Tag Archives: Judaism

Yeah So Rapture Ready! is a Pretty Okay Book

24 Feb

I finished Daniel Radosh’s Rapture Ready! about a week ago, and even though I ruminated on it here and here, I figured I should give it a full review because, well, I said I would. Plus, it’s a reasonably worthwhile book if Evangelical Christian pop culture is something you’re interested in. Frankly, you should be interested in it and you should find the bulk of it hilarious. But I dunno, maybe you’re one of those stuck up types who can’t chuckle at a picture of Jesus on a coffee mug or something.


Radosh’s year-long excursion through the world of retail Evangelism begins at a Christian rock festival, and takes the reader to such disparate settings as the Holy Land Experience in Florida and a Christian rave in Ohio. There’s even Ultimate Christian Wrestling, an idea which is simultaneously obvious and ridiculous considering Christ’s commitment to non-violence. But then if we start dissecting that particular bit of hypocrisy, I’ll never get done with this essay. Throughout the author’s travels, we join him in a bit of snickering about the silliness of it all, but for the most part he is respectful and even-handed concerning the whole crazy circus. Even when he meets Bibleman, he doesn’t just cock his head and suspiciously say to the guy, “Bibleman? Really?” Which is precisely what I would do.


In fact, we do precious little snickering at those wacky Evangelists, and one of the problems with this book. I was surprised to learn that Daniel Radosh has written and staffed for several revered humor publications, because Rapture Ready! didn’t strike me as particularly funny at all. I mean, it wasn’t unfunny, but it certainly wasn’t a guffaw-laden romp through Christian breath mints and Jesus-loving heavy metal bands. The author successfully attempted to humanize the pop Christian world, which effectively takes the fun out of it. I don’t want to respect some kid wearing a t-shirt with a Reese’s logo that’s been changed to “Jesus,” I want to smirk and chortle and think about how much smarter I am. If I wanted to empathize with my fellow man, I’d read the fucking bible.


Still, while it was kind of a dry read, it was still reasonably enjoyable and packed with the kind of anecdotes you want to read upon picking the book up. My favorite interactions are when Radosh informs his hosts that he is Jewish, and they embrace him as part of the new born again Christian support of Israel, the subtext of which is that a Jewish state is integral to the fomenting of Armageddon. I also learned quite a bit reading this book, which I can’t knock. If Christian pop culture is interesting to you, then I’m not sure there’s another book out there to compete with this. But if you’re looking for a highly readable book which points fingers at the religious right wing component of America, well then you’ll probably have to watch Bill Maher or something.

Christians, You Freak Me Out

16 Feb

I’ve been reading Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh. It’s a fairly good book, the writing is not amazing but it’s certainly engaging enough. So far, it’s about Radosh’s travels around America sampling bits and pieces of Christian pop culture, most of which are enough to send the average New York liberal into his reinforced 9/11 bunker. Being a lifelong New Yorker, as well as having been raised Unitarian Universalist, I haven’t had much experience with Evangelical Christians. I know a lot of Christians but few have ever tried to seriously convert me.


Reading Rapture Ready! has caused me to reflect on my upbringing. I was raised in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighborhood where virtually all of my peers went to one of two local churches. On Wednesdays during grade school, when my friends were allowed to leave a little early to attend Confirmation Class, the only kids left in the room were myself, a Jewish girl, and a smelly kid of unknown religious affiliation. I was jealous that my schoolmates were allowed to leave early until I found out what they were being taught. I wasn’t too popular as a little kid, but I wasn’t totally friendless. I think I was ostracized in part for not being Catholic, but largely for being a weird nerd in so many other dazzling ways.


I remember being in the first grade and blithely informing my friends that I didn’t believe in God. If I had been more articulate, I might have explained that what I was rejecting was this bizarre paternal figure who we’re told is peaceful and compassionate, yet heaps vengeance and punishment on people all the time. If I wasn’t six, I could have said that I didn’t subscribe to an anthropomorphic God, an all-knowing creator who gives a shit about our daily comings and goings. However, I had neither the vocabulary or the cognition to express myself fully, so I dropped my non-believer bombshell and my first grade classmates slowly moved away from me in terror. “You’re going to Hell!” they cautioned, or taunted, or both. “God hates you,” explained one girl, sadly, though she didn’t further clarify why I should care what a fictional character thinks of me. Possessing none of the emotional fortitude necessary for theological discussion, I burst into tears. I was still crying when I got home and told my grandma what happened. “Don’t worry,” she said in an exhale of cigarette smoke, “you’ll believe in God eventually.”


