My guess is that anyone who’s had the immense pleasure of witnessing the demonic spectacle of a Candy Snatchers show live and watched the blood spider down Larry Mays’ evil cherub face with a hell-bent glint in his eyes, would estimate the degrees of separation between the Candy Snatchers and Jesus Christ to be more than the usual six. Most people would probably put that number closer to six hundred sixty-six. But, with the publication of Snatcher’s bass player Brian Diederich’s Christ: The Dark Years, there is actually little separation to speak of. But that, I suppose, depends to a great extent on how seriously one takes a book like this. I remember many years ago when those notorious leg-pullers over at Maximum Rocknroll tried to hoodwink their wide-eyed readership with the introduction of a supposed Christian punk columnist. Though credulity was strained to the point of emitting a massive Bronx cheer, many among the MRR flock took the bait like dumb carp and immediately lurched into severe spleen-venting mode. Much hilarity ensued.
My problem, if you can call it a problem, with Christ: The Dark Years is I don’t know how seriously to take it. I’m still getting used to the idea that there exists such a thing as a Republican punk, even though the Misfits’ ex-singer Michale Graves has been blowing the conservative butt horn for years now. And now you’re asking me to believe in the existence of a Christian punk? It just seems too exotic a beast to really exist. Now, I know that there are plenty of middle-of-the-road George F. Babbitt types out there who go to church every Sunday who also have some Ramones, Clash, and Bowling For Soup tunes in their iPods, maybe even some hard stuff like Avril Lavigne. But I’m not talking about those types. I’m talking about a mutant strain that combines a seriously devout, theology-steeped Christian with a shit-slinging, blood-burping punk rock wildebeest. In a cartoony way, that’s like imagining a cross between GG Allin and the Flying Nun.
Whatever the case, this is a strange, warty little shrew of a book. Diederich states early on “the purpose of this book is to reveal the complete story of the life of Jesus” and he purportedly goes about doing this by relying heavily on information gleaned from the hoary records of the Gnostic Gospels and by something he calls “divine revelation”—whatever the hell that is. What you wind up with is a book (which reads more like a rough draft) that’s a sort of travelogue, charting Jesus’ movements from region to region, as he sees the degradation of the human spirit while occasionally talking shop with various magicians, wizards, and holy men. In the process, Christ stumbles into everything from drug abuse to necrophilia rituals. And it’s all presented with a strange paucity of details and a clunky level of writing hardly befitting one claiming to have degrees in philosophy and physics. Did I mention this is an odd little book?
On the positive side, there are occasional snippets of hellfire-and-brimstone baroque poetry with a nice Old Testament style gravitas: “The child of God then said, ‘If your children do not follow my word, Gargoyles will come up from Hell and lay feces, which will cause great plagues. Lepers will permeate society and limbs will fall from the bodies in great numbers. Appendages will appear on the streets in large numbers. Dead bodies will be scattered all over the roadways and little children in masses will be nibbling on torsos, while cries of the dying go unheard.’”
Now that’s the kind of pulpit-pounding fear-mongering twaddle that the demented Bil Keane of extreme Christian cartoons, Jack Chick, could make into a seriously deranged and wildly amusing evangelical pamphlet. Fairly juicy stuff, but there’s simply not enough of it in Christ: The Dark Years to keep things interesting.
Maybe this queer little book really is an earnest, but clumsy, attempt to shed light on the years of Christ’s life not covered in the New Testament. Or, maybe it’s something more sinister, something like a flaming bag of postmodernist doggy doo set at the doorstep of the Biblical literalists. Diederich does, after all, thank Sub Genius guru Ivan Stang in the back of the book, and that might be a whopper of a clue that this book is as much a prank as anything. Or, could it be that this is, underneath all the hack writing and lumpy storytelling, actually a grimoire of Gnostic psychic techniques and magick rituals? Could it be that the pregnant allegories presented here are encrypted so that only erudite students of Gnosticism with the proper decoder ring can access the secret knowledge locked within?
Biblical hermeneutics is not my strong suit, so I’m going to take some good advice from Wittgenstein when he said, “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should remain quiet.” It’s all a mystery to me, but if you’re one who was intrigued by the shadowy arcana of The Da Vinci Code or titillated by the hallowed gore of The Passion of the Christ, you might find something here to rub up against. Personally, I’d much rather spend my time listening to the decidedly decadent satan rock on Human Zoo. –Aphid Peewit (lulu.com/content/402723)