Yesterday I went to the Steubenville Christmas parade, which is a very good parade as I’ve written about before. Appalachian steel mill communities with an unhealthy fixation on high school football aren’t good for much, but they’ve got first rate marching bands. And Adrienne was with her dojo this year, doing bo staff routines all the way down Fourth Street in her dobok and a blue Santa hat. You can’t ask for better entertainment in a small town.
In a small town like this, it is normal for the local churches to have floats in the parade, with volunteers in comical outfits throwing candy and religious tracts to the bystanders. I usually collect a purse full. This year, in addition to the official parade churches, there were some very weird scruffy bearded men in attendance. They didn’t seem to be part of a parade display; they just wandered around the audience, stuffing pamphlets in people’s hands. I got one. I folded it and put it in my purse for later. When I got home, I was in for a treat.
I am a survivor of The Charismatic Renewal, and as such I have a lurid fascination with end times fearmongering. But I’d never heard of this particular narrative. I took photos and posted them to my Twitter, but I’m not going to reproduce them on Patheos because sometimes a blog post which mentions conspiracy theories gets flagged by social media as disinformation even if it’s mocking the conspiracy theory in question. But it’s all right there, page after page of drivel.
According to this tract, it seems that in the near future we are all going to be the victims of a mail order scam by the Antichrist. We’re going to start getting a small circular bandage in the mail, free of charge, with a note explaining that it is an inoculation. When we put on the bandage, it will inject us with diabolical fluids that permanently etch the Mark of the Beast onto our bodies.
These evil stickers, these “bandaids of the beast” if you will, will then go even further and re-write our genetic code turning us into “TRANSHUMANS.” You can tell this is serious business because they typed out TRANSHUMANS in all caps. I thought that meant my trans friends would save a lot of money on medications, but I was living in a fool’s paradise. The stickers will turn each and every one of us into a trackable antenna, able to be located and contacted from afar. I shuddered with dread of this brand new unique technology as I checked my smartphone’s text messages to see what my friends were up to, and then looked at the GPS to find the best way to drive home in post-parade traffic.
There are a lot of lurid references to guillotines in the pamphlet, and I’m not familiar with this particular interpretation of the Book of Revelation. But it seems that anyone who refuses to put on their magic bandage will be guillotined by the Antichrist and go become one of the chorus of white-robed martyrs. Anyone who goes ahead and becomes an antenna will go to hell and burn in a pit of sulfur, of which the smoke will rise for eternity.
The third page of this remarkable document was printed on the front in blue ink and the back in red. I hoped this was a clever reference to Myst, my all time favorite video game, but again I was just wishful thinking. The blue page was a lavish description of Heaven, including the materials of which it is constructed and its exact spatial dimensions so you can start your Ikea order now. However, most of us don’t have to worry about the dimensions of Heaven because we will never get near it. Most everybody is going to hell, which is described on the red page. In hell there will be fire and regret and the aforementioned sulfur that burns for all eternity. The ways to get to hell are numerous, and they don’t all involve wearing a bandage that a stranger mailed to you either. You can go to hell for being greedy, for being “vile,” for being gay, for being a “male prostitute,” practicing magic and various other fun activities.
Fortunately for us, there’s a way to get off the naughty list. And it doesn’t involve any works! Oh no, the blue page assures us, you absolutely cannot be saved by works. Only grace will do. Not a smidge of work or else you’re faithless. Because you are saved by grace and not works, you have to repent of all of your sins, trust wholly and unreservedly in the power of Jesus to save you, ask him to be your Lord and Savior, live an entirely transformed life without relapsing into your old sin, and avoid the wiles of the Antichrist when that bandaid comes in the mail. All of this sounds like an awful lot of work to me. The tract also cautions that we cannot be saved by the Virgin Mary or the Bagavad Gita. We have to read the Bible which is perfectly clear in all of its rules and regulations with absolutely no room for interpretation by anyone. Just look at the past 2000 years of history if you want to know how that worked out.
Anyway, I’m thankful to the scraggly men for an hour of amusement after the parade.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and check the mail. I don’t want to somehow accidentally miss my Antichrist sticker. I’m going to save a LOT of money on phone data.
image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.