Monday, October 08, 2007

REPOST: The Hitchhiker's Guide to Christianity

I originally posted this over a year and a half ago, but I've never been especially happy with the "last part first" set-up I get from that link, and haven't figured out how to set it up so that the story reads from beginning to end as it should. I finally decided that I just need to repost the whole thing in it's proper order as a single (if long) post. Here goes:

(with apologies to Douglas Adams)

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


PART TWO

NARRATOR: The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very happy and been widely regarded as a good move.

Many cultures believe that it was created by some sort of god, although the Christian concept of a single supreme being is by no means shared by all of them.

As multitudinous as the explanations for the Universe’s creation are the theories of how the Universe will end. Even among Christians, there is widespread disagreement on this. Many Christians, for example, believe in a concept known as “the Rapture,” whereby the faithful are taken away from Earth to join God in heaven before the final end comes to the poor saps left behind on the planet below. While some Christians scoff at this interpretation of the end, this is exactly what seems to have occurred to a group of student protestors with whom Artie Kent had a conversation only a few hours ago. Despite that fact that they are Christians themselves, Artie and his friend Ford Prophet have reasoned that God must have left some believers behind to tell the remaining non-Christian population that the end is coming soon, and so have started writing The Hitchhikers’ Guide to Christianity, with which they hope to reach the masses.

Having recently escaped the destruction of Evergreen Theological Seminary to make way for the new 410 bypass, Artie and Ford come upon the former seminary bookstore, which is beginning to make changes in light of recent events.

(Artie and Ford enter from stage right. They arrive to meet a worker standing behind a cash register on stage left.)

BOOKSTORE WORKER: Welcome to Evergreen Family Booksellers. How may I help you today?

FORD: I’m not sure. I’m surprised to see that the bookstore is still here. I’d have thought it would be demolished with the rest of the seminary.

BOOKSTORE WORKER: The benefit of being on the other side of the street, I guess. Of course, since we won’t have so many students coming by, anymore, we have to become a more conventional Christian bookstore.

ARTIE: I see you have the complete set of “Left Behind” books on your shelves.

BOOKSTORE WORKER: Well, as the number one selling series of Christian literature on the market, we’d be pretty foolish not to carry them. We’re also looking to carry the complete set of “Left Behind” videos, compact discs, computer software, children’s literature and study guides.

FORD: And where are all the textbooks?

BOOKSTORE WORKER: They’ve been moved to the clearance section. Pretty much no one buys the academic books these days. Most Christian book-buyers prefer to have all that intellectual stuff done for them, and so we’re just looking to carry “Left Behind” books and Thomas Kinkade posters. Our new motto is: “Don’t worry, you won’t have to think about a thing!”

ARTIE: How about your Evangelism section?

BOOKSTORE WORKER: That’s mostly filled with extra copies of the “Left Behind” books. But we have a few other items as well. As a matter of fact… (Ducks under register to get Bumper fish) Would you like a Bumper fish?

NARRATOR: The Bumper fish is probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It is a small plastic outline of a fish affixed with adhesive on one side, intended to be sold in Christian bookstores and placed on the bumper of the buyer’s automobile. The practical upshot of this is that if you stick a Bumper fish on your car you can instantly tell anyone that you are a Christian in any language.

This led to the creation of the Darwin fish, a similar outline of a fish with legs added, intended to make fun of the fundamentalist Christian rejection of the theory of evolution. The Darwin fish led, in turn, to the creation of the “Truth Fish”: a Bumper fish emblazoned with the word TRUTH in large capital letters, depicted as eating a Darwin fish. This led to the Reality Bites fish, (a Darwin fish eating a standard Bumper fish).

Other fish have been created following this pattern, in what has commonly been called the “Fish Wars,” giving us the Cat fish, the Tuna fish, the Yoda fish, the Science fish, the Alien fish, and the “Fish N Chips” fish, among many, many others.

Most leading theologians lament this misuse of one of the most ancient symbols of Christianity, but that hasn’t stopped Christian bookstores from making a fortune on Bumper fish magnets, Bumper fish shirts, and other Bumper fish merchandise.

