With religion being responsible for so many of the conflicts currently plaguing the world, it's good to see that some people are finally pointing the blame finger skyward.
That is to say that many people are unwittingly citing the Big Man upstairs as the wind beneath their ill-advised wings. Author Marc Hartzman chronicles the absurdity of spiritual misadventures in his new book God Made Me Do It (Sourcebooks). Invoking such names as Evander Holyfield, Mike Huckabee, and Reggie White, Hartzman offers more than 150 stories about those souls who took on preposterous missions at what they said was the behest of the Lord.
Already known for books that explore the wacky (his two others are Found on eBay and American Sideshow), Hartzman, an ad man and freelance writer, started collecting so-called God-appointed decisions (and more often mistakes) after scribbling the idea in his notepad.
Tracing stories from the turn of the 20th century to the last presidential election, God Made Me covers the morbid, the silly, and even the endearing. Hartzman's favorite? The one about an evangelist who traveled 480 miles to Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice — to juggle. Nathan — in the cases of non celebrities, surnames are mercifully not used — even brought his pregnant wife and two children along, believing "that if it were God's desire, He could make Schiavo get up and walk again." Sadly, after 15 years in a vegetative state, parlor tricks and circus acts did not help lead to Schiavo's recovery.
Other stories are considerably more disturbing, such as that of Hubert who, in 1933, shot and killed his wife because of her homemaking inattentiveness. The sink of dirty dishes proved to be the error in her ways that Hubert, under God's direction, intended to correct.
Even more disconcerting are the supposed divine interventions that shaped the foreign policy of our former president. "God would tell me, 'George, go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan . . . go and end the tyranny in Iraq.' And I did." If God was George W. Bush's White House co-pilot, perhaps He bears some blame for the "Mission Accomplished" debacle, too.
Most tales have a lighthearted lunacy that Hartzman depicts without, well, crucifying his subjects. In the case of a man who claimed to be Jesus Christ and who vandalized a police station with toilet paper, Hartzman notes, "Theologians may argue that God is as old as time; based on evidence from this case, He may actually be 12."
As with anything religious, Hartzman is aware the book may incite controversy, but he offers that "it's not meant to sway people one way or the other . . . it's really a humor book." A dash of morbidity and a good helping of irony — biblically speaking, it sounds like something God would find funny.