Here's a short story I've selected from the Bristlecone Sequoia collection. I hope you get a chuckle from it, and maybe more.

Jesus bin-Laden

The sense of anxious anticipation within the amphitheater was almost tangible.  An electric atmosphere emanated from each of the three clusters gathered close to the front as their nervous small talk failed to cloak unspoken questions about the true purpose of their gathering.  A general entered from their right and walked to the edge of the stage, two chrome stars on each shoulder glittering in the lights against his blue uniform.  Though it was hardly necessary for such a small group, he dropped his chin slightly toward the microphone attached to the lapel of his uniform and said softly, “Abe, give me a sound check.”
From the rear projection booth an amplified voice answered, “Sounds good, sir; begin whenever you’re ready.”
The general cleared his throat nervously, “Gentlemen, please be seated.”
Divided by two aisles onto three wedges, the room was designed to seat 120, although the number gathered together today was considerably less.  Besides the President of the United States of America, his Press Secretary and Secretary of Defense, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commandant of the Academy were joined by a small handful of civilians.  There were five seats in the middle section on the front row.  The President took the central seat; the Defense Secretary sat at his left with the head of the Armed Services next to him.  Symbolically, the elder statesman of Protestant fundamentalism was guided to sit at the right of the President by his son, who then took the remaining seat next to his father.
Seats on the left and right sides of the aisle were quickly taken by the Academy’s commandant and the two remaining civilians, each representing individual, politically-connected religious factions that formed a crucial part of the President’s power base.  Only the Press Secretary sat in the second row, directly behind the President.  There was no one else in the room.
When they were all seated in hinged, plush blue upholstered chairs, the general on stage began speaking.  “Some of you may be aware that our Academy began a classified project back in the 1970s involving the Shroud of Turin.  As you know, this cloth is considered to be the actual linen in which Jesus’ body was wrapped after he was removed from the cross and interred.  Imprinted on it is the unmistakable visage of a man, showing wounds on his head, feet and wrists consistent with the form of crucifixion we believe our Lord endured.  We wanted to discover how the image was created, what type of energy might have been involved, and if it could possibly be duplicated.” 
Among those seated, a few were nodding their heads.  Barely rumored, rarely discussed, the general was putting flesh on a tale that had occasionally been circulated throughout the Christian community for over thirty years.
The general continued his narrative.  “We hypothesized that during resurrection, as our Lord reanimated his body three days after dying, a powerful aura was miraculously created, searing his features permanently into the cloth.  Assuming this radiation would have been uniform in nature, the distance separating the cloth from the skin could be determined by the intensity of the image.  Where the cloth touched his nose it would be strongest, fading somewhat depending on its distance from his cheeks, his eyes, lips, and so forth.  After extensive computer modeling, we developed an algorithm that allowed us to construct an actual three-dimensional representation of our Savior, a true-to-life statue of Jesus just as he had appeared to his disciples.”
Entranced, the group sat motionless, hanging on each word the general uttered.  With the exception, that is, of the Reverend who was beginning to sway almost imperceptibly in his chair.  With all eyes on the general, no one noticed.
“Its existence has been definitively known to very few, and seen by even less.  But today, given a relatively recent and somewhat ironic turn of events, we have decided to unveil the statue to you.  Prepare yourselves,” he added somewhat ominously, “I’m sure there will be questions.”
Everyone leaned forward in anxious anticipation as the general turned to his left and commanded, “Gentlemen, bring it forward.”
Three seniors, all members of an elite group of Christian fundamentalists at the Academy and specially selected for their belief and loyalty, pushed a large, highly polished crate mounted on wheels toward the middle of the stage.  Just over six feet tall, it appeared to be carefully crafted of sandalwood.  The odor of incense cedar wafted gently into the room as the cadets came to a halt. The front was divided into halves that ran almost up its entire length before crossing horizontally at the top and bottom around the corners, ending with vertical seams halfway back.  These seams were held together by three large gold hinges on each side; the front was held closed by an elaborate gold clasp.
Standing behind the box, a cadet held it steady as the one on the right undid the lock.  Together he and his remaining comrade slowly pulled the doors open, folding them back against the sides.  As they swung open, a light hidden in the canopy flickered on, casting a soft glow upon the statue inside.
“What the hell?” the President blurted.
“Is this some kind of sick joke?” the Secretary of Defense demanded.
“This sure won’t play in Peoria,” the Press Secretary opined.
The general, having moved to one side as the crate was brought in, moved back toward the center of the stage.  “You can see our dilemma,” he stated simply.
The President was on his feet.  “It looks like Osama bin-Laden!”
The general nodded assent.  “I’ll admit there seems to be some resemblance.”
“Some resemblance my ass!” the Secretary of Defense weighed in.  “Hell, it’s spot on.  If that statue was moving, I’d have it shot!”
