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Gangs of New Jerusalem: Act 1

April 20th, 2017 | 12 min read

By Jake Meador

We’ve been told that this is “unintelligible.” “Self-indulgently self-referential,” they’ve called it. “Possibly a really bad idea.” “Only five people will get it,” they’ve said. Well, you know who else they said that about? Shaw. Molière. Sheridan. Congreve. Aristophanes. Also other people.

The incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products need be inferred, though we can’t really stop you. 

We do not apologize, although we may come to regret.

Act 1, Scene 1

[The camera pans over a suburban office park in the western metro of New Jerusalem.  A cheerful green sign hangs over the door reading “The Gospel Disciples.” The camera moves inside to show three members of the gang sitting around a table.  They are drinking cokes.]

Underling: … what really worries me is what happens if there’s a war. We’re facing all this pressure from The Capitol… the last thing we need is groups that should be allies turning on each other.

Button Man: I know leaders from both groups, Matt. There won’t be a war. The ECT Treaty should hold a bit longer yet.

Elder Statesman: I’m just worried about what this will mean for religious liberty. The Capitol is going to be gutting all our rights and we’ll be too busy fighting each other to notice.

Underling: Well, you’re the one who started all this taking that picture when you were in Rome. We were getting along great before that. You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?

Elder Statesman: IT WAS AN ACCIDENT.

Button Man: … that ended up on Instagram.

Elder Statesman: Look, I said I was sorry. How many times do I have to apologize before people will stop attacking me over things I did or said in the past?

[A Gospel Disciples Higher-Up enters the room covered in paint and looking exhausted, he finds a chair and sits down]

Higher-Up: The groundscrew is done cleaning up the “tolerance” graffiti that the Woke Feelings Havers sprayed by our front door last week.

Button Man: I keep telling you if you’d just let me put out a few glue traps we wouldn’t have these problems.

Underling: Jeff, we’ve talked about this–no glue traps. Those guys go barefoot all the time.  Do you really want to have to deal with un-sticking them in the morning?

Higher-Up: … And the “RESPECT” graffiti on the side of the building is still there, but they think they can deal with that tomorrow.

Button Man: What if we just got some motion detector lights? Motion detector lights… and one glue trap. Just one. And it would be right next to like a little bookshelf full of the Godfather’s writings—you never know, they could maybe learn something… I can write up an entire thing explaining how this would work in nine steps.

Higher-Up: We’re not doing glue traps! It’s not the 90s anymore. It’s not like when Mac and RC were running things and we all conceal carried and had barbed wire around the place.

Button Man: The good old days.

Higher-Up: Look, do you remember what happened to our last enforcer?

Button Man: We sent him to parlay with the WFHers and the only thing we got back from them was a wet bundle of newspapers wrapped around a grunge Jesus tee-shirt and a guide to the best concert venues in Seattle.

Higher-Up: That’s right! We don’t need to antagonize them. Just calm down.

[Higher-Up exits room as others continue to converse]

Act 1, Scene 2

[A recently-gentrified neighborhood. The camera slowly focuses on a small boutique natural foods store, advertising a sale on kombucha, then it slowly pans to the left to show an Arts and Crafts bungalow with a rainbow flag flying on the front porch.]

[a young woman with thoughtfully cut and carefully curated hair is on the phone in the other room, sounding perturbed, while a second (heavily tattooed) woman sits in the next room with a bald man. A nondescript man sits by himself in the corner]

Hair: (hangs up phone, walks into room) They’ve no-platformed us again, everyone. Painted out our Art.

Bald: We need to show them that they can’t Silence us! Men and women, to your spraypaint!  

Hair: I feel really uncomfortable when you give orders. Do male genitals really confer leadership rights?

Tattoos: I feel like when you said ‘Men and Women’ you really marginalized a lot of people who just don’t identify with one of those binaries.

Bald: [Walks to corner and sits down on the floor next to nondescript man described above] (mumbles) I do not like the corner of shame.

Nondescript Man: [to Bald Man] It’s OK, Tony. They no-platformed me too. [puts arm around him]

Hair to tattoos: Nadia, that was a really powerful thing you said and you said it for me and for all of us.

Tattoos: I felt really uncomfortable when you called me Nadia just now. I didn’t choose that name. That was imposed on me. Can we dialogue about this?

[Women exit while the men sit quietly in the corner of shame]

Act 1, Scene 3

[A small apartment in a townhouse on the East Side of the New Jerusalem. A crucifix is prominently displayed above the door. Inside, the Tradinista Apostles are meeting with the Gramercy B’hoys (that notorious gang of dandies), attempting to hammer out a temporary truce; the meeting was intended to be focused on tactics for the upcoming battle with the Reformed Katholic Krewe, but has veered into the realm of political philosophy and liturgical criticism. On a low table, aged goat cheese, fig spread, and water crackers are set out; several bottles of champagne have already been finished.]