When I was around nineteen, I worked at a liquor store during the summer with a guy who was a self-professed born-again Christian. More than his being a Christian, I remember this dude was the BIGGEST Debbie Gibson fan I’d ever met. He had all of her albums and singles in every available format, and his most prized possessions were a half dozen unopened bottles of Gibson’s perfume, “Electric Youth.” He was a little weird and most of our co-workers avoided him, but I’d chat him up from time to time. “Being a Christian is the ultimate rebellion,” he explained to me one day, “because everywhere you go, you’re persecuted for what you believe.” I was confused by this statement, I had certainly known no one to be persecuted for being Christian in my neighborhood. Seemed to me that most everyone was Christian, meanwhile I was teased and called a Jew even though I had set foot in synagogues maybe three times in my life.


At the heart of this belief some Christians seem to share, that they are righteous and persecuted and need to keep up the good fight, is pretty much why Christians routinely freak me out. I think we should tolerate other beliefs, it’s part of harmonious society and people are so fixed in their trust in crazy shit that it’s less work to accept their craziness than it is to rectify it. However, part of my tolerance includes you not explaining any part of your belief system to me. Chances are, it’s ridiculous and going into detail about it will only make me lose respect for you. Virgin births, resurrection, wheels turning within wheels…it’s all a bit much, isn’t it? You’ll get fewer stares claiming to believe in Bigfoot than you will trying to explain the inner workings of the Mormon church. And the ridiculous part is that there’s no shortage of Mormons lining up to tell me all about it.


I guess my point is that I don’t really care if someone is a Christian any more than I care if they are homosexual. That’s something they do on their own time and it shouldn’t affect me. Similarly, I want to hear about your personal relationship with Jesus Christ about as much as I would like to see two dudes screwing. Or anyone screwing, really. I mean when you really watch two people have sex, even if the people are attractive, it’s pretty gross. But you don’t have to take my word for it, attend the next sermon this coming Sunday at my Church of Sextology. Bring a friend!

Neither Jew Nor Gentile

31 Jan

I grew up in Eastern Queens in New York City, in a largely suburban Catholic neighborhood. Pretty much everyone I went to grade school with was Catholic, except for the Greeks who were Greek Orthodox. Every Wednesday, kids studying for their confirmations could get out of school a little early, leaving only myself and some Indian kid to run out the clock. How I envied them.

My father was raised a Conservative Jew and gave me a surname to reflect his legacy. My mom was raised Episcopalian but never made a big deal about it. I wasn’t raised Jewish or Christian, I was raised a Unitarian Universalist, which is more of a tolerant ideology than it is a firm religion. This fact was completely lost on my schoolyard chums, with good reason. Who has ever heard of Unitarian Universalism? And besides, I have a Jewish last name, so I was derided as the token Jew.

Early on, I would attempt to correct my peers. “I am not Jewish,” I’d explain, “I am a Unitarian Universalist. I believe in religious tolerance.” This was meaningless to my eight year-old friends who would blink with surprise and continue chanting “kike!” I am also of German heritage, which was enough for the brain trust at my elementary school to determine I was a Nazi Jew. I was more confused than hurt by these poorly-aimed digs. I’m not now and never was Jewish, so calling me a Jew is simply erroneous. At the same time, I had very little interaction with Jews so I didn’t get why it was such a bad thing to be one.


It’s tough being neither Jew nor Gentile in a world where you are either, or, or “other.” No actual Jew would ever consider me a “real” Jew because my mother is a shiksa. No Christian has ever considered that I might not be Jewish. Even today, my neighbor will say hi and ask me if I enjoyed my holiday. It’s often some time later that I realize a Jewish holiday had passed and she was trying to recognize it. I do understand that she is being sweet and pleasant, and I appreciate it, but sometimes I want to say, “I celebrate the same or fewer of the stupid holidays you celebrate. I don’t know Yom Kippur from Hannukah.” But then I think I’d probably hurt her feelings. There she is, in her twilight years, trying to be conciliatory to her Jewish neighbor. And I go and fuck it all up by not even being Jewish! Oy vey izmir.

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