Today, suppliers of “Christian” products, up to and including the various churches themselves, have created a self-contained and profitable universe in which almost everything that was worthwhile about Christianity’s contact with the secular world has been cheapened and fashioned into tawdry souvenirs for the suckers. Sacred music has traded Gregorian chant, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Thomas Dorsey, and Mahalia Jackson for “worship anthems” sung by chubby white guys who look like they flunked the audition for Counting Crows. A literature that once produced C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton now sells millions of copies of the “Left Behind” series, written by Jerry Jenkins and the noisome political preacher Tim LaHaye, in which the end times occur and the Antichrist arrives in the person of one Nicolae Carpathia, so named, perhaps, because the authors didn’t think of calling him “Evil J. Transylvania.”
(Pierce 2009, chap. 6 «God and Judge Jones», p. 131)
«Who is Evil J. Transylvania, anyway?»
It’s easy to imagine the Antichrist as a particular kind of man. Or woman, for that matter. It’s easy to see him in tyrants, kings and emperors. It’s easy to envision the antithesis of the Immaculate Conception, some kind of unholy process that produces a cursed offspring as the mirror image of a virgin free of sin that bears the son of God.
It’s easy to imagine an “unnatural” act—like a cock laying an egg that is later incubated by a toad—and build myths around it. It’s easy to create an effigy of evil in the shape of a monster or a well-dressed human.
It’s harder to imagine it as incorporeal.
I’m not talking about the obvious difficulty of imagining something that has no physical presence. People can imagine all sorts of things, like being in love or the concept of silence.
Evil is not a person, group, government or creature. Evil is a process, a thing that happens, that occurs over time, that is hatched in the mind rather than inside an egg. It’s very much an active word—a ‘verb’ if you must—in the sense that it’s never static. Just like music only exists when it’s being played, Evil only exists as it’s actively being planned, thought, cherished, executed.
It’s hard to conceive Evil like this because it demands to be attentive, to reflect on what is happening rather than rely on recipes. Many people rely on the latter—whether by ignorance or choice—to calibrate their moral compass.
Saying ‘______ is evil’ is easy because it frees of personal responsibility. It’s easier to declare something or someone as ‘unclean’ or ‘sinful’ because it has the tacit implication that ‘I’ am better than whatever it is, that recognizing the source of evil already makes drives me further from it.
Years ago I contravened one of the Ten Commandments in three specific ways (1997, pt. 3, section 2, chapter 2, paras. 2351–2353) in just a few hours. It took me several days to register what happened, and a few months to realize its implications.
You see, I committed a great sin, something that I had been preaching for years. A few months later I confessed these sins, but not to a priest. I confessed to a friend of mine, about 10 years my senior; confessed about sinning and—most importantly—about my lack of guilt. I didn’t feel wrong, although I wasn’t proud of it, either. She listened to me an entire afternoon. I wasn’t sad, but I felt empty. I felt that I had put out a light inside myself, one that was a big part of my identity.
I don’t remember what she told me, but I remember her being very honest. She spoke to me about greater ideals, about forming oneself according to one’s beliefs. She told me that whatever I did, I had to be true and consistent in mind, heart, words and actions, otherwise it all would be for naught. She spoke to me about the larger implications of being imperfect and being different. She reminded me of several examples of people around me that embodied the ideals I still had present in my mind.
We spoke several more times. She always urged me to tell someone in the faith, to be honest to myself. It was therapeutic. I would sob and cry on some of those days; I felt invincible on others. I felt more emotions than I believed possible, even for a starry-eyed guy like myself.
And on another day she taught me—in practice—the difference between fucking and making love.
So, who is Evil J. Transylvania?
It’s easy to imagine the Antichrist as a serious person called Nicolae; it’s easy to imagine the Antichrist as a caricature called Evil J. Transylvania. It may be both.
To me, Evil J. Transylvania is but a device. An easy way of taking complex issues (good and evil, redemption, the role of God in everyday life…) and reducing them to a single thing that neatly fits in a box, can be labeled, described and passed around.
During these years I’ve slowly learned that yes, the figure of the Antichrist may be just as allegorical as the story of creation as told in the book of Genesis. Two thousand years ago, some groups of Jews believed that the Messiah would be a military-type liberator, freeing God’s Chosen People from the Roman Empire. According to my Christian education, this was incorrect.
So a good Christian should remember this: framing the Antichrist as a person that will bring about destruction is—I believe—repeating the same mistake. Moreover, it frames the end of times as something that ‘happens’ to humankind, rather than something we all collectively do to ourselves.
The Antichrist is an ongoing process and is largely self-inflicted.
I no longer consider myself a Catholic. That’s not to say I disregard everything I learned in that life: I believe in inter-faith dialogue, in cross-pollination between different ideologies for mutual growth.
And I must also face that whatever sins I have or will commit are largely the result of my own decisions. My own personal falling was not brought about by any person bearing the number 666, or by Angels sounding trumpets. I believe in being honest to myself, and for me that includes forsaking the notion of Evil J. Transylvania as anyone or anything specific. Hopefully, I will learn the lesson before my time on this earth is done.
A ReQuested writeup: «Request for andycyca: Please fill this nodeshell: Evil J. Transylvania».
I started writing this draft as soon as I saw the ReQuest for it. I re-wrote it many, many times. In previous drafts, this small essay was:
- a factual piece on the rise of watered-down spiritualism,
- a comment on feel-good “faiths” that don’t require any intellectual, emotional or any other kind of commitment of its followers,
- a fictional piece on “Evil J. Transylvania”, sent to defile/straighten the actual Antichrist after he had fallen off the track and was living off of his fame as an occultist1
- How much I hate New Age bullshitters and people who misrepresent the occult to make a quick buck. Same with pseudo-Christian micro-churches
- and several other ideas…
But none of them stuck. I would write a paragraph here and there and then be truly lost. I didn’t have anything to say beyond those one-liners.
I took the “pantser” approach and started writing using the wonderful Write or Die until I felt like I had some-thing. It’s far from perfect, but it’s what I can offer to this node and this ReQuest.
It’s rare for me to write about morals, religion and spirituality—and even rarer to write about my own inner life—but something inside me led me to these words. Maybe the had been cooking on the back of my head and I never realized, or maybe I’m overcaffeinated and don’t realize it. What’s done is done.
If this noder has offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but misclick’d here
While these letters did appear.
And this weak and idle scam,
No more yielding but a spam,
Gentles, hold the downvote please:
If you pardon, I will sneeze.
And, as I’m an honest Andy,
If I have unearned brandy
Now to toast to your good health
I will share with you my wealth
Else this Andy a liar call
So, good night unto you all
Give me your C!s, if we be friends,
Or send me Klaproth, he who ends.2
Catholic Church. 1997. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM.
Pierce, Charles P. 2009. Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. https://books.google.com/books?id=3iKRM06GXdwC.
Sort of what Judas wants to do with Jesus in the musical «Jesus Christ Superstar»: “You’ve started to believe the things they say of you / you really do believe this talk of God is true”.
Also, forgive my liberal transformation of the Bard’s lines. Poetry and good stanzal (?) architecture have never been my forte.