Meanwhile, the standard Bumper Fish, having effectively removed all barriers to communication between Christians and non-Christians, has caused more and fiercer arguments than any other item in all of Christianity, not including, of course, the Bible itself.

ARTIE (holding fish, puts it back down on the counter): I think I’ll pass for now, thanks.

FORD: But maybe we can help you guys out.

BOOKSTORE WORKER: (suspicious) How?

FORD: My friend and I are writing a new book to help all the regular folks out there know more about Christianity. It will make Christianity look “with it” and “hip.” You’ll sell millions of copies!

BOOKSTORE WORKER: I don’t think anyone uses the terms “with it” and “hip” anymore.

FORD: Whatever. Look (pulls out a copy of the Guide, and hands it to the worker). Here’s a copy of the current draft. You look it over, and if you like it, we can have the final version ready for your shelves within a month!

BOOKSTORE WORKER: Well, I don’t know….

FORD: Wonderful! (shakes worker’s hand) Artie! We’re off to do more research! (Artie puts down the copy of “Left Behind” he’s been holding, gives worker a look that says “yeah, he’s weird, but it’s best just to humor him,” then leaves with Ford.)

NARRATOR: Will Artie and Ford be successful in getting the Hitchhiker’s Guide published? Will the Evergreen Family Booksellers become multimillionaires? Will Artie ever tell Ford that he’s three fries short of a Happy Meal? Join us for the next reasonably illuminating installment.

LIGHTS OUT: END PART TWO.


PART THREE

NARRATOR: Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Coast of United States lies a small, unregarded little church.

If one traveled from this church at a distance of roughly seven miles, one would find an utterly insignificant little green-colored seminary whose denizens are so amazingly primitive that they still think that double predestination is a pretty neat idea.

This seminary has, or rather had, a problem, which was this: most of the people that went there were unhappy pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because it was the utter absence of these small green pieces of paper which tended to cause the unhappiness in the first place.

And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones who considered themselves predestined.

Eventually, God apparently raptured a significant portion of the seminary’s student population to heaven, effectively ending their concern over the small bits of paper forever. This left no viable opposition to the building of the new 410 bypass right through the center of the seminary property, causing the seminary to be shut down, and forcing those who remained to take their problems elsewhere.

Two of those who remained, students Artie Kent and Ford Prophet, have since embarked on a journey to write The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Christianity, which they hope to better enable the remaining unsaved population to come to know Jesus Christ, whereby they, too, would have their problems solved.

Artie and Ford now find themselves at the relocated offices of Evergreen Seminary's School of Psychology, where they find former students attempting to solve some problems of their own.

STUDENT 1: Now tell me, are you experiencing feelings of loss and betrayal?

STUDENT 2: (surprised) Why, yes!

STUDENT 1: Do you feel as though something has been taken away from you?

STUDENT 2: (even more amazed) Yes! That’s it exactly!

FORD (to Artie, but loud enough for others to hear): Well, of course she does. Her school is buried under a pile of rubble!

STUDENT 1: (a bit annoyed) Can we help you?

FORD: Yes, I think you can! You see, my friend and I are doing research for this book, you see, and….

STUDENT 1: (excited) Oh! Research! Oh, I’m sure we’d love to help!

FORD: … and we’re trying to work out how best to communicate Christianity to the average person.

STUDENT 1: What do you mean by “average?” We would need to have the term carefully quantified in order to ascertain reliable results.

FORD: (obviously not expecting this)…. Well, you know, “average,” just like… Artie, help me out here.

ARTIE: Well, you know, “normal.” Just like everybody else.

STUDENT 1: (laughs) Oh, I’m afraid I’ll still have to ask you to be more specific. Obviously, we’re not all a bunch of clones walking around.

ARTIE: Oh, I see your point…. Well, how about “not unusually different.”

STUDENT 1: Surely, you’ve been at Evergreen long enough to know that we value our differences.

(egg timer sound goes off.)

