Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Beauty of Gehenna

"I was probably the most entranced listener to a sermon . . . about Gehenna, the hateful valley outside the walls of Jerusalem, where outcasts lived, and where their flickering fires, seen from the city walls, may have given rise to the idea of a hell of perpetual burning." -Robertson Davies, Fifth Business

"The valley of Ben-hinnom . . . on the south side of Mount Zion, a place which was notorious from the time of Ahaz as the seat of the worship of Moloch . . . is supposed there, of whom nothing further is known." -Wikipedia, entry for "Gehenna"

South of Zion, Saint George wages
His interminable battle
Against the fiery red dragon
That goes now by name of Dixie.

How much can you trust a Moloch
Known primarily from the faith
That praised its founding Abraham
For being so faithful to God

He was willing to kill his son?
Only the choice of divine name
Differs between the approving
Lord accepting the sacrifice

And approving God declining.
Let them all go, "the mythical
Elements that seem to me to
Underlie our apparently

Ordinary lives." The dragon
Lives to fight baited-fish-hook saints
For one more nightmare. Fires with fire
Ornament dark nights of our souls.

Could it be our eyes are clouded
By the swirling and stinging fumes
Of hearths we lit to clarify
Our position under their stars?

Every myth deludes us, even
Those we still refuse to believe
Are myths because we cannot see
Any narrative must be one.

Look around you. The hills you see
Are only higher or lower
Than those around Jerusalem.
Beauty is a valley of flames.

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