19 October, 2009

Remembering L T Anderson

Instead of watching Mad Men last night I read the packet of old L T Anderson columns Gazette Editor, Jim Haught, was nice enough to send me. I got to chat with Haught at the "Textbook Wars" discussion at the Culture Center and mentioned to him that I was a huge L T Anderson fan and that I was looking for any collections of the late columnist's work. Jim graciously mailed me a huge packet of Anderson's stuff - mostly from 1971, 72 and 73, the same period in which I was a Gazette delivery boy in St. Albans and started every day reading the Gazette opinion pages before I delivered my papers.

I had forgotten how many anti-war columns Anderson wrote and how many of his columns held up what passes for Christianity to ridicule because of its failure to oppose war, indeed, for its Old Testament style eagerness to cast America in the role of Old Testament Israel - the good guys - and anybody some American president happens to declare war on in the role of Philistines or other Old Testament bad guys. And L T didn't just excoriate what passes for Christianity these days for its failure to oppose the Vietnam war until practically all the godless opposed it first, L T knew that what passes for Christianity these days is an enthusiastic military recruiter and PR department for the old, white, rich politicians who send poor young men off to war by invoking God and justifying their sacrifice by assuring grieving parents that their children died "defending freedom" or "defending their country" and were not sacrificed in vain.

I had also forgotten how much fun L T Anderson had with faith healers like Charleston's "Lacy The Stranger" and with "Honk If You Love Jesus" bumper stickers.

And I had forgotten that L T shared my love of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

What I had not forgotten was that L T Anderson was, in Jim Haught's words, "a genius". Haught told me he used to send Anderson's columns, ten at a time, to the Pulitzer Prize Committee. Twice a finalist, Anderson never won the Pulitzer though his many fans think he was robbed.

Anderson died in 2004 at the age of 83. I wish he could have lived long enough to lampoon today's version of what passes for Christianity but the absence of Andersonian theological commentary on what passes for Christianity today is less tragic than it would have been had Anderson not predicted that paunchy, red-faced Baptist preachers would still be lap dogs for old, rich, white politicians who want to send their parishoners off to be maimed and killed.
The columnist whose sardonic wit made me giggle with every folded paper I threw in the 70s, would not have been the least surprised that the church of the 21st century campaigned for a president who used a terrorist attack as a pretense for attacking a country that had nothing to do with attacking the US.

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