The Commandant of the Academy stood, placing one hand on the Secretary’s shoulder.  “Gentlemen, Mr. President, let me remind you of the obvious.  We made this statue of Jesus long ago.  Jesus doesn’t look like bin-Laden; bin-Laden, unfortunately, looks a lot like Jesus.”
“But why did you have to make him look so much like an Arab?” the President persisted.  “Put a hanky on his head and he’d be a dead ringer for some Palestinian terrorist.”
The advanced age of the Reverend who had been sitting at the President’s right made his inclusion in the group somewhat worrisome, but his prominence would never have allowed for exclusion.  Spiritual counselor to the Oval Office for well over a half century, his current mental state wasn’t sufficient to mark him as impaired.  Still, his recent tendency to suddenly blurt out politically incorrect, sometimes seemingly incomprehensible pronouncements made for some hand wringing.  Finally it had been decided that his son and heir apparent would have to handle the old man if any unpleasantness should arise.  Unfortunately, the Reverend could still move with surprising speed, and was on his feet, bounding past the others, toward the stage before anyone could react.
Stopping just short of the apron, the old man raised a palsied fist and pointed at the statue.  “It’s the Anti-Christ!” he yelled, trembling all over as he spoke.
“Oh for Christ’s sake!” said the President.  “What’s he talking about?”
The son grabbed his father, trying to lead him back to his seat, but the Reverend shook him off, shouting, “Our generation must see the prophecies fulfilled.  On 9-11 the Beast appeared to all the world.  When he is joined with the statue, it will breathe.  Our savior marches to battle.  Armageddon is at hand!”
Everyone was out of their seats now, shouting, crowding toward the stage.  The head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stepped up onto the front edge of the stage and turned to face them all.  “Everyone, calm down,” he demanded.  As the noise subsided, he turned to the Reverend.  “Reverend,” he asked, “for God’s sake, what are you saying?”
Still pointing at the statue, the old man was trembling violently.  Just as his knees collapsed his son caught him and half-dragged his father back to his seat.
“General,” one of the other ministers offered, “I believe what Billy’s talking about are some prophecies from Revelations.  The Book says the Beast will be seen everywhere in the world at once.  I’m guessing he’s equating 9-11 with that appearance.”
“How do you come up with that, brother?” the second minister, a popular television evangelist asked.
“Well, Pat, it’s not a stretch.  Osama bin-Laden went from an unknown to the most-wanted man in the world with the Trade Towers’ destruction.  Everyone everywhere watched his handiwork over and over for days.  Like the Good Book says, ‘by their fruits ye shall know them.’”
After a brief pause with several heads around him nodding slowly in agreement, the minister continued.  “Revelations says the Beast will bring a statue of Christ to life in Jerusalem.  That’s the joining Billy referred to.  Although the world will see it as a miracle initiating a period of unparalleled peace, in reality the statue will be the Anti-Christ.  His presence will lead to the six-year persecution of Christians…”
“Any remaining Christians,” the evangelist interrupted, “those left behind after the rapture which precedes these final days of terror.”
“Right you are, Pat,” the first minister continued.  “Anyway, this all culminates with Armageddon and the end of the world as we know it.”
The President had heard enough.  “Hell fire, that’s exactly what bin-Laden wants!  Why would anyone in his right mind hope that happens?”
“Well, Mr. President,” the evangelist interjected with a slight, ingratiating smile directed primarily toward his colleagues, “that is, after all, what we are each working for.  Armageddon may be the end of the world to some, but it ends with the Army of the Lord casting Satan into Hell forever, and it ushers in the next millennium.  It means Christ’s triumphal return to earth, the final resurrection of all believers, and ten thousand years of peace under His rule.”
“I’ll be damned if the world ends on my watch,” The President declared forcibly.
The ministers all paused for a moment, wondering if the President’s proclamation was prophecy or confusion.  Finally the evangelist broke the awkward silence, continuing, “Actually, sir, I’m sure all of us in this room will be called up before anything like that happens.”
He looked around the room and found unanimous support with nodding heads and whispers of “Amen!”
Sitting in his chair, the Reverend was keenly following the discussion.  Having recovered his strength, he once again gave forth with a stentorian voice, “You would have them eat of every tree.  You answer Satan by shopping!”
“Now what’s he talking about?” asked the Press Secretary peevishly.  His annoyance was beginning to show.  “How the hell am I going to spin this thing?” he wondered to himself.
“I think he’s referring to Genesis where Satan, the Great Tempter, talked Eve into eating the apple, the fruit from one of the two trees God put off limits,” the minister said.
“And how does that relate to shopping?” the Secretary of Defense asked, feeling he was now completely missing the point, if there was one.
