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Chris Rose: Decadence and paradox

If I were to consider possible causes for the total annihilation of New Orleans, my list of reasons might go like this:

Rising sea level. Broken levees. Escalating murder rate. And, I don't know... West Nile?

Men in dresses would not have occurred to me.

But consider this:

"The timing of Hurricane Isaac with Southern Decadence is a sign that God's patience with America's sin is coming to an end," the self-proclaimed Christian website announced this week.

"If New Orleans is destroyed, it is a sure sign that the final judgment for the national sin of America has arrived," the proclamation concludes – a little too gleefully for my comfort.

This theory gains increased traction among fundamentalists with each passing Labor Day storm, of which there have now been three in the past seven years.

Anti-gay crusaders with their bullhorns and banners have become as much a part of the Southern Decadence tradition as the armies of hairy-shouldered men in strapless gowns and heels who illuminate the gay pride festival – now one of the city's most reliably bankable events.

Nine protesters were arrested this past festival for violating a new but Constitutionally suspect city ordinance devised to curb the boisterous confrontations between the two factions, which are actually more uproarious posturing and pageantry than actual threats to civic order.

Fittingly – in the lexicon of the arts and performance – the protesters in these predictably staged demonstrations would be called straight men.

How queer is that?

A court challenge to the law – which specifically bans amplified proselytizing on Bourbon Street – could come as early as this week.

However, one needn't dwell in ivory towers to conclude:

Men wearing dresses constitute freedom of expression.

So does hating those men in dresses.

Hence, the great paradox of our democracy.

And anyway, – more offensive than their vile and constitutionally protected public remonstrations are these ministers' claims to be "Christian," a term increasingly appropriated by extremists to mask bigotry in a shroud of presumed respectability.

I often wonder: If He were to witness this annual carnival of the absurd, what would Jesus do?

Apparently, I'm not the only one to suggest He would be so overwhelmed as to order up a hurricane – and fast.

The ingredients and other physical properties of that hurricane remain one of the great theological mysteries of our time.

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