CHAPEL HILL – Just as the Christmas shopping season was beginning, a damper has come down on the holiday’s festive spirit, as Jesus announced Wednesday that he is canceling his previously scheduled return to earth.
In a surprisingly candid and informal statement to an invited assembly of world leaders and journalists at Memorial Hall on the University of North Carolina campus, Jesus detailed his reasoning behind this momentous decision.
"I’m not coming back," Jesus began. "I'm sorry. I know I promised I would return but have any of you really looked at the state of the world lately? Tell the truth now; would you leave heaven to come to this? Didn't think so.
"Last time I came to earth I invested 33 solid years and what did I get? Crucified. I mean literally crucified. At some point you've got to cut your losses, don't you think?
"I'm pretty good about keeping my commitments. At least I think so. But can't a guy get a little reciprocity every now and then? If even a couple of you would keep maybe one commandment for part of one day every once in a while, I'd be at least tempted to come back.
"But, give me a break, since I left, you guys are about one for a hundred and fifty quadrillion -- and I'm talking about the people who actually try.
"I'm just not coming back," Jesus said as he despondently walked away from the podium to end his announcement.
A convocation of the National Council of Churches in consultation with the Jesus Seminar declared that they were not at all surprised to hear Jesus was not returning. "We never believed he was returning to begin with," said Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, the NCC's General Secretary.
Dr. Bart A. Ehrrman, a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, expanded on this view. "Textual analysis had shown that Jesus' so-called promises to return were not the authentic words of Jesus. A careful analysis of the extant texts shows that the only thing it is certain that Jesus did say was 'Lo.' After that it's mythology, wishful thinking and ex post facto theology put into his mouth."
Not everyone was so callous in their assessment. Bertrand Russell IV, a fifth-generation atheist from New York City who attended the press conference, was impressed by the uncontrived honesty of Jesus' declaration. "I really liked the guy. I had always thought of God as aloof and distant but this guy is really quite down to earth. I'm seriously considering becoming a believer now that I know it's not just a cheap ticket out of Armageddon."
Orthodox Jews who are still expecting the first coming of the Messiah were somewhat daunted by Jesus' announcement. Rabbi Simon Hirschfeld spoke for many when he said, "Maybe he's still coming the first time even if he's not coming back again. Oy vey, what if we missed him and the bus just isn't coming back to this station?"
Fundamentalist believers, however, remained unwavering in their faith. "I don't care what ‘Jesus’ said, if it ain't in the King James Version, I won't receive it, I don't believe it, and that's the way I'm gonna leave it," said the Reverend Moran Lofquist, executive director of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America.
Although he admitted to being temporarily shaken, author Timothy LaHaye says he now plans a new book series: "Really Left Behind."
Among major world religious figures, only the noted evangelist Billy Graham seemed completely nonplussed by Jesus' decision. "I figure I'm going to Jesus myself any day now. What do I care if he comes back when I'm in heaven? Seems like that's y'all's problem, not mine."
PETA volunteers to assist in fundraiser
HILLSBOROUGH – In a compromise that has everybody smiling, volunteers from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have agreed to take the place of the donkeys in the the C.W. Stanford Middle School Booster Club's re-scheduled donkey basketball fundraiser that had been cancelled earlier in response to PETA protests.
"It's the perfect solution," said PETA spokesperson, Alma Snock. According to Snock, PETA members are "used to abuse" while participating in PETA events. "Compared to disrupting research at a cancer lab, this will be a piece of cake," said Snock.
A Stanford booster club spokeswoman, who asked to be unnamed, said that PETA "donkeys" will be more manageable for school faculty and staff, who will be riding the "donkeys" as they play a game of basketball, "as they are more used to dealing with little jackasses anyway," adding, "and we expect attendance to be standing room only."
Delicious Tofu Pups® vegan hot dogs and smooth, creamy Silk® Soymilk will be available as refreshments.
Gary D. Gaddy once regularly attended Bible studies at the Maranatha! House in Greenville, S.C.
A version of this article was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Thursday November 29, 2007.
Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy