Christian Hunting Season
Jay Hansford C. Vest
They called it the millennial wars, although the scab of apartheid had not come off until the election of the first black man to the presidency. Whipped into a fevered pitch by talk radio, right wing hate groups emerged under the banner of patriotism and religious zealotry. Preaching a promise of fiscal conservatism, lower taxes and less government, the media commenter’s spewed anarchy and insurrection throughout the land. As appealing as these ideas appeared on the surface, their populism was just a sham to serve the interests of the wealthiest one percent having ninety nine percent of the wealth in the country. Even in these times of greatest need there was a severe austerity imposed, federal taxes were never lower, and government was lean and functional. These charges of right wing populism were just the rallying cry of simpletons dissatisfied with their “American dream” and life choice failures.
The reactionary right began targeting moderates and they took charge of many southern and western state legislatures just as the census data emerged so as to gerrymander congressional districts and assume control of the House of Representatives. Somewhere along the way, they merged an anti-alien, anti-poor, anti-abortion Christian fundamentalism, and self-serving hedonism into their new libertarianism. Convinced of the absolute universal truth of their position, they began exploring a philosophy of violence as a means to their ends.
The radio and talk show hate mongers fabricated demographic lies suggesting that the ethnic poor contributed nothing to society… that there were more takers and moochers than productive contributors to the system. It was even suggested that the vote be denied the poor and parceled out on a taxable income ratio with multiple votes hierarchally apportioned to the wealthy. As these radical ideas blended into a kind of fascist miasma the ignorant and dissatisfied populist increasingly listened to a rhetoric of violence and anarchy. A Mecca for militants, neo-fascists, and paramilitarian adventurers, radical militia groups grew at an alarming rate and incidents of murder became the norm.
Black men, homosexuals, environmentalists, and members of the opposition party were hunted and hanged. It was a return to the dark ages of apartheid. But when the president’s wife and daughters were abducted, raped and murdered, a neo civil war broke out in virtually every corner of the country save the northeast, upper midwest and far west coast. These stable enclaves were all that remained of the democratic promise embraced when founding the republic in 1776. The war raged most fiercely in the old south were there was at this time no empathy with people of color. No noblese oblige for the descendants of slaves, Latin immigrants and the children of the indigenous population. It was war without mercy and the slaughter threatened to annihilate entire populations. Done all in the name of God, it was Christian fundamentalism run amok.
As the nation emerged from this chaos, there were over one hundred million dead. It was a sobering reality and the role Christian fundamentalism had played inciting the violence was not forgotten. Survivors did not overlook the Christian fueling of the war. They authorized a constitutional amendment observing strict separation of religion and state, as well as specific prohibitions against hate speech. Institutionalized these amendments required the taxation of churches and other previously non-profit social agencies. Talk radio and pseudo-news programs were carefully monitored so that these mediums became rare and unpopular among the people. In fact, there was an open skepticism of their message and many advocated a purge, which lead to a compromise designed to lessen association with Christianity. Affirmed so strongly among the surviving populace, there was an authorization of a bi-annual Christian hunting season designed to keep their members in check and their ideologies out of favor.
Like wildlife bag limits, Christian hunting season emerged with strict rules and limitations. First there were seasons, two distinct hunting periods – one given to winter beginning at sunrise on the solstice and concluding at sunset on Christmas Day. With the second hunt given to the spring during Holy Week, it began at sunrise on Good Friday and ended at dawn on the morning of Easter Monday. There was the obligatory use of video recording. The hunt required authentication with absolute documentation that affirmed some act of Christian ritual or devotion such as invoking a prayer or common acts of crossing oneself and using traditional Christian ritual icons like crosses and such paraphernalia. Even religious tattoos were acceptable documentation of one’s Christian orientation. With the exceptions of Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, there could be no killing within the churches or on their grounds. However sanctuary was lifted at sunrise on both of these days. The sanctuary rule obliged the churches to stand open and invitational on both of these two holy days, which quickly became the most popular killing times. Strict bag limits of one Christian per seasonal foray were also observed.
Like in the middle ages, Christians devised many secret passageways into and from their churches begging escape while observing ritual observations. Hunters likewise spent much time during the off season scouting and divining these escape routes that made ideal places for their hunting blinds and ambuscades. Safe houses also dotted throughout the cities but when located they were also popular target sites during the Christian hunting season.
