Altared States 

Regional realms of righteousness

You've heard this, I'll bet. Domino Pizza founder Tom Monaghan has abandoned his efforts to create an edible pizza and has turned his attention to building an entire city in southern Florida dedicated to strict Catholic values. He's naming it after a particularly boring hymn--"Ave Maria"--and until the scrutiny that comes with publicity pressured him into a slightly more tolerant position, he intended to discourage any of the town's drug stores or medical facilities from distributing birth control. Clearly, he's determined to fill his development with good Catholics, one way or the other.

When completed, Ave Maria will revolve around a brand-new Catholic university which, we must assume, will offer academics in line with current Vatican orthodoxy--meaning you can have both evolution and virgin birth. In the center of it all will be an immense cathedral which, judging from the picture published in Newsweek magazine, will look like one of those tall pointy hats the Pope wears. Or Flash Gordon's space ship. Or both.

In front of the huge church will be a huge crucifix, almost seven stories high, which should make Jesus (if proportions are consistent with the little crucifix my wife wears) about a 40-footer. Being in Florida, where the highest geographical feature the state has to offer is a landscaping berm around a Piggly Wiggly store in Ocala, you should be able to see this Jesus all the way from Georgia. (Though, as I understand it, up Georgia ... Alabama way, they prefer their crosses nekkid.)

Monaghan has stated that he considers the community "God's will," though why God would chose a site notorious for hurricanes and sinkholes, Mr. Monaghan didn't explain. (Let us just pray that the nation's largest crucifix will be anchored in plenty of concrete. Can you imagine what Pat Robertson would have to say should a category-four storm leave Jesus face down in an alligator pond?) Monaghan himself is so convinced of the town's promise that he is investing $250 million of his own dough in the project. That kind of money means, if my calculations are correct, that many, many Americans actually bought more than one Domino's pizza. Does that not just boggle your mind?

But Florida isn't the only state getting its own sectarian theme park. South Carolina has become the Land o' Goshen for those fundamentalist Christians who are too impatient to sit around and wait for the Rapture to whisk them off to a better place. An organization calling itself "Christian Exodus," founded by financial adviser Cory Burnell, has a Moses-ish plan to relocate thousands upon thousands of pious pilgrims to the land of cotton and palmettos, where they hope to shape the political environment more to their liking. Of course, their "liking" includes no abortions, no homosexuality whatsoever ... let alone gay marriages, no restrictions on Christian-themed decor of government property, no Darwin and no feds butting in on their righteous business. Members of the movement have said they would consider secession from the Union if push comes to shove, so relocating to within an easy drive of Fort Sumter makes perfect sense, no?

Californian Burnell calls himself a "Christian Constitutionalist" and hasn't yet made the cross-country move. Maybe he's waiting to see how many sheep he can talk into shifting before he takes the South Carolina plunge, himself. Or maybe, like fellow California visionary Jim Jones, he's still figuring out how much Kool-Aid to bring along. (If that's the case, it wouldn't take much, considering only 20 or so people have made the exodus to date.)

But why aren't Burnell and his fundamentalist drifters staying put where God put 'em in the first place, working to fundamentalize their own states? Ah, you see it has to do with those infernal liberals. No matter where they're from, every time they try to impose their wi--er, God's will--on the hearts and minds of their current neighbors, there's a goddamn liberal there to bitch about it. So you can see why they'd want to stack a state with their own über-Christian cards, can't you?

For instance ... you, Bryan Fisher. And you ... Dennis Mansfield. Brandi Swindell ... you too. Wouldn't you all be much happier someplace where you're totally immersed in a sea of like-minded brethren? No more ACLU bullies around to call crap on your crap. No more Planned Parenthood to offer an alternative to your dominion over other peoples' wombs. No more educated, rational, enlightened know-it-alls to point out how little intelligence there is to your Intelligent Design. No more scoffers, doubters, apostates or heretics to snicker at your proselytizing poop. Wouldn't it be wonderful? Wouldn't it be Heaven? And somehow ... we'll get by without you.

But let us take this faith-based Balkanization a few logical steps further. Think about it: If only our LDS friends could just see that Utah--and nowhere else but Utah--is where they truly belong, wouldn't that make life easier on everyone? Except for Utah's non-Mormons, of course.

And you Nazarenes, surely you can think of a place you would rather be than here, eh? I don't know where you started out, but I think I hear it calling you home.

Methodists, I'm convinced ... Indiana is the place for you. Don't ask me how I know. I just feel it in my heart. In the same way, if Pennsylvania isn't where all Presbyterians should head, I don't know where is. And Episcopalians, I see your land of milk and honey being somewhere up New England way. Maybe Connecticut, just across the line from New York. Where all the Jews should go.

As to the Baptists, there's not enough room in South Carolina for all of you, so I suggest Texas. And when you all get there--every blessed last one of you--you have my permission to secede from the United States of America. Please!

Let's see. What's that leave? Ah, Unitarians! You guys can stay put. Or if anything, why don't you and the local Buddhists get together and go take over Canyon County? It should be a snap after all the Nazarenes are gone.

There. I think I've got things pretty well sorted out. I know there are some odds and ends to tie up--like Hindus, Lutherans and devil worshippers. But once the moving dust clears, I'll figure out a place for everyone. Then we'll just sit back and wait for the wars. I figure the first big one will be between South Carolina and Ave Maria. Then they'll be getting that ol' time religion they been hankering for, huh?

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