I experience the sensation that the world really ended in 1916 and that we’ve been living in a dream ever since. These good fellows have spent their entire lives working, raising families, fighting Nazis, worrying about Communism, yet they’ve really been zapped by something else. We haven’t been zapped by the Nazis and the Communists. On the contrary. It is a pleasure to fight one, worry about the other, and talk about both.
“We were after the same thing, the greatest good, the highest quality of life for the greatest number. We were not a bad team, Tom. Between us we had it all. We each supplied the other’s defect.”
“The only difference between us is that you’re the proper Southern gent who knows how to act and I’m the low-class Yankee who does all these bad things like killing innocent babies and messing with your Southern Way of Life by putting secret stuff in the water, right? What people don’t know but what you and I know is that we’re both after the same thing—such as reducing the suffering in the world and making criminals behave themselves. And here’s the thing, old buddy”—he is smiling, coming close, but his eyes are narrow—“and you know it and I know it: You can’t give me one good reason why what I am doing is wrong. The only difference between us is that you’re in good taste and I’m not. ”
Catholics have become a remnant of a remnant. Louisiana, however, is more Christian than ever, not Catholic Christian, but Texas Christian. Even most Cajuns have been converted, first by Texas oil bucks, then by Texas evangelists. The shrimp fleet, mostly born again, that is, for the third time, is no longer blessed and sprinkled by a priest.
Why don’t I like these new Christians better? They’re sober, dependable, industrious, helpful. They praise God frequently, call you brother, and punctuate ordinary conversation with exclamations like Glory! Praise God! Hallelujah! I’ve nothing against them, but they give me the creeps.
“One are decent, tenderhearted, unbelieving, philanthropic people.
“The other are some preachers who tell the truth about the Lord but are themselves often rascals if not thieves.”
“What a generation! Believing thieves and decent unbelievers!”
“Don’t you know where tenderness leads?” Silence. “To the gas chambers.
“Never in the history of the world have there been so many civilized tenderhearted souls as have lived in this century.
“Never in the history of the world have so many people been killed.
“More people have been killed in this century by tenderhearted souls than by cruel barbarians in all other centuries put together.”
The Pentecostals are decent folk, honest and forthright, no crazier than liberal unbelievers and a good deal less neurotic, but perhaps a bit paranoid, given to suspecting godless conspiracies under every sofa. But if I keep them off the couch, don’t mention sex, wear a white coat like a TV doctor, speak to them face to face, take their blood pressure—they tend to hypertension—examine their eyegrounds, they’ll tell me their troubles.