Satire is a dangerous vehicle. There is a fine line between farce and simply being absurd, between making a point and clobbering the reader over the head with it. At times, those lines, particularly the latter, blur for Matthew Moses in his Anti-Christ: A Satirical End of Days. Yet there are probably many in its intended audience who will view it all as a reflection of the renowned mantra from Network, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!”
Moses is mad about two things in particular — religion, especially the Roman Catholic church, and the current state of politics and government. At the outset of the novel, his protagonist probably could care less about either. Matthew Ford is, quite simply, a pathetic loser for whom nothing goes right. In his fourth year of college, he still lives with his parents, a phobic mother and a father who retreats to the basement to watch porn. But then, Matthew isn’t a model human being either. He’s “a man whose mouth proved the asshole of his mind.”
Thus, Matthew is an unlikely fulcrum for the eruption of open warfare between Heaven and Hell, which have been in a lengthy Cold War. But when Matthew throws a ghost out of his bedroom, he sets off a chain of events that not only brings him face to face with God, Jesus, Satan, and Buddha but ultimately brings about Armageddon.
Along the way, there’s plenty to offend most religionists. For example, the story of Jesus and his role in Heaven will appall most Christians. Roman Catholics will certainly object to the portrayal of their clergy and its institutions. Islam arises only as the result of an angelic coup attempt against Jesus. And while Satan at first comes off as a relatively rational fellow, he reverts to character and demonstrates that certain struggles for power, particularly religious ones, can do nothing but harm man.
Matthew unwillingly and unwittingly becomes the focus of the book’s religious and political struggles. His eviction of the ghost leads to him being taken to Heaven to meet with Jesus. Heaven is populated exclusively by Caucasians and angels are relegated to border patrol officers trying to prevent Mexicans from sneaking in. Even then, it is an overcrowded and minimalist place of “enforced serenity,” where the message, “Independent thought only confuses and blinds you from the truth” plays in the background on an endless loop.
Christianity is little more than a massive corporate-like enterprise with the Pope as the earthly member of its board. Christ’s headquarters in heaven “is not a place for questions” because questions “only lead to doubt.” When Matthew refuses to cooperate, he is returned to Earth and, as if his life weren’t bad enough, made to suffer like Job.
That brings Satan to center stage. In a scene reminiscent of the biblical account of Satan’s temptation of Christ, Satan tells Matthew, “Faith wants you to be docile. It wants you to be ignorant so you can be exploited.” But Satan also preaches that modern government and politics serve only the rich and powerful and to further disenfranchise the average individual. He encourages and helps Matthew to stand up for the common man. Ultimately, he mobilizes an unlikely force — those made fat by fast food restaurants. The U.S. government is overthrown because, as the clueless and moronic president tells the country, “Crowds of the obese are rampaging through the streets, seizing government buildings and enacting what many are calling the fattest coup in history.”
By this point, however, the book’s machinations tend to become quite tangled and it all begins to feel too contrived. As Matthew’s true destiny is revealed, the focus becomes the final struggle between Heaven and Hell. Yet the the story devolves to the point where Armageddon comes off as a gory B horror movie involving humans, angels, demons and zombies.
Ultimately, Moses is often too unsubtle and the book too circuitous, failings that may come with the territory of self-published books. Moreover, one of the core messages — and the reader’s interest — may get lost in the overly tumultuous closing chapters. Still, the book rises above the level of most self-published works. More important, it will strike a responsive chord with those tired of the increasing dominance of religion in society and its growing role in politics, as well as those who see a political system attuned toward the self-interest of politicians and the powerful rather than helping the average citizen. This is satire and farce that not only portrays the corruption and misuse of societal institutions but excoriates those institutions for what they have done to the principles upon which they claim to be based.
One man’s mob is another’s protest.
Matthew Moses, Anti-Christ: A Satirical End of Days