I find myself in the back seat of a limousine, looking through the side window. The streets outside are humming with big American cars, all steel and chrome from the seventies. They gleam like new.
Cyclopean stone buildings squat along the boulevard like engineered mountain ranges. Fortresses of turrets and parapets. Buttressed cathedrals. A crucifix and haloed dove on every vertical surface. And in that moment, I remember there is no longer any division between church and state. Taxes are indistinguishable from tithes, and, with spending on sinful pursuits prosecuted by holy writ, the amount of money pouring into these venues is frightening.
Enormous trees–thick with green foliage shaped in the likeness of biblical kings–stand sentry outside the entrances, while blazing bright signs proclaim worshipful phrases, chapter and verse, in the latest LED arrays. As I watch from the window, I take in the spectacle of Vatican City with the flash of Las Vegas, but there’s none of the touristy kitsch. No drunks, junkies, or hookers. Sidewalks are immaculate, as though rinsed hourly. Every structure I see is crafted from the finest materials man can gouge from the Earth, and is made to last. These are the new pyramids of Giza. They’ll stand for millennia.
From the angle I’m looking through the window, I ascertain I’m young, mid-teens maybe. Simply dressed in jeans and t-shirt. I can’t see the driver in front of me, he’s too far away. But there’s a woman sitting on the wide rear seat beside me. She’s gorgeous, fit. Long dark hair, bright red lips. Bare arms and shoulders, well-toned. Tanned skin. Blue silk evening dress with wide straps and a neckline that tantalizes without revealing. I don’t know her, only that she’s my escort. Or bodyguard. Or both.
The car pulls over and stops outside a building of stacked granite blocks no crane could lift. Every slab must’ve been grunted an inch at a time from its bedrock, dragged over miles of rough terrain, then shoved up dirt ramps by thousands of men and machines, all pulling in the same direction. It’s a staggering amount of effort, and it occurs to me my wildest estimate of cost could be under by a factor of ten.
She uncrosses her long legs and gets out first then holds her hand out to me. I slide across the polished leather, take her hand, and step onto a marble curb with the building address inlaid in gold. She doesn’t speak as we walk up the broad stairway and pass through deserted halls. Plush carpet piles beneath my shoes, pristine as if untrodden. Fifteen foot ceilings are hung with ornate chandeliers of silver and crystal. High walls illustrate Old and New Testament parables with masterful strokes of the world’s greatest painters.
Beyond these spacious, empty halls, the corridors narrow. Our path is dimly lit with red ceiling cans and wall sconces, sufficient to banish darkness without affecting a dark adapted eye. And it dawns on me we’re heading for a show…
American theocracy has done away with lustful, violent titillations of film, stage, and studio. Entertainment now comes from “Feats of Faith” where miraculous occurrences are broadcast to the multitude, reinforcing adherence to the One True God. But in outlawing reality TV, they have created it anew in parody of itself. I smirk at the irony.
She leads me closer to an auditorium buzzing with conversation, and I understand I’m not there to witness an event. I am the event. I’m going to be seen by millions, or more, because a fellowship of Arch-pastors has commanded their congregations to tune in. If I fail to impress, I could disappear like others who claimed extraordinary faith yet were unable to prove it publicly. A little test is in order.
I trail behind the woman slightly as I slump my shoulders, let my head droop to my chest, and I imagine invisible cords tied to my back. I yield to them, letting them suspend me, letting them hoist me up, so that my toes drag the plush carpet as I drift along behind her, light as smoke.
I can’t leave the ground completely, not yet. With practice, I’m sure I will. With greater faith, with prayer, with purity of existence…
And the peoples’ faith will be stronger from my demonstration. They will pray harder and, more importantly, tithe harder than ever before…