[in one corner, a lone Tradinista Apostle can be seen huddled over a book, the camera pans over his shoulder and we can see that it is the Summa Contra Gentiles]

[as the camera pans through the room we see down a hallway into a room where a dozen initiates are listening to a man whose face is in shadow, a man known to them only as M.]

M: In this politics of dominion, “right” and “law” are determined by a carefully regulated tension between spheres of dominance. In each particular sphere, as far as possible, the dominant figure is left undetermined as to his activities and end. The whole is united, not as a community in friendship, but as a set of cogs and gears carefully set in opposition to– (voice fades as camera pans away)

[the camera continues to move and we see two young men in the middle of what is clearly a longstanding argument]

First young man: Look, it’s a fine word to use, it’s just that we need to hold the line on the spelling and pronunciation. It needs the extra s, and all four syllables. On that, there can be no compromise.

Second young man: I just don’t know. Pius XIII declared de Lubac anathema. Using that word represents a connivance with the so-called Spirit of Vatican II…I think I might need to take the Oath against Modernism again; it’s worn off a bit; you want in?

[A dapper young man in a silk scarf rises to address the group]: Amici, Cives, Quirites, commodate mihi aliquantisper aures vestras: …


Act 1, Scene 4

[A cabin in the rural hill country outside New Jerusalem. A group of men with beards of varying sizes wearing plaid shirts and smoking pipes stand on the porch, boisterously arguing and blowing smoke rings.]

[Inside, 30 men are singing a psalm, very loudly.]

[One young man with a moderate beard, a general with the Reformed Katholic Krewe, rises to address the group.  He has a pen in his hand; his briefcase is nearby.]

The General: Everyone! Guys! OK. Thank you for being here. Tomorrow morning at 10:30—and please be on time—we’re going to be leaving from here to head into the city to start the battle. If everyone can be here by 10:15 to make sure we’re all properly armed that would be appreciated. We’re going to have maps of the territory available—Brian, can you take care of that? Nice maps, we don’t want them to look tacky, use the .jpg of the logo you’ve got. It should be really understated though… The reason for our fight is simple: We wish to preserve the liberty of the Christian over and against the fallacious claims of Pope Boniface VIII as well as those equally problematic claims of the Separatists and the Presbyterians; we’re going to get to them later, but it’s important to recall even in the context of the battle against the Tradinista Apostles and their allies that there are those who would, calling themselves Reformed, also seek to bind the consciences of Christians by burdening them with extra-biblical regulations and expectations, such as on what days we should feast, what vestments the clergy may wear, and what form of church polity is the biblical norm which the institutional church must adopt. As Richard Hooker said in his Lawes, responding to that perfidious fiend Cartwright—

[A tall, burly older man with a significantly larger beard steps to the front of the room, whispers something in the younger man’s ear. The younger man nods several times, drops his pen, picks it up, shakes the older man’s hand, and moves to take a seat as the older man addresses the group]

Older man: And so proclaim it, Bradford, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us…

[a woman in the back of the room grabs her beer and walks out to the patio where a small group is sitting around quietly conversing. as she approaches she hears one of them, uncharacteristically clean shaven, addressing another, a man wearing a corduroy blazer and black-frame glasses with a long beard.]

Clean-shaven: Look, this is not complicated: We are not Roman Catholics, but more than that we are not Frenchmen, and there is no reason to have the extra s. It’s a three syllable English word and I want to stop talking about this now.

Blazer: Are you really asking me to pronounce the T at the end? Is that really what you’re doing?

[The woman turns on her heel and heads hastily back to the main room, where the older man continues to speak]

Older man: And gentlemen in Moscow now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Calvin’s day!

[The Reformed Katholic Krewe cheers and then begins singing ‘The Son of God Goes Forth to War’ as they move toward the door carrying claymores, clubs, and a few English long bows]


[group members turn around]

General: We’re going to war tomorrow. Today we’re… just… hanging out. So, um, beers are in the coolers on the porch, and, well, feel free to go for a hike around the cabin…Yes?

[Another man, dark haired, approaches. He’s holding a sheaf of at least 15 printed-out pages.]

Dark-haired man (in British accent): He said “manhoods,” and so I just took five minutes to write this up; I thought it might be useful, it’s a reflection on the specifically masculine nature of the courage needed in a battle…

General: OK, yes, thank you. All right, so 10:15 tomorrow, and remember, we’re going to be taking the train so please everyone be responsible for your own ticket. See me for reimbursements, just make sure you keep your receipt. Oh, and probably we won’t want unsheathed swords for the train. Also we won’t be stopping for lunch, we’re on a pretty tight schedule, so please bring your own snacks…

[group members look around at each other awkwardly and slowly put weapons down, pick up beers, and go back to smoking on the porch.]

End Act 1

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Jake Meador

Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell, Austin, and Ambrose. Jake's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play and he has written or contributed to several books, including "In Search of the Common Good," "What Are Christians For?" (both with InterVarsity Press), "A Protestant Christendom?" (with Davenant Press), and "Telling the Stories Right" (with the Front Porch Republic Press).