by ML Kennedy
Note from the author: I beg forgiveness, for this is an even older short story than the previous one. New content shall arise, but at present it seems logical to archive some stories in a single location. This version is insignificantly different from the one first published at the now defunct website, Beyond the Threshold.
Signs littered the university campus, promoting a series of scholarly debates. Attendance had been mediocre the first two nights as “these kids today” seemed to care little for historical nuance and competing theories of foreign policy.
Tonight was different. Tonight the auditorium was full. Tonight the topic was theology.
Seated on the west side of the stage was a bald and spectacled fellow, dressed in the old-fashioned flowing priest attire. He was there to represent fundamentalism, and literal interpretation of the sacred documents.
Seated on the east side of the stage was his more modern counterpart. He was still a priest but not as noticeably so.
After a brief word from the moderator, things progressed quickly. The old-fashioned priest was quick to point out the merits of his strict adherence to the word as written. “It is not our place,” he stated, “to pick and choose which teachings we’d like to obey. The judgment of any one man is flawed, and true goodness is not something which differs from person to person.”
The modern fellow disputed these things, and defended his own position. His speech was superfluously flowery. “No one can argue that it is a wondrous thing to follow the teachings. Of course it is a good thing to use this scripture and this man from the heavens as examples of how one should live one’s life. But one cannot abide by everything which is said, for the works tend to belie themselves. They aren’t even in complete agreement about an event as important as the birth of our savior. Accounts of his childhood are either contradictory or absent. Stories of his Earth father, his death and resurrection-”
The old-fashioned fellow was quick to declare these words blasphemy. Adding that “these so-called contradictions are easily reconciled with even the simplest of study or thought.”
This, the modern priest considered blasphemy, saying, “You would deny followers the right to interpret the holy documents, yet consider yourself able to create new scripture to cover holes in the original works? I ask you which is the bigger sacrilege?”
The debate continued for 90 minutes, with each side resorting to allegory and metaphor to explain their point of view. Audience members of each belief assured themselves that their point of view was the correct one, and their representative had won the debate.
At the end of this theological stalemate, the moderator thanked the audience and celebrated the fact that both points of view were accounted.
That was when the asshole stood up and declared, “there are more than two points of view here.”
The moderator was quite polite in the face of this impetuous disruption, responding, “How do you mean?”
The asshole responded, “There are other religions, other denominations of this religion, and people with no religion at all. There is even the theory that he wasn’t even a real person?”
The old-fashioned priest was first to respond. “Nonsense,” he said, “we have stacks of evidence, and are still in the process of finding more. We just unearthed 25 books this week.”
The asshole said, “No. I’m saying what if the documents are fiction?”
The modern priest stood up to answer this outrageous claim.
“Young man, few scholars would deny that there is a historical Superman.”
-M. L. Kennedy