Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rik George writes

They come, arid of spirit,
to worship their Elvis Redemptor.
His face has appeared in the rust
on a public bathroom’s tiles.
They bring their paper flowers,
to wreathe the holy picture,
some light candles on the drains,
some offer their teddy bears.
The pilgrims shuffle in lines,
waiting to plead with Elvis,
plead for water to cleanse them,
plead for Elvis to fill them.
They go away empty,
their nostrils pinched together
against the reek of stale urine
and the dust from their own dry hearts.


1 comment:

  1. The First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine was founded in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1988, shortly after two marketing company coworkers Marty Rush (later known as "Rev. Mort Farndu") and Ed Karlin ("Dr. Karl N. Edwards") had separate visions of the King of Rock-and-Roll. Karlin was flying back home from Las Vegas and saw Elvis handing out peanuts on the plane, while Rush heard "Don't Be Cruel" plating on an unplugged radio at work. Farndu undertook to write a New Improved Testament for the Presleyterians that wove social history and spirituality into a guiding text. "In a sense," according to Norman Girardot, professor of comparative religion at Lehigh University, "it has become his life now.... All religions start out wacky, small, and cultlike.... [But] what happens when something that starts out tongue-in-cheek becomes an obsessive element of your life?" Basically, he said, religions exist to fill a need for meaning and order in adversity. New religions are counter-movements within prevailing cultures, which then reject them or make fun of them. "Comedy and religion are close in many ways: Both stand up to the darkness, inconsistencies, ambiguities of life.... We can either laugh at them or say we have found a savior.... [The Presleyterians] were both serious and unserious at the same time. They started as a joke, then took on a life of their own and it started to become quasi-real for them." Dr. Vernon Chadwick agreed: "Aspects of his life and death do suggest the ancient stories.... This comparison challenges our sense of the lofty origins of religious formation. After all, Christ's disciples were of the working class. They wrote in atrocious Greek. Could what is happening with Elvis today somehow capture the uncapturable? [Might it recall] what happened 2,000 years ago in a tiny village in the Holy Land, where miraculous things occurred and stories were told and a following arose and, little by little, there [was formed] a worldwide religion whose origins we no longer contemplate?" Many prerequisites for a full-blown religion seem to be in place: 1) Myth: The '50s hip-shaking rockabilly rube, the '60s Hollywood Elvis, the '70s Vegas Elvis - the fleshy, redemptive Elvis, who through his sins of excess, absolves us of our own. 2) Ritual: The annual, bittersweet pilgrimage to Memphis, the Holy Land, to commemorate Elvis' death. 3) Relics: Such as the lime-green jungle-print bedsheets stripped from Graceland, a plastic-encased plug of Presley's red carpet, etc., etc. For Elvis worshipers unable to journey to Memphis, the internet provides electronic altars. Karlin insisted, "One of the things that makes us different is that we celebrate life. Other so-called religions offer sin, guilt, and damnation. We offer food, fun, and rock and roll. We quite frankly think most of the major religions seem to have failed mankind. There is a lot of hypocrisy and disappointment. We are trying to bring that in perspective, even if through the wacky way of Elvis. Life should be fun, it should be sensual and, at the same time, sacred. They say having a normal human appetite is something that is sinful. Rock and roll has done more in my lifetime to bring about love, peace - all the things I thought religions were about to promote."


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