“Can I ask something?” says my Australian friend Jenni, interrupting me and my mate Tony, who are in the middle of a long, drawn-out conversation about how we ended up in Germany and how many times we've been married and stuff.
“Yes,” I reply.
“But it might be a stupid question,” she says.
“There's no such thing as a stupid question,” I say.
“Okay,” she continues. “I just wanna check something. Did Jesus die on Easter Friday?”
“Yes,” I confirm. “He died on the Friday. Good Friday.”
“Did he? And then when did he, you know – get up again? Did he get up again on the Sunday?”
“Yes,” I say. “On the Sunday his mother and that prostitute went to the cave and he'd disappeared and that's how they knew he'd, you know… risen.”
“Right,” she says. There's a pause. And then she says: “Are you sure? Didn't he stand up, like, 40 days later?”
“No,” I say. “He got up on the Sunday and then he walked about a bit. And then, 40 days later – do you know what they think happened? Like, I really disagree with being disrespectful to religious people. I really want to have respect for them. I'm friends with an Anglian priest and I really respect her, both spiritually and intellectually. But, and I mean this in a totally respectful way – the mad bastards think he actually went, like, physically up to heaven.
“Can you believe it? They are essentially totally fucking bonkers in their tiny insane religious brains. I mean, it's just a very unscientific theory. I always thought that they just thought his soul had gone up – and I did always wonder, a bit, like, what was so special about that, coz we're all meant to go up to heaven, aren't we? But the other day I started chatting to this bloke who was trying to convert me on the S-Bahn – at first I thought he was just being really friendly for a German, like, but then I realized he wanted to save my soul – and then I was asking him a few questions and then he goes: 'No, we think Jesus's body is in heaven. His actual body. The actual bones. The molecules and that. That's what we believe.' And I didn't want to be rude but I was just sitting there looking at him, thinking: 'You mad bastard. It would be well mouldy by now.'”
“So, Jacinta,” says Jenni. “When did he go up to heaven? On Christi Himmelfahrt, right?”
“Yes,” I say. “On Vatertag. But that's just a coincidence with the Vatertag.”
“We don't have that in Australia,” says Jenni. “I mean, we have Father's Day. But we don't have Christi Himmelfahrt.”
“I'm sure you have Christi Himmelfahrt,” I say. “It's just probably not a bank holiday.”
“We don't have it,” she says.
“Yeah, you do,” I say.
“What's it called in English?” she asks.
“Ascension Day,” I say.
“Oh,” says Tony, his mouth opening with surprise. “That's Ascension Day. Christi Himmelfahrt. Right. I've often wondered.”
“We don't have Ascension Day in Australia,” repeats Jenni.
“It's probably called Descension Day,” says Tony, “you know, because you're all upside down.”
Everybody laughs for approximately 27 seconds. After we finish laughing, I congratulate Tony on his joke.
“That was a good joke,” I say. “You should be proud of that one. Well done.”
Then Tony and I start discussing the old problem of how did Mary get pregnant? Was she shagging someone else? Is Jesus basically the most famous Kuckuckskind of all time? That kind of thing.
“I have a theory about this,” I say. “I think Mary and Joseph were sexually active, but they hadn't had sex yet. They'd, like, done everything else. And maybe she got pregnant coz you know, he had a bit of sperm on his hand and then he was clit-wanking her off and that – at first he was pissed off, but he really loved her, and then he dreamt about that angel visiting in the night. Coz subconsciously he knew she'd not been unfaithful to him. Or perhaps another theory, maybe she got raped in her sleep.”
“I thought you were trying to be respectful to religious people?” asks Tony. “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but suggesting Jesus is the result of rape is slightly disrespectful.”
“Well,” I say sulkily, “I'm not calling GOD a rapist. Although, to be totally honest, I mean, like, you know, in the official story, God is being slightly rapey isn't he? I mean, he doesn't exactly ask her beforehand, does he? He does Julian Assange it up a bit. But that's not what I think actually happened, what I reckon is, like, maybe they had people staying at their house. And one of them raped her in her sleep. And she thought she was a virgin and couldn't understand how she'd got pregnant. I just can't believe that if she'd been shagging around behind Joseph's back she would've had the guts to keep the son-of-God thingie up. I think she must've slightly believed it herself, you know. Well. I'm glad everything turned out alright for her in the end, anyway. Apparently, she's floating around up there as well. Her bones and her skin and her molecules and everything. The guy who tried to convert me told me so.”
“That's quite a plausible theory with the rape/sleep thingie,” says Tony. “That's pretty good. I'm quite impressed with that.”
“Thanks,” I say, smiling. “But it isn't half as good as your Descension Day joke. That is one of the best jokes I've ever heard in my life.”
“Thanks,” says Tony, and then we change the subject. Coz the thing is, strictly speaking, rape and religion aren't really small-talk appropriate subjects, to be honest.