To hear them tell it, Martin and Bob were avid Christian hunters. Their bravado however suggested otherwise but they were not entirely without some expertise. Oftentimes Sheila, a young Native woman, would join them in their conversations in the break room. Commonly Martin self asserted his “superior” hunting skills while Bob, a true sidekick, assured him of his own prowess. Calling them the “great white hunters,” Sheila chided both suggesting they left a trail even a deaf, dumb, blind Indian could follow. It was a playful banter and despite the approaching winter hunt, no one seemed to serious about any of it until the day Bob observed their boss, Bill, make the sign of the cross in his inner office.
“Did you really see him do it?” asked Martin incredulously.
“They say there is a preacher hereabouts who has created a secret sect like in the days of the early Christians. They make the sign of the cross as a part of their loyalty to each other I am told.”
“Its all underground stuff just like in the early days of Christianity in Roman times,” offered Sheila.
“I heard of this guy,” responded Bob, “who is planning to raise an army of fundamentalist followers and make war. They are said to be stock piling weapons of mass destruction and intend the violent overthrow of the government.”
“If this preacher gets his way,” agreed Martin, “there will be Armageddon.”
“It’s just like in the days when the Christians ‘discovered America,’” responded Sheila. “They killed our shamans and destroyed our medicines. They ‘discovered’ our land and called it theirs. They took our children and taught them about their Jesus while forbidding our traditional rituals and way of life. I want no more of it! They can have their Christianity but don’t force it on me!”
“This preacher wants exactly that, he wants to make everyone adhere to his beliefs and to impose Sharia laws upon the land,” declared Bob.
“Take that guy out and you will have done some good,” reasoned Martin. “In any case, we have to locate their sanctuary and ferret them out before they can become martyrs.”
“Maybe we can track Bill,” offered Bob.
Suddenly with these observations a plan had take hold and Christian hunting season became a reality for the trio.
In the days after their epiphany, the three continued to hatch their plans within the confines of the lunch room but Martin and Bob became more conspiratorial increasingly leaving Sheila our of the conversation. By pure happenstance while following Bill, Martin had observed a self confessed Christian co-worker enter a church and sometimes thereafter he emerged from a nearby residence. He pretended to befriend the man but in doing so he carefully began to monitor his every movement. It soon became apparent this guy had many underground connections as he was seen entering many churches but exiting none. As he followed him discretely through the city, Martin began to think this guy could be the preacher.
The winter hunt was fast approaching so that Martin and Bob began to construct a blind on the hill above the safe house were Bill had first been seen entering the church domain. They disguised their blind as a public works project associated with some road repairs. It featured a bunker like shelter disguised with blocks and cautionary road buoys. Within it they had a view overlooking both the church and the safe house.
On the night before Christmas, the two Christian hunters – spotter and shooter – were sequestered within their blind intently eyeing the church entrance and safe house exit. Earlier on the eve of the winter solstice, they had documented their quarry – Bill – going into the church, which made him legitimate prey. For some days Sheila had not been seen and they supposed she had lost her nerve.
In the world of high speed bullets, target documentations were fraught with sound delays following visual observation. Moments before the dawn light on Christmas Day, there was a flurry of activity. While anxiously scanning the safe house exit, Martin out of the corner of his eye noticed a strange thing he could not instantly understand. His partner Bob had seemed to have crossed himself. In that moment, without a sound there appeared a bloody red midst in the air around him. He remained however fixed on acquiring his target, which was a sniper above the safe house on an opposing hillside. It was Bill crossing himself just as Martin squeezed the trigger of his rifle. The bullet sped across the small vale directly entering the scope of his adversary opposite him. He watched as the glass exploded while his single shot echoed in his ear and another distant pop sounded out almost immediately but nearly right on top of each other. It was odd that he had heard his shot first, as it was fired milliseconds after he had observed the red mist about his position. Almost instantly there was another rifle crack upon the air and he tracked it to the valley below.
In the flashing moment, he recognized the safe house exit where the preacher lay in a spreading pool of blood. Back tracking the sight line to a point low in the valley before him, he observed a single sniper. It was a small figure but he knew it was Sheila. She had dropped the prize.
About the author:
Jay Hansford C. Vest is Professor of American Indian Studies at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. His published works account for nearly one hundred twenty publications including books and monographs, as well as one hundred peer refereed journal articles or book selections. He is an enrolled member in the Monacan Indian Nation and a direct descendent of the famous chief Opechancanough of the Pamunkey Nation, who took Captain John Smith captive as a murder suspect in 1607.
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