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I’mageddon some popcorn

BY DEAN TREFTZ | MARCH 2, 2009 7:30 AM

Audio: The author reads his column


As the first spring of the worst recession in 25-plus years approaches, I’ve been nursing a giddy knot in my stomach, like a drawn-out Xmas Eve. Every day above 40 degrees, there’s a little hop in my step, but this year it’s not for the usual baseball, beaches, apple pie, picnics, and the transition from whatever cancer fluorescent lights produce to good ol’ Melanoma.

What I’m really looking forward to is that peculiar animal often seen roaming the Pentacrest during the first and last few months of school: the crazy preacher guys.

Oh, the delights of the crazy preacher guys. Bored between classes? Check between Schaeffer and Macbride for the most fun money can’t buy. I have many fond memories of horseshoe-shaped crowds all silently watching a sputtering, raving figure pace and proselytize.

There’s an even bigger bonus when a self-righteous grad student jumps in and tries to out-shout him with detailed refutations. The whole thing adopts the can’t-look-away pull of a slow-motion car crash.

Even the less interesting crazy preacher guys who can’t get more than a handful of sinners to observe end up being entertaining after you stop out of pity (because crazy preacher guys have to start somewhere).

I’m not sure exactly what makes the crazy preacher guy so fascinating. Maybe it’s the unconscious recognition of the sheer will and conviction it must take to make your way into this hotbed of secular humanism and scream at a bunch of kids who, at best, think you’re crazy. If people are going to recklessly throw themselves upon dozens of “wtf?” faces, it’s hard not to watch.

I also like to imagine them kicking themselves for forgetting some obscure Leviticus verse on the drive home.

Maybe it’s that basic human instinct to innocently ask “why?” when told you’re going to Hell.
Whatever it is, I think the recession will provide us plenty of opportunities to indulge this spring.
Aside from Iowa City’s usual allure of more visible sins of brazen sexuality, a godless aesthetic, and science (as opposed to the boring old alcoholism and child/spouse abuse elsewhere in the region), the economic downturn has started to prove these guys right.

Don’t you remember from May of last year: “And if you do not repent, God will strike your decadent, rotting house down!” Clearly he was talking about how our long history of being unable to resist artificially deflated interest rates for consumption spending would create a credit culture, ultimately leading to the collapse of the financial markets, which had their structural weaknesses exposed by the housing bubble.

Of course, his premise is ludicrous (the housing bubble popped nearly two years before that particular rant), but you try citing the S&P Home Price Index to a man throwing Revelations back at you.

To be fair, he did call the fallacy of trying to dissipate risk through overly intricate securitized mortgages with “no matter how you hide your sins, God will find you!”

Also, the established correlation between economic slumps and the embrace of more simplistic worldviews has to be tempting for all those vigilante evangelists (vigilantelists?). I have to admit, there’s a part of me that says: “Why complicate life by adding unnecessary categories beyond People Exactly Like You and People Going to Hell?”

But what I’m really hoping for is that we can bring in some doomsday prophets this year. Maybe I just missed them, but I’ve never seen an Armageddoneer on campus. I have caught a couple while visiting larger cities and let me tell you, it’s like the difference of seeing the Chicago Cubs after years of only the Des Moines variety.

I mean, these people believe the world’s ending, and their reaction is to go out and tell everyone with PVC pipe and canvas. Awesome.

Anyway, it’s been my personal dream lately to see a sign floating around the Pentacrest that reads, “I told you The End is near.”


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