess, and then to try to sustain that fantasy throughout your daily life. Your daily life usually won’t cooperate with such a pretense.

Sustaining the kind of fantasy Linda Wall invites her readers to indulge in takes an enormous amount of imagination. It requires the collaborative effort of a community of fantasists who agree to cooperate by reinforcing one another’s fantasies. And it requires a willingness to reinterpret every mundane detail of the world around you into something fraught with all the drama of the pageant you’re creating in your head.

Satan and the GLBT Demons” are not prowling the streets outside of your home. But Linda Wall shows us how to reorganize our lives as though they were.

Here’s what actually happens in her column: Her boss, a property manager, asks her to clean out the basement of a rental property. She has a dream about snakes. She cleans out the basement and looks at some photos. Then she goes to a Unitarian church and hears a sermon that references St. Benedict.

That may not seem like the stuff of legend, but Linda Wall is an evangelical Christian at war with Satan and his baby-killing Gay Demons, so this all becomes epic and exciting:

On one occasion, while my employer was out of town, one of my tasks for the week was to clean out the basement of his house. I put that task off until the very end of the week, because I was actually afraid to go down in the earthen floor basement to rid it of the homeless squatter’s belongings.

The night before I was due to accomplish this dreaded assignment, I did something I had not done in fifteen years or more; I got on my knees to pray. Somehow I knew I was about to face the rulers of the darkness of this world.

A typical Unitarian church service.
A typical Unitarian church service.

After asking God to be with me and protect me, I jumped into bed. What happened next must have been a vision because not enough time had passed for me to be asleep and dreaming. I saw the pile of junk I was to remove from the basement and watched a snake crawl out from beneath it. In my ignorance of the dark side of the supernatural I thought God was telling me to watch out for the snake, but He was warning me about a much bigger serpent!

The next day I gathered some 50 gallon trash bags, a spotlight and an iron pipe and headed into the cellar. Entry to the earthen floor basement was an exterior entrance much like a tornado shelter. As I swung the heavy wooden cellar doors open my heart raced with fear. While I climbed down the steps I began banging the pipe on anything that would make a noise in hopes of scaring off any snake. Once my feet were on the ground I began shining the spotlight all around.

I felt like I had stepped into a live horror story. Enormous spider webs were hanging everywhere. The place was damp and cold. What was this place of darkness I had entered? All through the basement were wooden stalls with doors that one might keep animals behind. My imagination went wild as I could only imagine what was going to take place in this basement behind these “cages.”

Humanly, I was alone in the basement, but I could sense there were many eyes watching me. I began to sing hymns I use to sing as a kid in church. I couldn’t remember all of the words, but what came to mind I sang out loudly. I knew my only line of defense was God’s Word from those “old –timey” hymns.

As in fast forwarding a movie, I began to stuff the unwanted items into the plastic bags and in a flash the task was completed. What a relief when I exited the cellar and slammed the door. I had been expecting to be captured and locked up any moment the entire time I was down there.

I caught my breath and immediately entered the house to retrieve my car keys and sunglasses. Before leaving, I noticed all of the eyes in the pictures glaring at me. Often I had studied the art work, but for the first time I understood what they all had in common. It was the eyes. It was Satan himself glaring at me.

From here, things take a Lovecraftian turn:

All of a sudden my brain put little incidences together to paint a bigger picture. Many times I had been invited to attend the “calling of the dead” that occurred weekly in the room of this house where the windows were painted black. It seemed that every time I turned around my employer was trying to get me to drink something or eat something that was described as “good for you.” There had also been an ongoing campaign at the gay bar I frequented to convince me to be hypnotized. I had a feeling I had truly encountered the occult.

On Sunday, I visited the Unitarian church where my employer was also a preacher. He had supposedly been away all week at a seminar for pastors to be alone with God. Even though the dots were connecting to indicate satanic activity, I was still curious enough to attend the service. It ended up being my last.

When he began to preach he went into a “trance” speaking with a different accent and under the name of St. Benedict. As I watched this unexplainable happening, I saw the devil’s head on his body and knew God Almighty was intervening and saying, “get out!

The incoherent phantasmagoria of those last three paragraphs makes me wonder if this poor woman is, perhaps, unwell. She seems to be exhibiting paranoia and to be experiencing visual hallucinations. Some form of mental illness might be one explanation for her interpretation and characterization of what would otherwise seem to be a rather dull weekend. But it’s not the only explanation.

This could all be voluntary. It could be nothing more than a particularly vivid example of the role-playing fantasy that has come to replace discipleship in American evangelicalism.



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