It's over two months since we had a report from the United Deities, so let's catch up today.
(The United Deities, for newer readers, is the all-god body of deities past and present which looks down on Earth from a great height, comments on our follies and does nothing about them, and is thus very like our very own United Nations.) From the most ancient Aztec gods to the recent Christian varieties, all gods are entitled to attend these sessions, which makes for a lively debate, if also for lots of noise. . . .
Anyway, here are part of the minutes of the latest session I can lay my hands on.
1. The chairgod asked the Roman god of drink, Bacchus to keep it quiet, and brought the meeting to order. As was traditional, he would start by asking the Jewish God and the Christian God if they had come to any agreements on a merger yet.
2. As was traditional, the Christian God said that if he and the Jewish God agreed on one thing, it was about the lack of a need for a merger. The Jewish religion was one thing. The Christian religion was another. What was the point of mixing them ?
3. Maybe, continued the Christian God, this was another example of what they had all seen happening on Earth recently, this regrettable tendency to mix things up and go all multi-cultural. World music, for instance, where tangos were mixed with Bulgarian wedding music and called something else, or klezmer music was mixed with jazz . . .
4. The Jewish God interceded to say that he personally was very fond of klezmer music, as it was his own chosen people's music, and he had some CDs for sale, if anyone was interested.
5. Another thing was fusion cooking, went on the Christian God, where cooks - generally Californian - mixed two quite different styles of cooking, and hailed the results as sublime. Was that what the chairgod wanted? A fusion religion? A Tex-Mex faith? A mix 'n' match religion? Well, was it?
6. The chairgod said he was sorry, he should have known better than to bring it up, he should have remembered that the Christian God always got very tetchy at Christmas time, having to attend so many carol services even if briefly, and perhaps they could move on.
7. No, hold on, said the Jewish God, there was something he wanted to ask the Christian God. And that was about nativity plays. He gathered that it was traditional for little Christian schoolchildren to re-enact the story of Jesus's birth, with the three wise men and the shepherds and all that mullarkey. Did the Christian God feel it was blasphemous for small children to portray such holy events? Had he ever felt tempted to send a thunderbolt to obliterate them?
8. The Christian God was about to say that that was not the Christian way of doing things when the Jewish God said, Hold on, he hadn't finished yet. Why was it only Jesus's birth that got re-enacted at school level? Why didn't the Crucifixion get a look-in? Where were the school plays about Jesus's last days as well as about his first? What was it about Christianity that drew back from contemplating the grim side of life?
9. At this point Zeus, the Greek chief god, intervened to say that the trouble with Christianity was that it had so few good stories. The advantage of a multi-god faith was that there were lots of sub-plots. If you had only a trinity, and all three of them being much the same person, you didn't get much in the way of story-lines. Birth, a few miracles, crucifixion, that was about it.
10. No wonder they had had to steal the Old Testament from the Jews and join it to the New Testament, went on Zeus. Blimey, without the Old Testament there would hardly be any stories worth telling in Christianity. And no wonder Jesus told all those parables. It was a desperate attempt to give the New Testament some narrative colour.
11. And no wonder they had set such store, later on, by all the saints and martyrs. At least they had story potential. Though as all saints' stories seemed to involve mass murder combined with, well, saintliness, he could see why they had had a limited appeal outside the sado-masochistic market.
12. The chairgod said hastily that he could see the Christian God being rather riled by the way everyone was trying to rewrite history, and proposed that they promptly moved on to the second item on the agenda, namely, the war in Iraq.
13. The Chairgod asked if anyone wanted to discuss the recent war in Iraq.
14. Mars, the Roman god of war, said on a point of order that it wasn't what he called a war. There was no mighty clash of arms or valour in the field. It was a cold-hearted bombardment of a small nation by a big nation. More what he thought of as a business operation. Were there are any gods of business operations who might like to comment?
15. There being no gods of business operations present, Tyr, the Norse god of war, said he concurred with Mars. He said that to call it a war was to devalue war. Ever since the Vietnam War, which the Americans had contrived to lose, they seem to have decided that they would not start a war which they could not win by sheer firepower. Well, that was not war. That was betting on a one-horse race. That was gambling with rigged cards.
16. Loki, the Norse god of mischief, said he was not against playing with rigged cards. In fact, that was the only kind of card-playing he knew.
17. An unnamed Mayan god said that he sometimes got tired of listening to the gods of war going on about how great war was. He didn't see the gods of war do any actual fighting themselves. When you are immortal, and you don't do any fighting, it's easy for you to encourage the poor mortals who are actually out there on the combat field, and getting slain. He didn't see any gods of war being slain. How brave did you have to be to be a god of war? Not very brave at all, as far as he could see.
18. Thor, the Norse god of thunder, said he had never heard such claptrap in his life, and challenged the unnamed Mayan god to come outside and say that again. Thor then went outside, though nobody followed him.
19. The Jewish God said that it was nice to see Thor back on form. It had been months since Thor had lost his temper over anything. He was beginning to worry that Thor was sickening for something or had lost his powers.
20. The Christian God said that he wanted to put in a word for peace. He himself was a god of peace and believed that when things went peacefully, everyone was happier. So one could argue that if the Americans now emerged as the most powerful nation on the planet, like a heavyweight boxer who could beat any challenger, this might be a good thing in the sense that any wars which happened would be short and snappy, and that peace would soon resume.
21. Allah said he could not believe his ears when the Christian God said he was a god of peace. He, Allah, had a list as long as his arm of wars fought by the Christians, from the Crusades onwards . . . .
22. The chairgod said hastily that they had argued over this ground many times before and he would like to move on to the next item, which was a motion tabled by several Asian and African gods, deprecating the spread of Christmas on a global level.
23. The Christian God said he was sorry that so many people were dismayed by his son's birthday. It was just a date to mark the birth of his son. Was there anything wrong with a birthday party?
24. Mars, the god of war, said, Birthday, his foot. If the war in Iraq was a business operation, then the same applied to Christmas. It was business, pure and simple. If you looked at the symbols raised outside people's houses in Christendom, the snowmen, the reindeer, the robins, all that flim-flam, well, none of it was Christian. Father Christmas was a more potent symbol than the baby Jesus.
25. And it wasn't really a well thought out business operation, at that. It was all geared to winter, yet half the world endured Christmas in midsummer, the hottest time of the year. Snowmen in Australia? What kind of planning was that?
26. The chairgod said that as none of the gods seemed to have any business experience either, he would bring the discussion to a close.
27. Thor came back in again, asking if anyone could remember why he had gone outside.
28. The meeting was adjourned.
More of this some other time.