I’m just starting to re-read a book I first read quite a few years ago after discovering it somewhere in Dad’s stack of books, James Morrow’s Only Begotten Daughter. I’ve since read a few more of Morrow’s books, and he has a definite knack for religious satire, but I’ve wanted to pick this one up again for a while now.
There’s one particular short conversation in the book that’s stuck with me since I read it the first time. At this stage in the book, seventeen year old Julie Katz — only begotten daughter of God, born of the virgin Murray Katz — is having a discussion with Andrew Wyvern — the Devil.
“No problems? No questions? Need a recommendation?” Wyvern closed his cigarette case. “I can tell you why the universe is made of matter and not anti-matter. I can tell you why the electron has its particular charge. I can tell you —”
“There is one thing.”
Wyvern began retracting the wick. The flame grew translucent.
And so did he.
“It always comes down to her, doesn’t it?”
“Why doesn’t she care about people?” The spring air dried Julie’s tears. “Why all the diseases and earthquakes?”
With a final twist of the knob, Wyvern’s body became a gaseous haze. The dead lantern hit the beach, dug into the sand. “The Columbian mud flows?”
“Yeah. The Columbian mud flows.”
“Actually, the answer’s quite simple.” Two red eyes floated in the mist.
“Really? Tell me. Why does God allow evil?”
The red eyes vanished, leaving only the lantern and the night. “Because power corrupts,” said Wyvern’s disembodied voice. “And absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
I got such a delicious chill down my spine when I read that the first time. Of course, I’d heard the phrase before, but never thought of applying it to God.
Now, the book does have quite a bit more to say than that, and it’s certainly not always that dismissive of God — this is fairly early on in the story, and consider the source of the accusation — it’s just a particularly favorite passage of mine.
iTunes: “Rex Caeli, Domine Maris (Musica Enchiriadis)” by Capella Antiqua Munchen from the album Gregorian Chant: Sequentiae (1992, 6:30).