“The Book of Revelation is like a horror movie – lots of explosions”
I started going to a dismal church that had night services and free meals, and was crowded with street people and children with feverish, dislocated eyes. And, for the first time, I started to read the Bible. For me it was like hitting a brick wall. I used to read, but most were pretty trashy. Even when it wasn’t, the flexible and sometimes convoluted play of modern language came in and out of my mind like radio music – then, of course, there was the real radio music, the noise of the traffic, the continual influx of foreigners into the streets. worked, the slower movements of friends, lovers, alliances, the spiel of electricity and neon lights in the night. All of this kept my mind and nervous system in a state of saw through which it was difficult to relate to the Bible.
The earth was formless and empty; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. So God said there was light and there was light. I couldn’t even appreciate the beauty of the words. The sentences seemed to be large, silent chunks of form imposed on something fast and infinitely changeable. The form was silent, enormous, and absolutely still. It made me feel like I was suffocating.
One clergyman after another was quoting it so intensely, as if its great and majestic opacity made sense in itself, and I would at least try to feel the sense if I couldn’t understand it. But all I felt was this lingering sense of truncation, the indication of something huge and unfinished trying to squeeze through the static form of the written words. This feeling became more intense when I read Revelation. After Job, Apocalypse is the most cinematic and surreal part of the Bible – it’s kind of like a horror movie, which is probably why it was relatively easy for a modern teenager to understand: there are a lot of ‘explosions.
It felt awfully real to me; I walked through the streets, in the middle of the big buildings where commerce is advancing, and I felt the violence, the lies, the grotesque pride, the filth, rocking and rising under a semblance of order. The air would crackle with the unacknowledged brutality of life, and I would keenly feel all the stupid little betrayals I have committed on a daily basis, both against myself and against others. The angels with their seven stars and their lamps, the beast with its seven heads and 10 horns – the static imagery was grim and insane to me, and yet all the more compelling to her.
I could imagine angels and beasts looming all around us, incomprehensible and invisible to our senses as the images in a photograph would be incomprehensible and invisible to a cat. Their stars, lamps, and horns seemed to be peculiar metaphors on the page, but, I feared, when the divine horses descended, with their fire, teeth, and serpent tails, their reality would be all too clear. I was lying in my bed and praying, trying to convince myself of God’s love, but my prayers seemed like a rag in a typhoon. Plus, I couldn’t help but think it was terribly hard. Malignant wounds, scorpions, fire, men “biting their tongues” in pain – I knew people were horrible, but even in my youth I could also see that most people were doing their best. Even as angry, fearful, and disappointed as I was, I knew I wouldn’t torture people like this, and I couldn’t see how I could be nicer than God.
I was moved when I read, in 1 Corinthians 13: Love suffers long and is good; love does not envy; love does not show off, does not swell; does not behave rudely, does not seek his own, is not provoked, does not think badly, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; endure everything, believe everything, hope for everything, endure everything. Love never fails. But I also remember thinking, “And love isn’t pathologically cruel either.”
The rage of the Apocalypse sometimes made my compassion weak and brooding, but my reservations weren’t just humanitarian. I was more disturbed by what the mechanical quality was to me, not just of Revelation, but of the whole Bible. You were to worship God in exactly a certain way, according to certain prescriptions – and Revelation suggested that the rules set out in, say, the Ten Commandments, were just a small piece of a large scheme in which the human ambivalence just wasn’t a factor. .
During this time, I had a dream that was not about the Bible, but embodied my dismay about it. In the dream, I was living in a house with several other people. We couldn’t leave the house, and our relationships with each other had been pre-established, regardless of our feelings. Our actions were controlled by a master whom we have never seen. One day a man came to visit us, ostensibly for lunch. He was very polite and even friendly, and we were also friendly to him. But it was understood that he was one of the people controlling us, and the atmosphere was pure terror. During lunch, when one of the men in the house grabbed and killed one of the cats in the house, we knew it was because our visitor had somehow forced him to do so.
I couldn’t completely hide my horror and our visitor looked at me for a moment and then said, referring to the mutilated body of the cat: “This is what I’m going to do to you someday.” I understood that he meant he was going to rape me, and I said, “But I’m married,” not because it mattered to me, but because I knew that the only thing that mattered. he was his laws, including the law of marriage. Then I got too angry to accept this and added, âEven though I don’t respect my husband. “