As you’ve probably guessed, Father Troll has been very much pushed to the sidelines of my life during the past year. In fact there have been times when I’ve seriously considered killing him off altogether; perhaps by being accidentally shot by while addressing an enthusiastic NRA rally, or as a result of some terrible explosion occurring while he and Bishop Quinine launch themselves into space aboard a home-made rocket in an attempt to become the first missionaries to Pandora. (How could those two not find themselves obsessing about physically gorgeous nine-foot tall blue people who’ve apparently never heard of the importance of misogyny and homophobia to spirituality? And since Avatar was produced by a company owned by Rupert Murdoch they’d have no problem convincing themselves it's not fiction: “I ask you, My Beloved Sinners, would the fine Christian who owns the Fox Network and The Sun ever present something which isn’t true?”).
Partly these feelings have been exacerbated by the passing of the golden age of blogging: there really isn’t the same amount of material to riff on that there was a few years ago. More so, however, they result from a number of changes in my personal life: with a number of projects of which I’m immensely proud growing apace finding 45 minutes to transcribe the rantings of a demented old parody has become harder and harder. It’s one thing to make those around me laugh by slipping into Father Christian’s voice and denouncing whatever has just caught my attention, but very much another to translate that into a few hundred pithy words which will both offend and amuse the appropriate people - who are themselves spread across a number of very different continents, cultures, generations, sexualities, and genders.
More importantly, the circumstances which gave birth to Father Christian have greatly changed. Akinola has retired to enjoy his sumptious retirement gifts, and his replacement has mercifully failed to sustain the buffoonery on a global scale. Jensen has stepped down to do whatever it is fundamentalist archbishops do once they’ve bankrupted their diocese, and even Venables is more in the category of “whatever happened to…” than he is a figure of influence in the church we love. Despite ludicrous predictions to the contrary, Duncan’s new “province” remains as much a part of the Anglican Communion as Scientology, and in terms of current growth only marginally more successful. All of which has often found me wondering if there’s still any need for Father Christian and his retinue? Perhaps having served their purpose it’s better for them to join those upon whom they were based into a well-deserved (albeit long-overdue) slide into obscurity.
Yet the reality is that fundamentalism is far from dead. To forget this is to risk forgetting lessons etched in both the blood of those killed 12 years ago, and the tears shed afterwards by all those who loved them. Bin Laden might be dead, and closer to home sites like Stand Firm might now be a pastiche of what it was five years ago (that there really does exist people who can keep a straight face while reading Fischler’s Facebook: Purveyor of Hate or Ould’s Sex and Jihad – the Failure of Modern Hermeneutics is beyond doubt, but I defy anyone to produce more than a handful who have finished elementary school and are not males with an emotional age of less than 25), but the evil old refrain continues regardless. People continue to reject and persecute others, and deny them basic human rights, because of a conviction that god says they’re wrong. Old men continue to grow in wealth and power by manipulating these convictions, and young men – for fundamentalism is above all else primarily a disease of young and immature men – continue throwing away their lives in attempt to find acceptance in the eyes of those whom they seek to follow.
In response to my last 9/11 post a young fellow from Sydney (why was I not surprised to learn of his location?) left a comment here expressing outrage at what he considered to be my unwitting concatenation of Wahhabist Islam with contemporary Evangelicalism and medieval Catholicism. He never responded to my explanation that there was nothing unwitting in the slightest about my having drawn a link between what are actually just different manifestations of the same obnoxious cocktail of insecurity, poor-education, ambition, fear, and pride. The theological minutiae of what the consumer then sticks down the front of his underpants is a most an after-thought: a gnat with which to garnish one’s camel.
As I said, the young man to whom my response was directed discontinued the dialogue, but I didn’t expect otherwise. Yet he has remained very much in my thoughts, as well as my prayers, and not least because I’m old enough to appreciate his earnest enthusiasm and to grieve at what becomes of his kind when the well of his energy has been drained by those who purport to lead him. And so it’s for his sake, as much as for those whom shared a chuckle from the other side of the aisle, that the terrible Father Christian Troll will live on. Probably not with the same frequency he once did, but hopefully once the chaos of the next few months’ deadlines have passed with more vigour than he’s displayed in the past year.
That’s because young men like him thrive on arguments, and in any case reason and logic have never played any part in the construct of their beliefs (regardless of how much they claim to the contrary). One can at best hope to rattle the cage of delusions a little, and then be there on the ground to support them when the bright shining future once promised by their golden calf of certainty has left them used up and alone. And Father Christian is one of the most effective means by which I’ve ever been able to rattle cage bars.
So until we next meet here, please take care to love those around you. Give thanks when those dearest to you come home from wherever they have been for the day, and make a place in your heart for those whom were on this day – or any other day – not so blessed. And remember that the God who makes the sun shine upon us all has no need for a faith which would leave others in the dark.