Faith

by Vince Milo

It began with Barry Levine's nervous breakdown. He had lost his job, his wife had left him for another man and had taken the kids, and the credit card companies had begun to call. Seeing no other alternatives, he stepped out onto the Duncan Bay Bridge and glanced down at the glimmering water. This was it. His miserable life would be over now and no one would care, but at least he wouldn't be in pain anymore. No one needed him anyway.

Just as he began his tentative step off edge, however, he was bathed in a warm light. He stepped back and glanced around fearfully.

"Be at ease, my son," a voice said. "This is Jesus."

"Jesus?" Barry asked in wonder. He had never been a religious man, but somehow he knew that he was now truly speaking with the Son of God.

"Barry, this is not your time," Jesus said. "There is much more you must do in this life."

"W-what must I do?"

"You must forget yourself Barry," Jesus said. "You must devote your life to service. You must assist the sick and elderly, feed and clothe the poor, and give everything to those that have nothing. You must be a shining beacon of light in a world of darkness, Barry. There is no greater purpose in life than this."

"Y-you're right," Barry said at last. "All this time I've been so selfish. It's always been about me. There are people that need me in this world. Lots of people."

"That's right, Barry," Jesus said. "You too are a Son of God. Everything that I have done, you can do and more."

"Yes," Barry said nodding. "It-it's is all clear to me now. I can do it."

"Be warned however, Barry," Jesus said. "This is not the path for the faint of heart. You will be rebuked and possibly killed for your beliefs. If you follow my path, you must be willing to sacrifice yourself for the Salvation of Mankind."

"Of course," Barry said. "Better that I die on behalf of my fellow man than for nothing at all."

"Good," Jesus said. "It sounds as though you are ready to begin."

"Yes," Barry said. "I am ready Jesus."

"Oh, and one last thing, Barry," Jesus said.

"Yes?"

"You must do all of this in one of those big chicken suits. Except there needs to be a hole in the crotch for your balls to hang out."

Barry blinked. "What?"

"Furthermore you must go by the name of Cluckin' H. Christ," Jesus said. "I know it sounds strange, my son, but it is the way it must be."

"But I don't understand," Barry said. "H-How am I going to--"

"With faith, Barry," Jesus said. "With faith."

And so Barry began his new life of service as Cluckin' H. Christ. He volunteered at homeless shelters, he helped build houses for the poor, he freely gave his time and belongings to the needy. He lived a simple life, free of the trappings of modern society, and wholly dedicated to service. And he did so while wearing a giant chicken suit with his balls hanging out. Soon he caught the attention of the local media who began following his exploits. Before long he was honored by the city for his good deeds and was rewarded with a Key to the City of Craigston. Though his name, chicken suit, and balls were rather off-putting to most people, the city could not deny the positive contribution he was making on the community.

Not long afterwards, Barry began to have followers, also clad in revealing chicken suits. Though he tried to dissuade any such notion, his devotees would not be deterred and, unable to get him to lead them, formed a group on their own. An independent documentary brought national attention to the group and Cluckin' H. Christ and his unofficial followers, the Disciples of Cluckin' H. Christ, were soon an object of controversy across the nation. Who was this chicken-suited man who drew equal reactions of both support and horror? Though reluctant at first, Barry at last agreed to be interviewed by CNN's Tom Cooper so that the nation might hear his story.

"Of course we are all inspired by your commitment to service, Mr. Levine," Tom Cooper was saying. "But we all want to know, why the costume? Wouldn't you agree that the name you have chosen and the, ah, anatomy-revealing costume that you wear undermine your credibility as a humanitarian?"

"This is of course the question I receive most often," Barry said. "First of all, I want to make it clear to the people at home that I did not choose the name or the costume. Believe me, if I had the choice I would not be doing things this way. Heck, I'm just as embarrassed as anyone else is about it. However, the Lord has His own plan for me, and I agreed that I would follow His command to the letter."

"Now tell us more about that, Barry," Tom said. "In the documentary that was done on you and your followers, 'Jesus Cluckin' H. Christ: The Passion of Barry Levine,' you claim that just before you planned on ending your life, you were visited by Jesus Christ himself who laid this persona out for you. What do you say to people that say you are just some crackpot or someone who is just pulling a big practical joke on everyone."

"Well this of course goes back to the first point," Barry said. "Obviously, given my costume and name I have a tremendous amount of credibility issues. As if living a life of complete service was not difficult enough, I must also bear the burden of ridicule and disbelief. Not that I am complaining, of course. My suffering pales in comparison to the suffering our Lord endured on the cross on behalf of our salvation. All I can say is that, yes, perhaps I am a crackpot, but what I stand for is no joke. I have dedicated my life to this cause and will let my record speak for itself."

"Recently, your followers, the Disciples of Cluckin' H. Christ, or DCHC, have swarmed in numbers. It has been rumored that they are practicing cult-like activities such as brainwashing, forced labor, and confinement. According to DCHC literature, you are the New Messiah. Tell us more about this."

"That is a very difficult issue for me," Barry said. "While I appreciate the DCHC's commitment to my cause, I want to make it clear that I have never asked for followers and I in no way endorse the DCHC. I am only a man who wishes to help those less fortunate them himself. Nothing more."

"Well we want to thank you for being on our show Mr. Levine," Tom said. "While I would say the jury is still out in America on whether or not you are the genuine article, I for one believe you really want to help people."

"Thank you Tom," Barry said. "That is all I can hope to do."

But Barry wouldn't make it home that night.

An unmarked black van followed his small blue Honda Accord as Barry pulled out of the studio parking lot. David Minor, a devotee of the DCHC had heard enough. If Barry would not endorse their group then they would have to continue his work without him. If nothing else, this would prove whether or not he was the New Messiah after all.

A screech of tires and the sound of broken glass and twisted metal marked the end of Barry Levine's life.

The following morning, the news broke out across the country and the nation mourned the loss of the noble chicken-suited altruist they had just sort of started becoming comfortable with, despite the fact that his balls hung out. The DCHC held a massive demonstration condemning his murder and thousands more joined its ranks. Would Barry Levine's sacrifice ultimately save mankind or would his death just serve as justification for the atrocities of a power hungry cult?

Only time would tell. (c)2004Vince Milo