I’m guessing that by now many of you have heard about the bad news brewing for the Prince of Darkness. It seems that the next time old Beelzebub visits his travel agent to book a trip for a little R & R, he’ll have to avoid Florida’s gulf coast--at least for now. Satan has been officially banned from the fishing village of Inglis, a speck on the map almost directly across Florida’s pan from Daytona Beach. Thrown into a fervor after seeing one to many of those pesky Goth kids milling about in white make-up, mayor Carolyn Risher decided to take action and drew up a proclamation on city stationary warning The Evil One to back off. The warnings were then posted at the four corners of town, which is pretty logical since we all know that Sir Darkness travels only on major highways. Ahem… But it gets better. Aside from being a zealot and a bigwig in town politics, it turns out that Risher and her righteous villagers are also mighty big Elvis fans. As an aside, don’t you think Risher and her Righteous Villagers has the potential to be a great name for a gospel group? No, maybe it’s just me. Anyhow, in 1996, the town approved the renaming of Inglis’ portion of Levy County Road 40 to the “Follow That Dream” parkway, commemorating the like-named film Elvis shot there in the Sixties. Risher claims that the film changed her life, and stood by the road’s name change even when nearby Yankeetown refused to follow suit. Recently, the heavenly mayor went ahead and hung her anti-devil proclamation on the mayoral office wall, right near three adorable little heart-shaped frames full of Elvis. So the woman stands by her, um, beliefs, as we can see. (You know, if I were making this up I’d be awfully proud of myself.) Of course, any true fan of the devil will handily point out that the re-arrangement of the letters in Elvis’ name spell out “E-V-I-L S.,” which is, obviously, the name on the back of the unholy one’s baseball jersey in the seven-levels-of-hell softball tournament. But you know what they say about ignorance. So here’s a quote from Risher’s ode to all that is not evil, which I know you were dying to read: “As blood-bought children of God, we exercise our authority over the devil in Jesus’ name. By that authority, and through His Blessed Name, we command all satanic and demonic forces to cease their activities and depart the town of Inglis.” That’s enough for me, so I’ll stop there. But I think something should be said about this before we move on toward other things. When “Operation Enduring Freedom” started getting under way, I found myself wary about one particular aspect of the social dialogue regarding September 11th and all that has followed. While elected officials have been sturdy in their insistence that we are not fighting a religious war, the word “evil” has been kicked about from day one like a flaming potato. I don’t know what your interpretation may be, but when I hear the word “evil,” I find some strong religious connotations. A response like Risher’s, particularly significant in that it concerns a public office, highlights the danger of that rhetoric. Thankfully, the ACLU seems to agree, planning to “go to bat for Satan” in this wild aberration from the separation of church and state. Ok, Ok, sermon complete. Maybe it was with all of this in mind that I ended up at the gospel brunch at Elvis Presley’s Memphis on Beale this past Sunday. I’m not really sure what possessed me to go to this particular affair, although it was kind of interesting in a couple of ways. The main aspect of the gospel brunch that I found to be intriguing is the very fact that in this room, full of Elvis memorabilia, people sit at a fully stocked bar and listen to songs about Jesus for about 3 hours of every week. Cigarettes lit and smoke-ring halos ascending, a small crowd digs the gospel vibe that is rocked out Sunday morning style on stage. The gospel brunch isn’t a bad bet if you have any Sunday AM guilt complex symptoms. You see, when you go to the gospel brunch, you don’t have to choose between that Bloody Mary and the expression of your faith. You’ve got vodka, V8, gospel, and cigarettes all in one place. Plus, they have banana pudding here. Yum. I like to eat banana pudding for breakfast. Banana pudding is a whole lot of fun. Oh sure, the place is full of tourists, tired people, and the pantsuits of Elvis. Not to mention the illuminated bar that was somehow left out of view in the traditional rendering of the Last Supper. But if I can go back to the RisheAdd Color and Graphics r proclamation for a second, I think you’ll find something significant at this Beale Street venue. People who are willing to let differences co-exist. If you’ve got a hangover, and somehow (gasp) you still want to worship, then go for it. If you want a cigarette, and want to sing, too, then feel free. Silly little notes posted up on the walls aren’t what Faith is about. Faith is about letting yourself enjoy the world around you, and through that enjoyment, sought for its own sake, you get to make the world a more positive place.

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