When Christ Came to Chicago 

Last summer religious fervor ran rampant when The Last Temptation of Christ settled in at the Biograph. The cream of Chicago piety demonstrated outside while the uncertain or even frivolous of faith partook of the blasphemy within. The night everyone remembers is when the subject of the movie, lightly disguised in granny glasses and an old Navy pea coat, was spotted in the aisle after the show-was over,

The audience gave Him a nice hand.

"How did you like it, Savior?" asked a DePaul coed.

"It was a very strange experience," said the Lord.

"Like reading the New Testament?" asked a black musician.

"A lot like it!" Christ admitted. "I've never been able to get through the New Testament."

"Did you find the crucifixion scene emotionally valid?" inquired a young man associated with Columbia College.

"Not really," said Christ. A buzz went through the crowd. Wow! What if those thugs outside were right! "I wish it had been more like that," Christ went on. "But a sexual fantasy was impossible just then. I was in too much pain."

That silenced everybody for a moment. Then a boy's voice rang out.

"What's heaven like?" he said.

"It's an interesting place," Christ mused. "A lot like New York or Chicago. People come in waves. For a while there, we had more Iranian martyrs than we knew what to do with."

By now the audience had surged onto the sidewalk. The demonstrators had gone home to bed. There was talk of taking Christ over to the Red Lion and really getting to know him. Everyone was pretty excited.

And that's when the media showed up.

They descended in a flurry. All of a sudden their vans were everywhere and Christ found Himself looking down the barrel of seven microphones. Floodlights pinned Him against a coming-attractions sign.

"George Bush says God's a Republican. Can you confirm that?" cried a woman's voice.

"Do You believe in night baseball?" said the towheaded young man from Channel Seven.

Several of the Martin Scorsese fans groaned at these irrelevant sallies. But then the old hands took over.

"Where were You from 1939 to 1945?"

"What's God's position on apartheid?"

"Explain AIDS."

"Why is John Lennon dead?"

"Hiroshima, Christ. Yes or no!"

There was an uneasy rustling in the crowd. Was this any way to treat the Lord on a Saturday night? "Stop hassling him, man!" growled a lad with purple hair, waving a fist at the media herd.

Then a voice broke about their heads, a voice that rolled across the clamor of the street as easily as sea on sand.

"Jesus," said the voice with effortless authority. And brushing through the multitude, offering the smile that had calmed madmen and presidents, an anchorman stepped forward and stood before his Lord.

There was silence.

"Jesus," said the anchorman, holding his microphone gently inches from his Savior's chin. "I wonder if you'd mind setting the record straight. There are those who say that God no longer intervenes in the affairs of man. Is this a misperception?"

"Not necessarily," said Christ.

"Now, does this mean that your Father, God, has decided to forsake this wonderful world he made?"

"In a sense," Christ allowed.

"And does that include Americans?" the anchorman wondered.

"I'm afraid it does," said Christ.

The anchorman chuckled wryly. The chuckle was his trademark, one of the secrets of his success.

"Boy, this is going to take some getting used to," he said with his comforting grin. "We have a lot of fine, churchgoing people here in Chicago. How do you like our city?

To everyone's amazement, Christ vanished, just like that. Almost as magically, all the media immediately disappeared too, all but the one TV crew that stayed behind to shoot cutaways.

"And so, Christ came to Chicago," the anchorman intoned. "He is gone now. Yet many questions remain."

"You guys just make me sick," said a hysterical young woman in black to the dapper pro.

"We're doing our job," be said amiably, and then he was gone too.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tom Herzberg.

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