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Binah was a nerd among gods. When Bat-El saw that her Church had become infected with religious pride and overly puffed up with the knowledge of a divine origin and a supposed monopoly on truth, she asked Binah for help. Binah's solution involved, naturally, a gadget.

Binah noted that Catholicism had become, like Judaism and Islam, a religion of the Book. Unlike relics, which aged or were lost, the Word of God propagated like a living thing, with copies made to hand down to the next generation.

This was safe for The Powers That Be. Bibles were copied by hand and cost more than a house. So they tended to be found only in the cathedrals, where they were physically chained to the lectern to prevent theft. Intellectually, the Bible was chained to the authority of the bishops who reserved to themselves the sole power to interpret it.

Binah fixed that in 1455 by introducing to Earth a simple invention that had existed for centuries on Gorpai: The printing press. After that, cheap copies of the Bible, translated from Latin to the local vernacular, began to flood the market. This made a clean break from the monolithic Church possible. Christianity was democratized.

On Halloween in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door in Germany and got the revolution truly started.

In 1521 the Papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem (It Pleases the Roman Pontiff) excommunicated Luther, who had attempted to reform Catholicism while remaining within the boundaries and sanction of the Church. Now he had no choice but to repent or go rogue. He decided not to repent.

There were growing pains as the Reformation opened the way for parts of Europe to break free from Vatican control. Many heretics were burned alive at the stake. When Belial heard of this he told the other elohim, I considered burning as a death penalty once but I rejected it. Too quick.

Bat-El and Binah took his point. Still, the thing had to proceed at its own pace. Erasmus wrote The Freedom of the Will and this was countered by Luther writing On the Bondage of the Will.

King Henry VIII grew tired of his wife and asked Rome to release him from the marriage. When the Pope refused, he took the whole country of England out of the Church and started his own national Church.

Thomas Cranmer, the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, duly an- nounced King Henry's divorce to Catherine of Aragon. This established the central feature of the Reformation, that human will was ascendant over divine will.

After that it was like a dam had burst. John Knox founded the Scottish Presbyterian Church after a disagreement with Lutherans over the sacraments and church government. John Smyth founded the Baptist Church over the issue of infant baptism and church-state separation.

English translations of the Bible appeared, and the new Church of England, controlled now by Parliament, rejected certain books of the Old Testament that had been accepted by Rome and the Eastern Church for centuries.

After the Church divided, it began to sub-divide again and again, over the smallest issues, such as whether women could wear slacks, or whether playing cards was a sin, or what color the hymnal had to be. Every new sect had their own doctrinal hobby horse to ride. For the Five Corners Free Congregation, it was cousin marriage.

El Shaddai doesn't have a problem with cousins getting hitched. Milcah was married to her cousin, Nahor. They had a granddaughter named Rebecca, who later married Isaac, her first cousin once removed. Isaac instructed Jacob to marry a daughter of Rebecca's brother. Jacob ended up marrying two of them, both first cousins, Rachel and Leah. Eleazar's daughters married their first cousins. El Shaddai even commanded Zelophehad's five daughters to marry their cousins so their inheritance would remain in the family. It was precisely to prevent the accumulation of wealth in families (and thus threaten the temporal power of the Papacy) that Pope Gregory I made cousin-marriage forbidden for all Roman Catholics.

Before the Civil War, no American state banned cousin marriage. In the years following the war thirteen states did make it illegal. A map of the United States highlighting the states which ban cousin marriage looks like a map of the late 1860's journey of the Five Corners Free Congregation from Pennsylvania to the far Northwest. US prohibitions against cousin marriages predate modern genetics. The USA is the only western country with cousin marriage restrictions. About twenty percent of all couples worldwide are first cousins. About eighty percent of all marriages historically have been between first cousins.

The incest taboo actually has an internal basis, many animals including humans have evolved an aversion to mating very close within the bloodlines, like between brother and sister, or son and mother. But the further away a potential mate is from your own genetic inheritance, the less likely you will run across them in everyday life and have the opportunity to get with them. First cousins represent a sort of optimum point between genetic diversity and sexual availability.

