Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Belly of the beast

My two-day road trip took me today to the deserty east of Southern California. It's a whole other world once you leave the coastal cities for the "inland empire." Whose empire, you ask? I was kept company by a radio station whose motto was "For King and Country," with songs like

Sometimes it feels like I'm watching from the outside 
Sometimes it feels like I'm breathing but am I alive?
I won't keep searching for answers that aren't here to find.
All I know is I'm not home yet. 
This is not where I belong. 
Take this world and give me Jesus.
This is not where I belong.

and

Yeah don't you know who you are? 
You are more than the choices that you've made, 
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes, 
You are more than the problems you create, 
You've been remade.  

(although my corrupted ear heard the fourth line of this last as more than the god that you create, which I thought was brilliant). Contem-porary Christian music isn't half bad; I imagine it could keep you floating in a hopeful squint, your feet almost not touching the ground....

My main destination was Palm Springs, where a friend and colleague was spending time with extended family. Palm Springs is trippy, but decidedly worldly. Not so my second destination, a few miles west: Cabazon, home of what they claim are the "World's Biggest Dinosaurs."
The biggest, Dinny, was built in the 1960s, his pal Mr. Rex in the 1980s. (Dinny contains a shop, which has alas been closed, but you can still climb up into Mr. Rex's head.) In recent years the site's been bought by young earth creationists. The shop/museum includes standard dinosaur toys and  panels debunking evolution, together with a small library of creation science. There were also robotic dinosaurs who move as you approach - one being attacked by a knight in armor on horseback whom I later realized was St. George. But the kicker was the dinosaur garden. There are dozens of dinosaurs small and large here, every so often keeping company with animals evolutionists would have you believe weren't their contemporaries. But what do they know? The books I picked up in the shop find dinosaurs in the Bible - in Job 40:15-18 (as we know!)- and explain why the word "dinosaur" isn't in the Bible. The King James translators write of "behemoths," "leviathans" and "dragons" because "dinosaur" is a 19th century neologism! Main point: humans and dinosaurs lived together in God's familiar world. Particularly poetic was theeloquent pairing of a Tyrannosaurus with a little lamb. To me it called to mind Isaiah's peaceable messianic kingdom: The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid... (11:6) but I guess it could also be doing Job theophany work: Where were you when I made this? But that might all be more serious than this means to be. Creation science museums, being about debunking, are tongue-in-cheek, as Susan Harding showed (The Book of Jerry Falwell). The gift shop display of ice age human-dinosaur cohabitation sells "Good Humor" popsicles. 
The rest of the trip was enjoyable, too. I was especially taken by Palm Springs' wind farms - here as seen from behind Mr. Rex's grin - and the barren-looking mountains they colonize. And all around is the desert which, this ruined mattress suggested, may not be where we belong.

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