Thursday, October 16, 2014

Plastic Jesus

ARTIST: Trad and Anon
TITLE: Plastic Jesus

Well, I don't care if it rains or freezes,
Long as I have my plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Through all trials and tribulations,
We will travel every nation,
With my plastic Jesus I'll go far.

Plastic Jesus, plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Through all trials and tribulations,
We will travel every nation,
With my plastic Jesus I'll go far.

I don't care if it rains or freezes
As long as I've got my Plastic Jesus
Glued to the dashboard of my car,
You can buy Him phosphorescent
Glows in the dark, He's Pink and Pleasant,
Take Him with you when you're travelling far


I don't care if it's dark or scary
Long as I have magnetic Mary
Ridin' on the dashboard of my car
I feel I'm protected amply
I've got the whole damn Holy Family
Riding on the dashboard of my car


You can buy a Sweet Madonna
Dressed in rhinestones sitting on a
Pedestal of abalone shell
Goin' ninety, I'm not wary
'Cause I've got my Virgin Mary
Guaranteeing I won't go to Hell


I don't care if it bumps or jostles
Long as I got the Twelve Apostles
Bolted to the dashboard of my car
Don't I have a pious mess
Such a crowd of holiness
Strung across the dashboard of my car


No, I don't care if it rains or freezes
Long as I have my plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
But I think he'll have to go
His magnet ruins my radio
And if we have a wreck he'll leave a scar


Riding through the thoroughfare
With his nose up in the air
A wreck may be ahead, but he don't mind
Trouble coming, he don't see
He just keeps his eyes on me
And any other thing that lies behind

Plastic Jesus, Plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Though the sun shines on his back
Makes him peel, chip, and crack
A little patching keeps him up to par

When pedestrians try to cross
I let them know who's boss
I never blow my horn or give them warning
I ride all over town
Trying to run them down
And it's seldom that they live to see the morning

Plastic Jesus, Plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
His halo fits just right
And I use it as a sight
And they'll scatter or they'll splatter near and far

When I'm in a traffic jam
He don't care if I say Damn
I can let all sorts of curses roll
Plastic Jesus doesn't hear
For he has a plastic ear
The man who invented plastic saved my soul

Plastic Jesus, Plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Once his robe was snowy white
Now it isn't quite so bright
Stained by the smoke of my cigar

God made Christ a Holy Jew
God made Him a Christian too
Paradoxes populate my car
Joseph beams with a feigned elan
From the shaggy dash of my furlined van
Famous cuckold in the master plan

Naughty Mary, smug and smiling
Jesus dainty and beguiling
Knee-deep in the piling of my van
His message clear by night or day
My phosphorescent plastic Gay
Simpering from the dashboard of my van

When I'm goin' fornicatin
I got my ceramic Satan
Sinnin' on the dashboard of my Winnebago Motor Home
The women know I'm on the level
Thanks to the wild-eyed stoneware devil
Ridin' on the dashboard of my Winnebago Motor Home
Sneerin' from the dashboard of my Winnebago Motor Home
Leering from the dashboard of my van

If I weave around at night
And the police think I'm tight
They'll never find my bottle, though they ask
Plastic Jesus shelters me
For His head comes off, you see
He's hollow, and I use Him for a flask

Plastic Jesus, plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Ride with me and have a dram
Of the blood of the Lamb
Plastic Jesus is a holy bar

I did not write any part of this song. I remembered Paul Newman singing it in Cool Hand Luke, and wondered if I could find a video anywhere (which I could), then looked up the lyrics. Most versions had one or two verses, but this one went on forever, apparently written by that celebrated lyricist, Arthur Unknown (sometimes known by his pen name, Anon).
It's a strange thing, obviously a sour parody of What a Friend We Have in Jesus. The thing is, it was not so very long ago that I was a churchgoing Christian and even a lay minister, a preacher. Seems like a lifetime ago. So I can't quite join in wholeheartedly. But when I saw what was happening to "my" church, its slickness and desperate attempts at hipness to attract a "younger" crowd (i. e. people under 80 with more disposable income), I felt sickened. All of it was done in the name of finance. In all the time I was with that church, the main thing I heard about was not the gospels, but a desperate lack of money and the need to give, give, give.

This wasn't about hungry people overseas or Christian education, but (mostly) paying a mortgage 
which always seemed to be shockingly in arrears. If we as individuals had conducted our finances that way, the bank would have put us in foreclosure. As it was, the larger church carried us as perpetual deadbeats.

Guilt trips abounded if you didn't or couldn't raise the amount of your offerings annually, because after all, the church's expenses kept going up, and it was up to us to take up the shortfall. Don't you want to support your church? Tell us, then, just what are your priorities? Didn't we hear you went on a vacation last year? (WHAT, you went to Vegas?) Once a year, incredibly, someone came to each person's house to ask them how much they were giving, and gently but firmly pressured them into giving more. I hated this and felt it was a violation of privacy and completely unfair, but I never said anything because you just didn't say anything.  I knew if I did, I would likely be gently pressured back into the beliefs and policies of the fold (with a vague but palpable ostracism as the penalty
if I didn't), or perhaps genteelly labelled "mentally ill" (well, dear, she can't help it, you know). 

As a symptom of a structure that had been rotten for years , leadership finally caved in, and no one had the first idea why it happened, or how. It's like my "do husbands fall from the sky?" post. Jobs don't fall from the sky. Husbands don't, friends don't. WE PICK THEM. We vote our leaders in, then bitch about them endlessly, even demonize them. We were snowjobbed by a shallow huckster, fell for him hook, line and sinker, then turned him into some sort of Satanic figure who had destroyed our innocent little lamb of a church.


So I walked away, even tried a few other churches and was suffocated and frankly bored. The wheezy hymns, the lack of life, the lacklustre attempts to inject some enthusiasm and relevance into the services, all of it fell flat for me. More than once, when I tried to sit down, someone put their hand out to cover the spot on the pew and said, "My family sits here." No hello, not even a "sorry", just a "go away".

It left a hole, because for some fifteen years I was deeply involved, but the last several years were just hell for me, because there was absolutely NO ONE I could talk to about it all. It would be seen as "disloyal".

But I could no longer adhere to a church with such shallow values, a church which would not or could not or just didn't want to take responsibility for all its bad decisions.

Plastic Jesus, indeed.

(CODA. As usual , while I work on these things, or after I post them, more comes to me. In this case, it startles me that I wrote the words I just wrote. I had no idea I was going to. Not that I've never written about church disillusionment before. I have, and I will again. But in this case, I merely came across a YouTube clip from Cool Hand Luke, then thought of the song, then Googled the lyrics. Funny stuff, and strange, too. And that, I thought to myself, would be that. But in the world of exploration through writing, "that" is NEVER "that" - and I thank whatever God I still have for the process.)

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