New Orleans -- I once met a guy on the bus who told me, "I left a Bible in a motel in Hollywood and now they are making a movie from the parts I underlined."
The man who found that Bible is, it turns out, Cecil B. DeMille, and the movie he made is "The Ten Commandments." And around Easter every year, the old warhorse gets trotted out on TV.
It's a reliable measuring stick of what was, is and will be. God, for one, is one tough dude in this picture: He spews plagues, kills children and starves people for every infraction. He expresses himself with purple death fogs that are a lot like poison gas, parting seas and bloody rivers, exactly as if he were Cecil B.
DeMille, whom he maybe was.
But at least He still talks to people, which after a while, he stopped doing, leaving his actions open to speculation.
God also looked askance on girlie shows, of which we are given two memorable examples in the Busby Berkeley-style aerobics performed before the Pharaoh Yul Brenner and the Bedouin tent dance performed before Moses Charleston Heston. There is also some Mardi Gras style frolicking around that Golden Calf, but it's been tastefully reduced to running around in circles spritzing wine and rose petals at a tied-up virgin screaming "Shame!"
God, of course, likes his people to talk aphoristically, so they say things like: "So it is told. So it will be written," which may be Cecil's greatest contribution to pidgin English.
In the end, God's people, under the leadership of blue-eyed, red-haired, bare-chested Hebrews, get out of bondage with the tablets on which the Ten Commandments have been written very slowly by God in a language that doesn't resemble Hebrew with a pen of fire.
Incidentally, blue-eyed, red or flaxen-haired Hebrews escaped from this movie and ended up on the murals in the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City where they climb the walls, depicting the same story. Now -- if only that guy on the bus would start underlining "The Critique of Pure Reason."
Andrei Codrescu's latest audio tape, "Fax Your Prayers," is out from Dove Audio.