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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Gossip Mill (05/08/14)

TITLE: 'The Wrath of the Eagle'
By Gregory Kane


At the age of seventeen, I went cold turkey. Not from alcohol, but from having anything to do with playing cards. The agent of this revelation was a fellow student at school, one bristling with fervour and righteous indignation at these tools of the Devil. Jacks were parodies of Jesus, I was told. Queens provoked Mariolatry while the Joker represented Satan. Playing cards had their origin in the occultism of Tarot, it seemed, and every time I dealt a hand of rummy I was putting my very soul in jeopardy. Looking back, I realise that my friend did not supply any actual evidence. This diabolical conspiracy was voiced by his pastor and consequently it became his unwavering conviction. Some years later, I looked again into the matter and came to the conclusion that playing cards are essentially morally neutral.

As a young man, I attended a Pentecostal church and every so often a preacher would pontificate on end times prophecy. He pronounced passionately on the restoration of Israel and waxed lyrical on the mark of the beast. Bar codes, he warned, were a precursor to a worldwide ID system, whereby every man, woman and child would be branded indelibly on his hand or forehead. Go home and check, he insisted, every bar code contains a triple digit 6. Being an obedient hearer of the Word, I did just that. Oddly enough, none of the tin cans in my larder boasted more than a single 6 in their bar codes. Thereafter, I still enjoyed the man's preaching, but I learned to develop a healthy dose of scepticism.

The identity of the Antichrist has always fascinated Pentecostals. I recall a convoluted explanation that pointed the finger at Ronald Reagan: three names; R being the 18th letter in the alphabet (or 3x6); his wife Nancy following astrology; Reagan being the most powerful man on the planet at the time. And then there was his press secretary, James Brady, appearing to recover from a fatal gunshot to the head. But then again, very similar arguments have likewise identified Bill Gates and Barack Obama as the Antichrist. To this day, my favourite suspect remains Barney the Purple Dinosaur: go work it out, you'll be astonished!

I remember a concerned parishioner getting all worked up because Marilyn Manson was coming to our town to stage a concert. Allegedly, this was the man who sacrificed small animals live on stage in some weird Satanic ritual. Apparently, his presence in our community was guaranteed to corrupt the youth, so Christians should be mobilised to protest outside the theatre. I may not share Manson's taste in music, but his so-called puppy murders are pure urban myth. Or did you hear the one about Marilyn Manson turning to Satanism because, as a sensitive teenager, he was shunned by a church youth group? It makes for a great story with a wonderful moral. It's just a pity that it never actually happened.

These days, with the immediacy of social media, such urban myths spread like virtual wild fire. Distressed Christians can share and post and blog and tweet about the latest crisis to threaten Christianity. Did you hear about the virus email that will convert your computer's script into Arabic and force you to read the Muslim Scriptures? Sorry, I just made that one up, but give it a day or two and you might yet see it on Bebo. Or what about the rumour that Facebook was trying to ban pictures of the Nativity on the grounds that this could potentially be offensive? More than 60,000 people went on to share that post, but Facebook has never had any issue with religious images. Or did you know that there's a verse in the Quran that speaks of a "son of Arabia awakening a fearsome Eagle" and of the "wrath of the Eagle cleansing the lands of Allah." Even more astounding, it's the eleventh verse of the ninth Sura, hence 9:11. It's a great piece of scuttlebutt but some joker made it all up!

How about Buzz Aldrin celebrating communion on the Moon? You're not sure now, are you? Or that bizarre story about the church that exploded during choir practice, only no one was hurt because coincidentally every member of the choir turned up late? Actually, both of these are quite true. If you don't believe me, take a look at Snopes.com, the definitive guide to urban legends. It should be indispensable reading for the discerning Christian.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Judith Gayle Smith05/16/14
Sounds like some independent fundamentalist churches I've been bumfuzzled by. Good article!

Hebrews 10:26-31 KJV
CD Swanson 05/19/14
Interesting approach to the topic! Well written and certainly on topic.

God bless~
Francie Snell 05/20/14
What a great take on the topic. With facts and a lot of fiction you made this a very enjoyable read for sure. This one has my vote. Great Job!
Joe Moreland05/22/14
Great job with this piece, Gregory. You nailed the subject right on and you debunked some fun rumors in the process. Congratulations on your EC!

Speaking of which - aren't you supposed to be in Masters? I know for a fact that this is your third EC finish in a row, so you are positively supposed to be in Masters next week, but I find it hard to believe that these are your first three ECs. Just how long have you been lurking in Advanced, when you are supposed to be in Masters? :)

CD Swanson 05/22/14
Congrats! God bless~
CD Swanson 05/22/14
Congrats! God bless~
Tracy Nunes 05/22/14
Congratulations Gregory! This is especially interesting considering your field of study. Like many, I've had some of the same experiences. But, the Bible is the most bizarre, yet true, story there is. One day, we will see with unveiled eyes!