Randall Balmer: A fable for our time

For the Monitor
Published: 10/4/2020 6:15:12 AM

There was once a beautiful land between the oceans, a place of diverse peoples, towering mountains, crystalline, free-flowing rivers and broad, grassy plains. After many centuries, groups of fair-skinned immigrants arrived and pushed out the native inhabitants. They built fences, dammed rivers and constructed great, sprawling cities. For more than a century, they imported dark-skinned people against their will and compelled them to assist with those tasks.

When these immigrants banded together to form a government, they adopted the radical idea that the people themselves (except for women and those with dark skin) should choose their own leaders. This Fair Nation grew and prospered, and many therein attributed that success to the blessings of Almighty God. In time – although it took a lot of time – even women and dark-skinned people were allowed to express their preferences about who should lead them.

And then the unthinkable happened. The people of the Fair Nation chose a dark-skinned man as their Leader. While most of the people celebrated, a group of Prophets rose to express their alarm. They wailed and gnashed their teeth. Eventually, they took their complaints directly to the Almighty.

“O, Lord, how can this be?” they moaned. “The people of our Fair Nation hath chosen a dark-skinned man as our Leader. How could you let this happen? Surely, he hath come from afar, for he is not one of us.”

“He is a good and decent man,” the Almighty replied, “who neither lies nor philanders. And don’t call me Shirley.”

“But his people are not our people,” the Prophets cried, “and his church is not our church. We suspect he’s really a Muslim.”

“Nonsense,” said the Almighty, “not that I have any objections to Muslims. Get over it.”

But the Prophets persisted. For eight years, they continued their wailing and gnashing of teeth. “Woe is us,” they cried, “for we are being led astray by a foreigner. The Lord hath brought down his judgment upon us.” 

But there was precious little evidence of divine judgment. The Fair Nation, in fact, prospered as never before. With mixed success, the dark-skinned Leader sought to honor the Lord’s command to care for “the least of these,” and he tried to extend all the liberties of the Fair Nation to those who had previously been denied.

As the dark-skinned Leader’s time as leader approached an end, the Prophets determined that they would restore the Fair Nation to its non-dark-skinned-ness. After some deliberation, they settled on an orange-hued former casino operator from New York.

“The Orange One is the Anointed One, blessed be he!” the Prophets declared. “He shall lead us out of the Wilderness of Sin to the Promised Land.” The fair people, whose hatred of the dark-skinned Leader had been festering for years, roared their approval.

Several years later, one of the Prophets said unto the other Prophets, “Hath anyone consulted the Almighty?” whereupon they cast lots to determine who would approach the Lord.

“We’ve decided that the Orange One shall have our blessing,” the hapless Prophet told the Almighty. “Will you back us up on this?”

The Lord consulted his files. “Let’s see,” he said, “I don’t hear much from him.” He scratched his chin as his eyes scanned the pages. “The Orange One doth lie and philander,” he said, “and exceedingly so.” He read slowly through the file. “Porn star? Sexual predator? Two divorces?” He looked up at the Prophet. “I like to think of myself as a forgiving guy,” the Almighty said, “and people don’t always get it right the first time. But three marriages?”

The Prophet looked down and shifted his weight. “And what’s this about not paying his laborers?” the Almighty continued. “Didn’t I have something to say about that, something about the worker being worthy of her hire?”

The Lord shook his head as he paged through the file. “Children in cages?” he exclaimed. “You can’t be serious. Didn’t I say, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me’ ?”

“Yes, sir,” the Prophet replied, “I’m afraid that was a misunderstanding. We acknowledge that the Orange One is not very conversant with your teachings. When he heard ‘Suffer the little children,’ he thought that meant the little children should suffer.”

“I’m sure you pointed out his error,” the Lord said.

“Well, no,” the Prophet replied, looking away. “You see, these children in cages have dark skin, and one of the Orange One’s stated goals is to keep dark-skinned people, especially those from what he calls shithole countries, out of our Fair Nation, or at least segregated into areas where we can control them.”

The Almighty struggled to control his temper. “My own son had dark skin! And didn’t I say something about welcoming the stranger and treating the foreigner as one of your own? Remember, your people were immigrants also.” The Lord’s eyes returned to the file. “And what’s all this silliness about a wall?”

The Prophet shuffled away, his head down. 

When he reported on his conversation with the Almighty, there was great murmuring among the Prophets. “What shall we do?” the Prophets asked among themselves. “The Orange One hath delivered unto us a Supreme Court seat and we’re about to steal another, but he hath also degraded our faith and our Fair Nation with his false witness and his manifold transgressions. Another election is nigh, and we hath traded our integrity for a mess of pottage.”

One Prophet volunteered that the pestilences predicted under the dark-skinned Leader had never materialized. They seem, in fact, to have been visited upon the administration of the Orange One: disease, economic distress, racial unrest, environmental destruction. Fires and great pillars of smoke enveloped the land. When the Prophet suggested this might be interpreted as divine judgment, his voice was quickly drowned out by the other Prophets. 

And so, after more murmurings, it was decided. The Prophets went out once again among the people of the Fair Nation and shouted, “The Orange One is the Anointed One, blessed be he!”

(Randall Balmer teaches at Dartmouth College. He is the author of more than a dozen books and a contributor to The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump.)

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