Some years ago there was a rash of “new Bible translations,” each one customized to appeal to this or that fringe group–feminist Bible, socialist Bible, New Age Bible, etc., etc. And in each of these translations, the whole Bible was hitched up to pull a political cart.
So of course I satirized it. You know I write satires. And this time I came up with “the New Utopian Translation”–the NUT Bible. And I filled it with a lot of wacko schiff that isn’t in the real Bible. I can’t even remember what specific monstrosities I invented for this parody.
Now any time you write a satire, you risk someone taking it for real. This time was no exception. A pastor in Washington State read my NUT Bible article, took it seriously, blew his top, and gave an impassioned sermon on the subject… during which he couldn’t help but notice a lot of puzzled looks among the congregation. After the sermon, a lot of his people asked him “Where did you get this? What are you talking about?”
Meanwhile his daughter, equally motivated, did a classroom report on the NUT Bible; and she got a lot of funny looks, too.
Finally the pastor, desperate to resolve this somehow, tracked me down and called me on the phone: maybe I could tell him where to get a copy of the New Utopian Translation of the Bible.
“Uh, well, you can’t,” I said. “Because it doesn’t exist. I made it up. The article was a satire. N… U… T… nut…”
A moment of profound silence. Then: “What have I done?”
Well, he was a good sport about it: all his fault, he admitted, for going off half-cocked. I was sorry to have put him to trouble, and I have always made a point of it, since then, to craft my satires in such a way as to render them unbelievable–at least on second reading.
But there’s always someone who’s going to miss the joke.