GALEN HOLLEY: In the religious world, crazy is as crazy does

By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

“My friends and I had long proved an embarrassment to one another … It was distressing because there was a kind of gloating – undoubtedly imagined on my part – in these encounters, as though they were telling me that getting myself proclaimed mad and dragged away was only a childish and petulant refusal to accept their way of life as the right way, that in seeking some other way I had been assuming a courage and superiority I hadn’t possessed.”
Fred Exley, “A Fan’s Notes”

The man with no name, so he called himself, scared me. He showed up one day with a creepy stare and a van full of junk, started raving about gluttony and lies and all the evil business we’ve come to accept.
A confused man; a man deeply implicated in his own hysteria and dogma; a man far gone into the ether and prophecy. He left me a note tied with little crucifixion nails.
In southern Georgia there was another one, a hermetic of his own volition, belonged to no order, just a roadside prophet, bearded and wrapped about in scratchy wool like a man crazed with hunger and loneliness in a Cormac McCarthy novel.
“He thinks he’s Francis of Assisi,” the old Irish priest told me.
Some good Christians will take shots at the Mormons, as if what they believe is any weirder than the rest of us. Tablets found in the dirt don’t seem any more irrational than bread and wine transforming into a sacred corpse – and a saving meal. Holy cannibalism.
Back in the Midwest those Catholics wanted to hire a public relations firm to “brand” the church. They bolted out of their executive suites with portfolios full of ideas to market the church, breathless in a frenzy to cast a great, broad net over people who just couldn’t decide which Starbucks to patronize on a Sunday morning.
I like sitting in the Waffle House with photographer Todd Sherman, drinking coffee and talking about the music of Athens, Georgia.
I like thinking of a pretty, blonde girl at the Salvation Army. They pieced her skull back together with rivets after she got mashed by a semi. Her heart is full of love and forgiveness. She made me put my hands on her head to feel the fissures.
Someone, I remember, once called Joel Osteen “Mr. McPreachy,” and I think even he would find that funny.
Some Sundays I plain don’t go to Mass. I put on a coat, pour a mug of coffee and walk the northern edge of my property, to a stack of junk some builders left years ago.
There are unopened bags of shingles, PVC pipe and some coiled up hose. I could build an evil lair out of this stuff, I think, a bunker, strong and hidden, where the weasels of the world can’t get at me.
Suddenly I am the crazy man, with a wooden rosary for a belt and a three-year beard, writing notes to people that sound like Ted Kazinski.
The most lunatic of my herd of feral cats are coursing through the pile of junk. They yawl like things possessed, begging me for a sanity I can’t give them.

Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or galen.holley@journalinc.com.