All of these defenses (scriptural, historical, and anthropological) were first compiled in 1864 by Elder Mark Lange of Five Corners Free Congregation, who was deeply in love with his cousin-wife Joanna Lange.

Elder Mark's Church was mostly made up of Pennsylvania Dutch, which was a local corruption of Pennsylvania Deutsche. They were therefore German, and the assembly had roots in the Old German Baptist Brethren. These folks were pacifist farmers who dressed and lived simply, though not to the extremes of the Amish. They were called Dunkers because they baptized by dunking the convert in a local stream with complete immersion, three times just like Jesus did, in contrast to the sprinkling Lutherans, their pouring Mennonites, and even the "single dunk" Baptists.

All of those other congregations were of course damned to eternal hell fire for their apostasy.

Before Mark Lange became the Pastor of his own church, he was a simple parishioner in a Dunker church in Sharpsburg, Maryland, along Antietam Creek close to the place where it flows into the Potomac River. In September, 1862 General Robert E. Lee decided to invade the Union for the first time. A copy of his Special Order Number 191 outlining his projected movements in Maryland and Pennsylvania was intercepted and placed in the hands of General McClellan, who rushed to intercept him at South Mountain on the 14th. Three mountain passes fell to the men in blue after a day of fierce fighting. Lee was forced to withdraw back to the Potomac River at Sharpsburg.

Both armies concentrated their forces here over the next two days, exchanging occasional volleys of artillery fire. What followed on the 17th was the bloodiest single day of battle in American history, with all of it happening within earshot of the Dunker Church. Eight thousand men died in a cornfield across the road from the church. Four thousand men died in the woods behind the church. Twelve thousand men died in front of the church itself. Three thousand men died at Burnside's Bridge on Antietam Creek, whose clean water had been used by the Dunkers to bring converts to the Banquet of God, but now ran red with human blood.

A half mile from the church five thousand men died in the sunken road, or the so-called Bloody Lane which the Rebels had occupied and fortified, but which became a giant open grave filed to the brim with bodies after the Union won through to one end of it.

Tactically the battle was a draw. Strategically it was a clear victory for the North when Lee withdrew his battered forces back into Virginia.

The pretty whitewashed little Dunker Church was riddled with bullet and shell holes, and had become structurally unsound. The Union Army turned it into a field hospital after the battle, and the Church filled with the screams and amputated limbs of wounded men. Blood smeared the interior walls.

Horrified by the battle, four of the families who formed the membership of the Dunker Church fled to the farms of their relatives near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where they had sent their horses when they first heard artillery two days before, knowing the Confederate Army had an insatiable penchant for stealing horses.

Other families remained behind and wintered over at their relatives farms around Sharpsburg. Eventually the Dunker Church collapsed under all its damage, and a new one was rebuilt.

In Gettysburg Mark Lange stepped up, and became the pastor of a new church which retained most of the doctrines of the Dunkers, but only performed marriages between first cousins (or second cousins in a pinch).

Nine months later Marse Robert invaded the North again, and the horrible experience of the former Dunkers at Antietam repeated itself with a vast three day battle that proved to be the turning point of the war.

The parishioners began to think themselves cursed. Certainly they were unpopular with the rest of the people in Gettysburg. The cousin-marriage thing was considered outlandish.

Before they could be driven out of town, the members of the church volunteered to leave. They were anxious to get far away from the contending armies, and it was thought neighboring Ohio was much safer.

Soon after that, Pennsylvania made marriages between first cousins illegal, and after Mark Lange's church started making many new converts Ohio followed suit. They were becoming as unpopular as the Mormons. The church pulled up stakes and crossed over into Kentucky.

The end of the war saw them crossing the Big Muddy. By 1866 they were moving into the Great Plains of the Nebraska Territory, and by 1867 they were over the Great Divide and entered the Washington Territory.

Whittled down by disease, Indian raids, and bad luck, the group was reduced to just forty people when they reached the Stampede Pass crossing of the Cascade Range in the summer of 1868.

Soon after Mark Lange's wagon train started down the west side of the pass they encountered a blond male and female arrayed in strange clothing who were the tallest people they had ever seen. They did not give surnames, but the male, who was extremely hairy, called himself Kokabiel and the female called herself Nilaihah.

