Short Story: The Fundamentalist

It’s a bright morning, the organ sounds and the doors to Edwards Presbyterian church open. The congregants, walk out in their Sunday best: sun bonnets, suits, flower dresses, neckties, lipstick, clean shave, perfume, and cologne, honey bees grab pollen and run.
“Your God is dead!”
John is standing on a soapbox wearing all black, black pants, black shirt, black overcoat, black tinted owl glasses and a black undertaker’s hat. It has a stiff rim, flat with a wide oval top. His skin in pale, lizard-like. Miraculously in this heat he doesn’t’ sweat. His arms are out in the form of a black cross.
“I blot out the history of your salvation. I deny your messiah. This moment is the first and the last.”
The churchgoers walk past him with their eyes forward.
“Just try to ignore him.” One man whispered to his wife.
“How long do you think it’s going to last? How long hugh? That building isn’t going to stand forever. The foundation is rotten! The worms aren’t in hell, but in that wood! Eating away! That steeple will fall! And that cross will tumble down! Your scripture has built the coffin with all its fairy tales and archaic moralities. And Science has put the bullet in God’s head! You are the caretakers of a dead belief. You are the casket bearers of a decaying faith! It won’t be long now till you feel its weight and put the casket in its grave. You’ll tire soon! You’ll give up, what you know you don’t believe.”
No one looks, no one stops, and they keep till they’re all gone. All John has left now are the pedestrians and passing cars. Some of them stop for a minute to watch John rant.
“What is religion? An excuse to gather and socialize around imaginary histories and schizotypal concepts? What is salvation? A too for obedience and control to ensure the party line upheld. What is God? But a psychological projection of the good father that we’ll be rewarded with pie in the sky. It’s all rubbish, wish thinking.”
John starts sweating. His mouth is parched. He smacks his lips.
“Hey John are you thirsty?”
John turns around and sees the pastor holding out a glass of water. John takes the glass and chugs the water.
“You going to keep on preaching?”
“Don’t condescend to me Bill by framing what I’m doing in religious terminology. I’m telling these people the truth of this corrupt institution.”
“John you know me. I’ve pastored for years and have always been honest.”
“Maybe you’ve been sincere and transparent in your dealings, but you haven’t been honest about the book you read from and about the Christ you preach. It’s all a sham Bill! God is only in the mind and Jesus was amalgam of pagan myths.”
“Jesus is real John. He’s God.”
They both are quiet for a while, looking at each other. John grunts and frowns.
“You going to continue John? I’m going to go back inside.”
John crosses his arms.
“Done for today it seems. I’ll be back though. I wont’s stop till this church closes.”
John walks away. The bold white letters on the back of his jacket illuminate ‘God is Dead’. He’s alone disappointed he hasn’t won a singular convert. People mainly stare, mildly interested. The most he’s ever stirred in someone is enough for him to get a rock thrown at him. No one listens.
He was part of the humanist society for a little while. They thought he was a little extreme. Everyone objected, when he called for a grassroots campaign to liquidate the church as an unconstitutional institution. That’s when he was voted out.
Now, he’s gone rogue. A Shepard looking to start his own flock. His own movement, his own ideology and though he wouldn’t admit it to himself his own religion. He’s written his own ninety five theses and has been nailing it to every church door he can find. Unlike Luther, his is to dismantle and destroy the church.
John kicks a rock into the road. He’s taking the lonely pilgrimage home. It’s a street of ghettoes and vacant strip malls. They’ been foreclosed and inhabited by animals. New dilapidated sanctuaries for nature. Government housing, the last flimsy safety net to catch its citizen from this failed industrial economy into the abject poverty of the welfare state. Roaming packs of dogs dehumanized socialized in violence, raised to eat the weak and to step on the neck of their enemies. A gauntlet of murder and mayhem to complete the ritual for manhood. The boys become men scarred with crocodile skin and death shaped ink blotches. They still retain the imago dei, though it’s buried under layers of demonic pastels, fractured personalities, identities chained in the darkness of idolatry. There still is light that enters these dungeons. Light from a God they never knew.
“How long must I put up with this idolatrous generation? How long do you think your roofs will protect you from the fire that will fall from heaven? Your sins are piled up! They are every before the judge. Doom awaits you all. Hell’s mouth is open wide!”
John looks down the road. He sees a man in a black suit yelling. His hair is slicked back. His face is gaunt and ashen. He’s waving his arms around standing on a sop box holding a gigantic bible. People pass him by shaking their heads trying to avoid eye contact. They’re trying to get home to seek shelter from this condemnation. John gets close to listen.
“It won’t be long now till judgment comes! The fires of hell await you all! Your sin is pungent to the nostrils of the almighty. He has turned away from you. He has left you to rot! Food for the worms of hell. Where they never stop eating.”
John raises his eyebrow.
“Your insecure projection of religious judgment is nothing more than a will to power. A way to control your environment, a crutch for your own mental illness.”
The bible man turns his eyes toward John.
“You know what it says in this book? It says you’re a sinner deserving of hell! What are you some sor of atheist?”
“I don’t believe in any gods.”
“Ha! It says in the bible that the “fool says in his heart that there is no god”. You’re nothing but a fool, who doesn’t know he’s walking into the furnaces of hell.”
“Yea, well you’re just an asshole.”
The bible man’s face reddens.
“Any educated person can see that the bible is nothing but fairy dust. It can’t possibly withstand its own higher criticism.”
“Shut up! Just shut up! I don’t need any boo, but this book. I don’t have to listen to what you say. You’re just a lousy low down, miserable sinner!”
“The only book I need is my reason. It doesn’t need any sort of archaic teaching from nomadic, superstitious Flat-Earthers!”
“I bet I can squash your book!”
The bible man raises his gigantic bible overhead and brings it down hard on John’s skull. It cracks throwing off his hat and glasses. John’s face loses teeth and crashes on the walk, he weakly crawls barely able to move looking up as the bible-man stands over him with the bible overhead for one last blow. It comes down one last time on Johns head to smash it to pulp on the sidewalk.
A bullet from somewhere explodes the bible man’s head. His body falls forward lifeless on top of John’s. Their blood swirls together one in the same.

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