“Well,” the minister continued somewhat apologetically, “maybe he’s talking about your suggestion immediately after 9-11,” he looked at the President, “that all Americans should go shopping to demonstrate to the terrorists they didn’t win.”
“I was just telling the good citizens of this God-fearing nation that they should buy things to support the economy,” the President responded, his voice beginning to project his building irritation.  “It makes you feel good to buy things.  I want everyone to be able to buy things, even the Arabs.   I want to show them what the world has to offer!”
Now rocking rapidly back and forth in his seat, the Reverend looked up and said, “The insidious tempter who whispers in the hearts of men.”
“Is that from Genesis too?” asked the President
“No, sir, that’s from the Koran,” the Reverend’s son answered.  “Dad likes to look for points of similarity in the teachings of all the world’s great religions.”
As if to emphasize the point, the Reverend added, “All your wealth vainly assaults the needle!”  He jabbed a bony finger into the air toward to President.
“Now that sounds just like bin-Laden, conveniently ignoring the wealth of his own family when it suits him.” The President said self-assuredly, feeling he had begun to regain a solid footing.
“Actually, Mr. President, Jesus said that,” the minister gently corrected.  “The Lord was talking about the difficulty a rich man has in entering Heaven, how it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.”
“Whatever,” the President cut him off.  “All these quotes by Jesus and bin-Laden, I can’t keep them apart. Let’s get back to the subject here.”  He turned an expectant look toward the Secretary of Defense.
Taking the cue, the Secretary took command, “This is all well and good, but we have a war on terror to fight right now and if this gets out, all hell will break loose!  We can’t let anything about this statue find its way to the general public.  I think we should destroy the damn thing.”
The Commander of the Academy was aghast.  “Sir, you can’t be serious!”
“I’m dead serious,” he snapped.  “Mr. President?” he asked, handing the baton back to his Commander in Chief.
The room fell silent as a tomb.  Finally, after a long, thoughtful pause, the President turned to the head of the military.  “What do you think, General?”
“It’s your call Mr. President.  I’m here to carry out your orders, whatever they may be.”
Turning to face the statue, the President took a long time before answering.  “It is a great statue.  I’d hate to see it destroyed.  But I think you’re right,” he nodded to the Secretary of Defense, “we can’t risk having it see the light of day right now.”
Turning to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he asked, “General, you’ve got NORAD just down the road a bit.  Couldn’t we tuck this thing away in one of those caves of yours where it will be hidden until we track bin-Laden down and kill him?”
“Yes sir, I’ll have it done at once.”  He issued an order to the Commandant, “Get that statue boxed up tight.  I want a truck here at oh-five-hundred to haul it off.”
The Commandant turned to the general who first introduced the statue.  In turn he called to the cadet in the projection room, “Mr. Nasser, do we still have the shipping crate made for this statue?”
Over the sound system came his reply, “Yes sir, I will have it securely packed and ready to go in the morning.  The box will be unmarked except for a shipping address to NORAD and an encrypted i.d. number.”
“Very well,” the general answered, turning back to the gathering.  “Will that meet with your approval, Mr. President?”
“That should be hunky-dory,” the President answered, following with one of his warm grins and familiar salutes.  Turning to the others he said, “Okay gentlemen, that’s handled.  Let’s get out of here.  I don’t know about you, but having that statue staring at us like that just gives me the willies.”
As the group filed out of the auditorium, Cadet Abdel “Abe” Nasser in the projection booth began arranging the details in his head.  “Hunky-dory indeed,” he thought, reflecting on the entire conversation he had just witnessed.
An exemplary student, Abdel had been appointed to the Academy by his congressman.  His model behavior and devout Christianity had never been questioned.  Indeed, their unremitting consistency is what led to his acceptance into the inner circle of true believers.  No one knew of the doubts he had begun to feel in the past few years as he watched events unfolding in the Middle East.  No one knew how the many long nights of study and prayer had begun to place a divide in his faith, turning him away from his self-exiled Egyptian parents’ Coptic beliefs, replacing them with more fundamentalist views gleaned from the Muslim Brotherhood.
“I can have two crates ready by morning.  The one for NORAD will be filled with old computers; it should weigh enough to pass muster.  I’ll send the other one, with the statue, to my uncle Gamal at the University in Cairo.  As head of the Antiquities Department, he will know how to get it across Gaza and into Jerusalem.  Then we may get to see where the truth lies.”
“None of these people have a clue where Osama is.  They will never find him; they will never kill him.  But a chance to appear in person at the Dome of the Rock where he could unveil to the world the American military’s statue of Jesus might prove irresistible for bin-Laden.  And if he truly is the Mahdi . . .” Abe let his thoughts trail off before reaching their unthinkable conclusion, “well, bring it on.”