STUDENT 2: Oh! Time’s up! My turn! (Students 1 and 2 switch places)

STUDENT 2 (to Student 1): Now tell me about this dream you had about the walls crashing down all around you.

FORD: What a minute! Who’s treating who?

STUDENT 2: Oh, we’re treating each other. We’ve all had to deal with the loss of the seminary, and so we’re working through each other’s trauma over the experience.

STUDENT 1: We’re wounded healers.

NARRATOR: The Hitchhiker’s Guide says that a “wounded healer” is any person in any healing profession that has had to struggle with many of the very same problems that the person being healed has come to the professional for help in dealing with. The term is most often used for professionals in the mental heath disciplines, due to the high number of such professionals that appear to come from broken homes or have otherwise painful backgrounds. The Hitchhiker’s Guide hastens to add that this phenomenon is only in apparent disproportion to the rest of society due to the fact that mental health professionals are aware of their issues, while the large majority of humanity simply stumbles along in total ignorance of the monstrous problems that practically everybody, in fact, possesses.

(PROTESTER ONE comes onstage, dressed now in business attire, and walks up to the two Psych students. Artie and Ford are visibly stunned.)

PROTESTER ONE: Excuse me, I’m here for my 4:30 appointment.

ARTIE: But, but, you’re the protester I talked to before the Rapture!

PROTESTER ONE: Rapture? What are you talking about?

ARTIE: Are you, or are you not, the same student protester I spoke to before the construction crews demolished the seminary?

PROTESTER ONE: Yes….

ARTIE (turns to Ford): And did I, or did I not, find protest signs and a bunch of clothes in a pile on the ground, EMPTY, when you and I met?

FORD: Well, of course.

PROTESTER ONE: And you think that I was raptured? (laughs) Wow, you need to read your dispensational theology a bit more! No, I was simply hired by the developers to handle public relations!

ARTIE: Say what?

PROTESTER ONE: Well, they were impressed at how well we were doing, and asked us if we’d rather work for them instead of against them. Paid considerably better than a seminarian’s salary, let me tell you!

ARTIE: (flabbergasted) But why did you leave your signs, and ALL YOUR CLOTHES, right there, in the middle of the road?

PROTESTER ONE: Well, we wouldn’t been very good public relations consultants in t-shirts and slacks, would we? And if we were carrying around signs that accused the developers of working against the will of God, that would be rather counter-productive to good PR work, wouldn’t it?

FORD: (interrupting) So, you mean to tell me, that your values, your convictions, your dedication to the work of Evergreen Seminary, all meant nothing compared to a big paycheck? You simply abandoned everything to work for the big corporations?

PROTESTER ONE: Well, actually, I’m rather conflicted about it. That’s why I’m here. (turns to Psych student) I’d like to speak to someone about my deep-seated feelings of guilt.

STUDENT 1: Of course, if you would just join us this way…. (Both Psych students and protestor head off stage, leaving Artie and Ford alone.)

ARTIE: I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it. Does no one have any personal integrity anymore?

FORD: Well, look at it this way. Perhaps the Rapture hasn’t happened yet. But there’s still a need to tell people about God. And clearly the old methods haven’t worked. What do you say? Wanna join me in writing the most important book ever written?

ARTIE: After the Bible!

FORD: (starts walking off stage) Yes, yes, of course. The Bible will always be the most important book ever written. But have you ever looked at that thing? Someone’s still got to interpret it. I mean, all that stuff about prophecy, commands against cutting your hair, exhortations to stone children.... It’s no wonder we’ve got so many competing denominations out there! Now, what I think we need…. (fades as Ford and Artie head off stage)

NARRATOR: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Christianity was written by Mark Baker-Wright of Transforming Seminarian, and features whatever actors you wish to imagine in the roles, with the provision that the voice of the Narrator must be understood to be read with a British accent at all times. If you have failed to imagine such a voice in your reading of the script thus far, you are therefore required to go back to the beginning, and start again.

You may now return your seats to their full and upright position, and the remainder of your journey through life will proceed without interruption.


END

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