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NARRATOR (always voice only): This is the story of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Christianity, a wholly remarkable book. Probably the most remarkable book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Augustine/Calvin. It is more popular than The Complete Exegetical Omnibus, better selling than Fifty-Three More Ways to Convert a Non-Believer, and more controversial than Winston Stapleton’s trilogy of theological-political blockbusters, Where Bush Went Wrong, Some More of Bush’s Greatest Mistakes, and Who Is This Bush Person Anyway?
In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Western Coast of the United States, the Hitchhiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopedia Biblaica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal (though, ironically, nothing about the Apocrypha itself), it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.
First, it is slightly cheaper; and second, it has the words SINNERS WELCOME inscribed in large friendly letters on the cover.
To tell the story of the book, it's best to tell the story of some of the minds behind it. Artie Kent, a student from Evergreen Theological Seminary, is one of them. Though, as our story opens, he no more knows his destiny than a Southern Baptist knows the history of the XXX Multiplex in West LA.
(scene: ARTIE KENT walks in from stage right. A group of students comes in from the opposite side. At least one is holding a sign saying “The End of the World is Nigh!” Others should have signs protesting a construction project. Artie sees the group and approaches.)
ARTIE KENT: Excuse me, what’s going on here?
PROTESTER ONE: We’re protesting the construction of the new 410 bypass. Since they couldn’t build it through the wealthy town south of here, they’ve decided to take it straight through the seminary.
ARTIE KENT: But why?
PROTESTER TWO: Well, it’s a bypass. Apparently you’ve got to build bypasses.
ARTIE KENT: Well, I’m afraid I can’t stay and help, I’m late for class. Good luck! (Artie runs out stage left. Protesters shout and wave their signs while walking off stage right)
NARRATOR: The Webster Illustrated Contemporary Dictionary defines “luck” as “that which happens by chance; fortune or lot.” It says that to “try one’s luck” is to “try to do something without certainty of success.” The Hitchhiker’s Guide also mentions luck. It notes that many Christians define luck as “the notion that the world is random and left to chance at best, and an evil force at worst. Either way being antithetical to the notion of God’s all-controlling providence and blessing.” This requires them to come up with new terms for otherwise everyday phrases. “Good luck” becomes “God bless,” a “Pot luck” dinner becomes a “pot bless” dinner, and so on. The Hitchhiker’s Guide further notes that other Christians see this an unnecessary infringement upon contemporary language, suggesting that “everybody knows we don’t really mean that the world is left to chance” and further arguing that the first group of Christians shouldn’t be such nosy busybodies. This, naturally, gets the first group of Christians upset at the second set, leading to many heated arguments and fights over how best to use language in a way that consistently describes God’s loving kindness, the end result of which is that nearly all Christians involved more fervently desire that God would simply take them away to heaven all the sooner, so they might leave this crazy, messed-up, chaotic world behind.
(Artie returns from stage left. He stumbles upon a pile of clothes and picket signs in the middle of the stage.)
ARTIE KENT: What in the world? Don’t tell me that LaHaye and Jenkins were right after all!
FORD: (Walks in from off stage. Dressed somewhat eccentrically.) They weren’t.
ARTIE KENT: Really? Then how do you explain the piles of clothes laying here? Clothes I know that my friends were wearing just a couple of hours ago! And who are you anyway?
FORD: Oh! Excuse me. I’m Ford Prophet. Well, I’d say LaHaye and Jenkins weren’t entirely right, at any rate. Yes, some Christians have indeed been raptured. But didn’t you think it odd that your class continued right through it all, and that your professor kept on lecturing as though nothing had happened?
ARTIE KENT: Now that you mention it, that does seem a bit odd….
FORD: Now work with me, here. According to the book, the people that got left behind got a second chance to know Jesus, right?
ARTIE KENT: But of course. Buck Williams’ conversion scene from the movie has been played in our evangelism seminars for years!
FORD: But how did you come to know about Christ?
ARTIE KENT: Oh, that’s easy. My second grade Sunday School teacher!
FORD: Exactly! Someone told you about him! Now, do you really think that giving people a second chance would do the least bit of good if all the Christians were already gone? Who would tell them about Jesus?
ARTIE KENT: Hmmm…. You have a point. But shouldn’t there be plenty of nominal Christians left behind? They would realize that they were wrong after seeing what happened.
FORD: Yes, yes, well, I think you credit humanity with a bit too much intelligence. Anyway, I figure that’s why some of us are still here. We’re here to set folks straight. And that’s why I’m here. I’m here to ask you help me write the most important book ever to be written.
ARTIE KENT: (a bit put off) The Bible’s already been written! It’s totally sufficient for our salvation….
FORD: yes,yes,yes. Well, the second-most important, then. Here (hands Artie a copy). Just read the first paragraph.
ARTIE KENT: (takes book a bit warily) Ooookay. Whatever you say. (Looks at book, while voice-over gives next passage.)
NARRATOR: God is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big God is. I mean, you may have trouble wrapping your mind around the concept of transubstantiation, but that's just peanuts to God.
ARTIE KENT: Interesting.
FORD: So, will you join me?
ARTIE KENT: Well, I don’t know…. (loud noise offstage. The noise of a bulldozer engine.)
FORD: Well, it looks like you’d better make up your mind now. With all the protestors raptured, there’s nothing stopping that bulldozer from tearing down the seminary! (noise gets louder. Sound of buildings being torn down. Lights flicker and debris thrown on from offstage left. Artie and Ford run off stage right.)
NARRATOR: Have our heroes really been “left behind”? Will they escape the destruction of the seminary? Will they be able to find meaningful employment? What does all this mean for the rest of the seminary population? Does anything have any meaning anyway? At least some of these questions might be answered in our next installment.
LIGHTS OUT: END PART ONE