You can’t call yourself a Catholic until you’ve wondered if Spiderman has his own website.
Richard Carleton interviews God
by Michael McGirr
The small town of Inner Springs, where nothing is ever quite the same as it used to be, has paused to take note of the death of the prominent Australian TV journalist, Richard Carleton. Carleton was known for his aggressive style of questioning. As a young man, he spent all his pocket money on ice cream. He would do anything for a scoop.
Inner Springs is a tidy community. It is kept clean because it is swept by so many rumours. This week, as locals have waited for the miners to be rescued in Beaconsfield, Tasmania, some of those rumours have come to focus on Richard Carleton, the man who asked Bob Hawke if he had blood on his hands. Hawke used the word bloody so often that Carleton’s interest was understandable. Just about everything in Hawke’s life was bloody. The story goes that Hawke once confused a bloody chef by asking for a bloody steak that was bloody well done.
Carleton was known to go to great lengths to get a story. The pundits of Inner Springs have wasted no time putting two and two together and concluding that he went to Beaconsfield and asked aggressive questions, knowing that the excitement would probably kill him. The reason Carleton needed to be dead was that he had lined up an exclusive interview for Sixty Minutes with the most elusive celebrity of all time, namely God.
Carleton wanted to confront God over a number of aspects of life, the universe and everything which were not quite to his liking. The awkward thing was that, before he could get the microphone in front of God, Carleton had to get through the pearly gates. A tough nut like Carleton was never going to let an obstacle like that stand in his way. Rumour has it that, if he hadn’t died in Beaconsfield, Carleton had arranged a back up interview with Russell Crowe on the subject of hotel telephones. If that failed, he was going to replace Gretel Killen for one of the eviction interviews in Big Brother. If that failed, he was intending to discuss the wonders of scientology with Tom Cruise. Sooner or later, he knew his heart wouldn’t stand any more.
God is the executive producer of a current affairs show called Eternity. Eternity treats issues in depth, often waiting centuries for resolutions to emerge, for questions to come into sharper focus, for understandings to deepen. Eternity does make the Sixty Minutes format look somewhat limited. The curious thing is that Eternity is never boring. Sixty Minutes can sometimes feel like eternity. But Eternity can feel like one crowded hour.
When he got to heaven, Mr Carleton was astonished to find that he wasn’t getting an exclusive. God is happy to talk to anybody, even people without the right connections. Some of God’s most memorable exclusives have been given to people who had nothing to offer in return. Nonetheless, Mr Carleton decided to push ahead. He got the tape rolling and began.
‘I put it to you, God, that you have been negligent in your responsibilities?’
‘Why do you say that?’
‘I put it to you that you are supposed to be a loving creator. But the world is a complete mess.’
‘I prefer to think of it as an incomplete mess.’
‘I put it to you, that if you really existed, if you were really God, then there would be less pain and suffering in the world.’
God thought for a moment.
‘I put it to you, Richard, that if you were really human, there would be less pain and suffering in the world.’
Carleton was not deterred.
‘I put it to you that creation has been grossly mismanaged from the outset.’
‘Well,’ said God, ‘I put you there to help manage it. Maybe you should put that microphone in front of yourself for a change.’
Carleton was already finding that God’s answers always raise more questions. This is the beauty of the Eternity format. Eternity can feel like forever. God doesn’t work to deadlines. God is more interested in creating lifelines; lifelines unravel in their own good time. There isn’t enough tape in the universe to record what God has to say.
Another fatuous rumour doing the rounds of Inner Springs is that Cardinal Pell has already been approached to replace Richard Carleton as the tough guy on Sixty Minutes. Anybody who saw Cardinal Pell’s appearance on Sixty Minutes a few years ago would think this most unlikely.
Cardinal Pell has won a number of admirers in this neck of the woods, not least with his recent comments on ‘pagan emptiness’ and its objections to greenhouse gas emissions. He has said:
‘In the past, pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.’
These words have crossed the denominational divide and have found favour with Pauline Grace, chief pastor at the Carpark Cathedral. Pauline has long preached that nothing gives glory to God as much as the exhaust from a chrome muffler. She has told her congregation that tuning an engine is a sin because it reduces emissions. It is a form of paganism. Only a decent blanket of smog can prevent yoga, aromatherapy, tai chi and any other form of pagan spirituality that relies on the intake of clean breath. The sooner the planet becomes unliveable, the sooner we will all be raptured into heaven. Anyone not strapped in behind the wheel of a V8 engine at the time of the rapture will be left behind. Carbon dioxide is the incense of true faith, she says.
Every year, on mother’s day, Pauline Grace urges families to give mum breakfast in the car, preferably at the drive through of a major burger outlet which is committed to providing as much litter on the planet as possible. Then, after breakfast, the Christian family will get out on the road and burn some rubber for Christ.
‘The most beautiful thing you can possibly give a mother is a petrol voucher. It is more beautiful even than a new tattoo. A tattoo only lasts until the grave. But the emissions created by a petrol voucher will last forever. A petrol voucher is something which says “I love you Mum” because it allows a mother to continue her work of nurture. Just as she nurtured her children into the world, a mother can now help to nurture them out of it.’
Pauline Grace has asked her congregation to pray for those families who are trying to cut their use of fuel.
‘They are pagans,’ she says. ‘Once a family starts trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, they are not far from sacrificing their pets and then next will be their children.’