A discussion just before Christmas in Old Testament class – that’s “OT,” if you want to be cool – centered on the plague narratives. You remember the plagues from Sunday School, right? Exodus 7 through 11, when Yahweh uses his power to torment the Egyptians so that Pharaoh will send out the Israelites he’s keeping as slaves.
Exodus has deep theological meaning, of course, but as far as pure story is concerned, the plague section is particularly good stuff: water that turns into blood,
darkness, diseased livestock, locusts, boils, lice, frogs.
All the elements of a horror novel are there, and we read it and think, Man, if I were Pharaoh, I would’ve let them go after bloody water and frogs – no way I would have held out through lice and boils!
But here’s the kicker: the pictures you just looked at, marveling at my ability to time travel and provide actual photographs of the OT plagues?! They’re of Australia.
Yes, friends, the Land Down Under, home to such Gifts to Civilization as Vegemite, Men at Work, The Wiggles, and the ever-rockin’ AC/DC (that last one actually is a gift), also plays host to natural events that will make you think you have left the known universe and entered another dimension altogether: a dimension that in many ways resembles the innermost circle of hell. They have actual plagues in Australia – days when your car has no traction because there are twenty-seven layers of frogs smashed on the road, days when it seems totally reasonable to go outside wearing a giant net weighted down by cork bobbers in order to keep the flies from moving onto your face and building condominiums, days when it’s so unbelievably hot that the pavement melts.
Don’t misunderstand me: I have been to Oz quite a few times, and love it. I happen to think that Taronga Zoo in Sydney is the best zoo on the planet (not least because the elephants’ home has a gorgeous view of Sydney Harbor, and you know how I feel about elephants), and I’ve had fantastic meals and great fun in Australia, not to mention having a couple of Aussie friends along the way who’ve been hands-down phenomenal. But holy hell!! I was watching the news one night in Brisbane and they were covering — in that matter-of-fact, nonplussed way Aussies have — a mouse plague in the Outback . As the reporter stepped backwards, the woman she was interviewing opened her barn door, and a river — a LITERAL RIVER — of mice flowed out.
Living in this Old Testament terrain has made Australians some of the most resilient people on the planet. Travel around the developing world, and you’ll see that while the Americans are congregating at the American Club and lamenting the lack of potable tap water, the Aussies have gone full native. They’re living side by side with the locals, dressing in traditional garb, eating from street vendors, and dismissing concerns about dengue fever and malaria and dysentery with the disdain of people who routinely spontaneously combust and put their own body fires out with Foster’s Lager.
The Old Testament challenges they face on a daily basis may also explain why Aussies are some of the best swearers on the planet. Their profanity is so prolific, and so ingrained, that “Oi, c*nt!” is how Aussies routinely address both their grandmothers and members of Parliament.
I think there’s a business in this, and I want to tell you about it in case you’ve got some spare cash lying around to invest. People are scared to travel to the Middle East, but crave an experience that puts them in touch with their faith. Thus, the proliferation of places like The Holy Land Experience (just minutes from Disney and Sea World!) and the soon-to-open Ark Encounter in Kentucky. How about we offer these same people the chance to experience life as it was before Jesus?! Introducing:
Oi, c*nts! Come, experience the Old Testament in real time,
complete with plagues!
Send checks, and I’ll let you know when we are up and running.