Jan/Feb 2012 Salon

The Confidence Man Explains the Long Con

by Stanley Jenkins

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. —Revelation 3:20 NRSV

God is always in the room you don't want to go into. He's waiting there for you. And you never want to open that door. All the pikers and hanger-ons, all the flim flam boys and faro dealers, they are always just going to give you permission to stay where you are, selling you the license to never open that door. They are selling you real estate you already own. They are collecting rent on your shackles. And most of the time you're happy to pay. Doesn't that beat all? We are all too happy to pay to avoid being who we are.

OK. Maybe calling it God is the problem. The scandal of particularity. It doesn't really matter what you call it. It's not like the atheist is ever going to avoid having to open that door. It's not like the door wouldn't be there, just waiting to be opened, if there weren't no God. What, do we have to speak baby-talk? God is never what we mean when we say "God." Duh!. Jeeze Louise. Anyone who has ever felt awe knows that. Anyone who has ever loved and lost and lived to tell the tale knows that. You can't reduce these things to names. You can't tame the tempest in words.

For all intents and purposes, there's nothing but the door and the room you don't want to enter. And here's the thing, boys: It is all too easy to label what lies beyond the door, in the room we don't want to enter, evil. It's red meat to politicians, and priests, ministers and clergy, the numbers runners of our body politic. They got ways to make you turn your cowardice into virtue every which way to Sunday.

You got pulpit-pounders and shamans, tarot card readers to the stars, you got prognosticators and mediums who channel the wisdom of lost masters in Atlantis. You got puritan divines and catholic prelates. You got skeptics and debunkers, devotees of the cult of reason, you got professors and auto-didactics, you got the three card monte boys in Times Square and roulette dealers in Monte Carlo.

You got every thing you need to justify not opening that damned door.

Jeeze Louise. It's not like you don't have to open it. I mean, it's not like it won't ever stop being there just waiting for you to open it. it's not like you don't have to take your own bath.

So what are you waiting for? Just open the damn door. Whatever is there waiting for you, knows your true name. It's been waiting for you forever.


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