They came bearing sacks of fresh fruit in several varieties, and this astonished Elder Mark Lange on two important points. One, he could not imagine where they had obtained the fruit in this wilderness, where only sour little salmonberries and huckleberries grew.

Two, the fruit were unlike anything he or anyone in the wagon train had seen before. Still, the gifts were tasty, and more important, they were a source of vitamin C which was sorely lacking in their diet of stringy wild game and plant roots. Already some of the people were losing teeth from scurvy and the fruit came just in time.

In return, Mark Lange offered his two visitors a venison soup and an excellent homemade beer, which they accepted with gratitude. They gave thanks to El Shaddai in the name of Yeshua his only begotten offspring, and Lange discerned they were fellow Christians of some sort, but he could not place their accent, and they did not reveal their country of origin.

The two nephilim then walked with the wagon train as it made its treacherous way down the upper vales of the Green River, where it was only a small wild stream. As they descended, the Green River doubled and redoubled in size as other streams joined it.

The stream plunged over a staircase of innumerable cataracts and divided into islands as it formed stretches of white rapids alternating with deep quiet pools.

This place is beautiful, Lady Nilaihah, Elder Mark said after many minutes of contemplative silence. I find myself deeply moved.

Why do you find it so beautiful, Pastor Mark? she asked him.

I think it is perhaps the simplicity of the water's purpose, always seeking the lowest place.

What if you saw it raining on the ocean? Surely, as the simplest case, you would find that exceedingly beautiful.

No, m'Lady, it would seem such a waste of fresh water. Maybe I'm thinking of the complexity of this landscape along the valley floor, of the cliffs and hillsides and gravel bars.

Then what of that recent rock slide two miles back? Surely you found the jumbled, random complexity of the boulder field gorgeous beyond compare.

No, I found it to be an ugly scar on the land. I'm sorry, I have failed you, m'Lady. I cannot tell you why this place is so beautiful.

You have not failed me. Words have failed you.

Perhaps my words defy reason.

Kokabiel spoke up at this. Reason is for cutting away truths and filtering out truths, so as to arrive at the truth you are looking for. Reason is useless for growing and nourishing truths.

But Master Kokabiel, Mark Lange objected, reason is the foundation of our system of justice!

Exactly, the nephilim replied. That is why your society's righteousness is based on cutting and filtering, on refraining from doing evil things instead of accomplishing good things.

What about when there is a tragedy, such as a typhoon or an earthquake, and the people are blamed for somehow offending God?

Kokabiel said, Those who worship at the altar of reason cannot accept the capriciousness of nature. They must have an explanation for everything. So they say God is angry and sit in moral judgment of the people.

So do you hold the supernatural is not real, Master Kokabiel?

Rather, your world contains infinite complexities. To harness it is to spoil it. The days are bright, the night is dark. Winds blow, floods come. The seasons are hot and cold. These things unfold beyond man's puny attempts to control them.

Still, Master Kokabiel, men often succeed in their way, and take pride in their cleverness.

Kokabiel replied, Nature abhors monuments to man's cleverness, attacking his walls with moss and erosion and crumbling his cities to dust. Only the ever-renewing patterns of life are permanent.

Mark Lange fell silent as he pondered these words.

After another mile Nilaihah spoke up and said, This stream will grow and become a large river the further down you go. At the foot of this valley you will come to a large hill, and there it will be possible to cross. Near that hill at a river ford you will find a small group of Elamites who seek a place at the Lord's table again, if someone will show them the way home. You call them red skins.

And with that, Kokabiel and Nilaihah, both of the House of Sala, took their leave of Elder Mark and went their own way. In the days afterward, Pastor Lange often thought of the scripture in the letter to the Hebrews that said, Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

It was getting on to late afternoon of the following day when the wagon train reached the river crossing at the base of End Dome hill. Elder Mark Lange got out and decided to camp there for the night. There was no sign of the Indians that Nilaihah spoke of. Lange told the party they would stay here a day or two to rest before trying to ford the river.

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Strangers In Paradise