The Role of Religious Community, a.k.a. “Church” Family, in TST

A local chapter member and friend who I frequently run into at neighborhood metal bars, burlesque shows, and—really, everywhere, it seems, except TST events and meetings—recently explained he’d been absent because he felt he wasn’t “doing” anything at the meetings themselves or contributing substantively to the organization. My first impulse was to suggest outcome-oriented, irrefutably productive acts of devotion like volunteering at a reproductive rights fundraiser or writing a blog post for our website.  Since there are a fair number of TST members—many of whom lack prior affiliation with any religious group–were drawn in by its political activism and engagement in public affairs, there can be a perceived urgency to have a measurable impact socially, legally, environmentally, and so on, or else languish in futility, orbiting unnoticed.

Because my scruples were tequila’d into submission, I suggested the obvious before recognizing (to myself or to him) that a wonderfully salubrious social impact of TST occurs within the chapter itself, not just in the ethical deeds we extend to the vestiges of civilization. I’m referring to what other religions term “church family,” and it’s a major reason why non-believers and skeptics can be found in traditional houses of worship on Sunday mornings or whenever it is they congregate.

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The Barcode of the Beast

For millenialist Christians, symbols and code have supreme power.  Ministers and preachers for centuries have tried to determine the return of Jesus Christ by interpreting the writings of the Bible, in particular the book of Revelation.  Amongst whores riding beasts, rampaging supernatural horsemen, and evil inversions of Christ, one symbol stands out.  666, the number of the beast.  666 serves as a simple proxy, the mark that Satan, grand adversary to Christ, places on those who forsake His teachings.  Featured in the Left Behind novels by Jerry B. Jenkins, the 1972 film “A Thief in the Night,” and the eponymous song by Iron Maiden.  It plays on fears of a fascist state marking its citizens to control every aspect of their personal lives.  On a symbolic level it is powerful, a way to remark on a corrupt godless world, and obviously the perversion of retail inventory systems.  Yes, to some end times believers, 666 has infiltrated the very systems we use to buy groceries.

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