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Millennium Countdown

Y2K has made a believer out of me.

I should explain: born and baptized a Catholic, I was planning on greeting the New Year with a Millennial Celebration. The Church was encouraging us to embrace the prospect of putting our mark on another thousand years of theology: 0 to 1000 CE -- we gave you martyrs, good for both instant sainthood and entertaining the heathen Roman masses; 1000 CE to the present -- you got the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Legion of Decency urging you to boycott Dogma.

Clearly, we've given the world a rich legacy of religious spectacle. But will it be enough when the Lord and Savior comes down to separate the sheep from the goats?

Or, for those of you who don't conflate my freshman chemistry class taught by Samir Patel with the New Testament, will being a member of the one true church be enough to guarantee salvation?

Frankly, I suspect not. The Legion of Decency thing makes me nervous. So I'm going to spend my last hours on earth watching the Eternal Life Network on cable and rededicating my life to Jesus without worrying about pesky denominational considerations.

Here I go: the first steps on my road to rededication.

6:05 p.m. I am watching a call-in show: three clean-cut and righteous people answering the phone calls of viewers. Two of the people on the show are guests; they are sharing their problem -- and its Godly solution -- with the host. I decide not to bother learning the names of the guests, the host or the show: after all, when we are all bodily assumed into heaven at the stroke of midnight, we will all be given new names under the Lord.

Or so I'm hoping, because it will be damned embarrassing to run into strangers and have to search their washed-white-in-the-blood-of-the-Lamb robes for a name tag.

As I understand it, the problem the two guests had is that their marriage was plagued by lust. This makes me sad: it seems like even the righteous are beset by Jerry Springer-like spectacles. But it turns out the lust is not directed at another man, woman, parental love-puppy or group marriage, but rather toward one's spouse.

On Oprah, this would be considered "healthy" for a marriage. Here, however, it's a problem. Fortunately, through prayer, any and all lust for one's partner has been banished.

I have difficulty reconciling this "solution" to its effect on a long-term relationship. I decide this is just one proof of the phrase "The Lord works in mysterious ways."

9:19 p.m. Mother Angelica, a relic of my old faith, is on. I watch as a test of my newfound relationship with a higher power.

After an hour of testing, I decide that Mother Angelica really should have paid more attention to the book of Revelations. And, for that matter, I should have too.

10:10 p.m. Fund-raising pleas. Since I went off money and onto the raccoon currency system two weeks ago, I'm unable to tithe one-tenth of my critters via phone pledge. I decide to see what the ungodly are watching tonight:

TNT -- The Seventh Seal
HBO -- the Prophecy
Sci-Fi: part four of The Stand
American Movie Classics: The Ten Commandments
MTV: Real World VIII: Helsinki

Oh, why won't the world read the signs it is given? I go out to read the parable of loaves and fishes to the raccoons while I feed them kippers and hardtack.

11:55 p.m. I am quivering with anticipation. In just five minutes, the lovely violet-haired minister -- who, I have been reassured several times, loves me enough to save me a seat at her right hand when she lunches with Jesus -- will taken home to meet the Lord. And we will all get to see it on television! Yes, even the righteous will be watching: from what I can make of the sermon, the Rapture will commence in the same fashion as boarding a plane: families with small children and those needing assistance go first, then the gold-class frequent fliers (televangelists), the silver-class frequent fliers (people who have died on the operating table, seen the light, then come back to tell us all what we're missing), then rows 1-30. Since I bought my ticket late, I'm going to have plenty of time to watch the spectacle.

I wonder idly if actors get frequent flier miles for portraying religious figures -- it distresses me to imagine that Jon Voight and Mary Steenburgen get to jump to the head of the line based on the Noah miniseries. I decide this idea is another test of my faith.

12 a.m. Nothing. My good friends at the Eternal Life Network are all still on camera, and looking vaguely surprised to be there. I walk over to the window and check the night sky: no horsemen yet.

I click over to MTV, and shriek "The whore of Babylon!" Upon closer inspection, I realize it's only Madonna, whose latest hairdo only appears to be comprised of serpents and a crown of seven stars on her brow.

12:15 a.m. Well, I've done it now: blown the biggest night of the last thousand years watching redneck televangelists, and I didn't even get my goddamned salvation for this. I even turned my back on the Church! Oh, God! Forgive me!

Fortunately, the Church is a lot like the Mob -- you're never an ex-member. I decide to do a rosary for penance and contemplate the third secret of Fatima.

I decide it says "The Millennium really starts in 2001."


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