Expiring minds 


I go back and forth on very religious people. Not literally. They won't letcha.

Sometimes I envy those who are ruled by dogma. Having your beliefs roped off into one area would be comforting, like surrendering your vacation plans to a travel agency. No, you won't explore anything off the list, but at least you never have to worry about getting lost or being made to think for yourself.

Still, at other times I look at the faithful and see a bird pop out of a little door in their foreheads shouting cuckoo! This isn't a slam to spirituality, but some ideas make you wonder how you can have the same genetic blueprint as the person who dreamed them up. It's as if you put two pans full of cake mix into two different ovens, and out of one comes a cake and out of the other comes Mothra. You have to wonder what happened.

Ticked off

I wondered this while I watched a "60 Minutes II" special about people who think the world will end with the tolling of midnight on Dec. 31.

There are lots of doomsday groups and have been since the world began; there's always someone at the party who can't wait to go home. This show focused on Hal Lindsey, who wrote a 1970s best-seller, "The Late, Great Planet Earth," which I haven't read. Lindsey and his fan club think the biblical signs are all falling into place for Jesus to begin his comeback tour and the world to end. OK, plenty of people booked in advance for 2000; why not Jesus, who was quite the little planner? He knew he was going to die, which beats Martha Stewart knowing when she's going to put up her storm windows.

There are several fun things about this. For one, they think the Antichrist is alive and living in Europe. (What a great set-up for a French joke.) The other cool thing is that they have a website with a camera focused on the spot where Jesus is supposed to spring from. They call it the MessiahCam. You know it will be popular at first, but after a while when it's just Jesus eating cereal and Jesus seeing if he won anything on eBay, people will get over it.

I later saw Lindsey on a religious television show doing a decades-end wrap-up and counting off all of the apocalyptic signals. (The movie "You've Got Mail" wasn't mentioned.) Plagues are supposed to overrun the Earth, and following the war in Eastern Europe, disease is rampant there. He cited Susan Smith as an example of how "people will be without natural affection" for one another.

Not to be a party pooper, horoscope fan, but you can interpret anything to mean anything. If Astronet says, "Change is beneficial," it could mean it's time to tell your parents you're queer or that you have enough dimes in your pocket to buy a Milky Way. It's just in how you see it. But the scary part is that there are 50 million Lindsey followers who think Jesus' return and the corresponding End of the World is a good idea. Who knows how many others, Christian and non, might try to hurry it up?

Star treatment

For the sake of those who are wondering about Jesus' New Year's plans, here is His horoscope for Dec. 31, according to www.horoscope.0-0.com. (He's an status-conscious, workaholic Capricorn, by the by.) Let's see if it points to any big homecoming:

"The moving finger of fate beckons. You have what it takes, but do you really want to use it? Perhaps partnership is more your style than leadership. Accept the wisdom of someone who lives far away."

The first line is promising, but the second makes you wonder, is this just a kid being pushed to go into the family business? The partnership thing is interesting, as love always will affect your career plans. Finally, everyone lives pretty far away from Jesus, so he could be kibitzing with aliens or relying on the psychic friends. At any rate it doesn't look like any big moves are on His menu for now.

Which means the only thing that Y2K will bring is the revelation that this past year has been like one big menstrual cycle. At first everything was OK. Then we started getting a little weird. We have since alternated between freakout and giddy idiocy, moving tons of energy toward one inexorable conclusion, at which time the whole thing is finally going to erupt, leading most people to decide, "I'm just going to stay home and lie on the couch."

Gentlemen, welcome to our world. Happy New Year.


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