What Is It All About? ► A Pastoral Letter

Hate on the hoof

Dear Pastor Kenny:

Reconnecting after 45 years apart (and linking up on the facebookery) has been a blessing, if you don’t mind this Atheist appropriating a religious term.

Watching your growing politicization since we renewed our friendship in November of 2014 has been a wonderment to behold.

Certainly your walk in the desert began before we rediscovered each other, when you started the thinking that led to the research, which resulted in your writing A Letter To My Congregation. You ran headlong into church and LGBT politics after it was published in book form.

Soon after we reconnected, church politics ran headlong into you and you were fired from the church that started in your living room 45 years ago. Though you believed your congregation was ready, they kicked you to the curb because you had the audacity to enter the 21st century by advocating for a full embrace of LGBT folk in church life.

You do realize they pray to the same God you do, right? How can you all be right, Ken?

I was surprised (and honoured) when you read my email and drew Biblical parables in the very last sermon you gave from that pulpit.

In that 2014 sermon you preached:

So Jesus finds Philip and Philip finds Nathaniel and Jesus sees something in Nathaniel at a distance and names it.

Despite Nathaniel’s snarkiness, which he doesn’t name, Jesus calls Nathaniel, a “true Israelite in whom there is no guile (or deceit.)”. Which reminded every Israelite true or not of their founding father, Jacob, who was renamed Israel, speaking of new names.

Jacob-Israel (like Peter-Cephas) had to undergo a transformation from the one who cheated his brother Esau out of his inheritance into a brother without deceit, without guile.  And Nathaniel represents that transformation. Sitting under the fig tree (which might have been Israel’s national tree) maybe praying or studying Torah, maybe updating his FB status “SEEKING A RELATIONSHIP”

Again, Jesus sees something in Nathaniel that maybe he didn’t see in himself until Jesus named it. Maybe Nathaniel was the ignored kid in school, the one no Rabbi would call to be his dis iple, because he didn’t have much promise. Maybe Nathaniel half believed that about himself but didn’t buy it fully.

Jesus comes along and names the thing about Nathaniel that Nathaniel most wants to be, a true Israelite in whom there is no guile. And when Jesus speaks it, Nathaniel says, “Yes, Lord!”

I aspire to be the true Atheist without guile. But that’s another story altogether.

Anyway, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, Ken, but thought my readers might appreciate the back story before I move onto new stuff.

Through the facebookery I’ve been able to follow your latest political awakening, especially your grassroots agitating following the last election.

I love how you have been urging your facefriends to get involved in the political process.

Not just exhorting them, but you have been providing folks with concrete information on how to contact their representatives in Washington and Lansing. As well, you’ve shared phone apps that make it easier to do so and provided updates of your own experiences, letting people know how simple it is to get involved. Then you give positive feedback and affirmation for those that do.

Here’s why I marvel: You’re not giving people your point of view. You’re not pontificating for or against any candidate or party. You’re not telling people how to vote or which side God is on.

You are merely asking folks to get involved. To make their feelings known. To no longer be silent about issues that affect them directly. You are doing this in a (mostly) bipartisan, secular, non-denominational, non-aligned, intersectional way. Here are some one recent examples:

I’m not like you, Ken. I tend to wear my political affiliation (and heart) on my sleeve. There’s no mistaking where I stand on any given issue. However, we’re both working toward the same end: a better world for those that follow.

I’ve been thinking a lot about you for another reason, Ken, because I’ve been thinking a lot about Gilchrist Street lately. As you know I’ve been downsizing the stuff in the condo. Mom & Pops lived here for 40 years. They never threw anything away and collected a lot of crap in that time. Every cupboard, closet, and drawer was filled to the brim.

It’s been exhausting work — physically yes, but especially emotionally. It’s been a much harder process than I thought it would be when I started and it’s taking a lot longer than I planned. There’s something to be said for my sisters’ suggestions that they come down in a blitz and help me tear off the bandage quickly. I declined in order to do it myself, so I only have my own self to blame.

Funny story: Even though I’ve lived here almost 12 years, there were many places I never looked into because they weren’t mine. They were Pops’. During the clear-out I have found some absolutely wonderful things.

Frinstance: In the very back of a desk drawer that held staplers, paperclips, and envelopes, I discovered a bag folded over many times, which contained the most amazing family ephemeral: Love letters and postcards Pops sent my mother when he was training to be a gunner during WWII. The salutation “Kiss the baby for me” referred to my oldest sister Brenda, who was newly born.

Naturally something like that would make me tear up, but some very bizarre items have also managed to start the waterworks.

In a junk drawer in Pops’ room (now my room) I found (when it still did the job for which it had been intended) a small wooden drawer 5″ x 3″ x 9″ deep. It would have come from a wall of drawers in a large cabinet, like in an old timey hardware store. On the front is a brass holder for a cardboard label, the curved bottom of which also doubled as the pull.

I never knew it as such. Here’s what I remember about the very first day I first saw it. I don’t know where my mother got the drawer, but she was repurposing it. She got some kind of paint (early ’60s) that allowed her to streak it so it looked like wood grain. I saw it immediately after it was painted, when it was still tacky, and thought she was a magician. It looked EXACTLY like real wood grain to my child’s eyes. Now I can see how poorly it resembles real wood.

Recently you and I had a FB conversation about the milk chutes on Gilchrist next to the back door. This small drawer was repurposed to hang from in the back hall on Gilchrist, right across from the milk chute. The bottom was nailed to the wall, with the face toward the floor, and it held the family’s Bills Payable.

I sobbed on and off for 2 days after I found it and I don’t know why this affected me more than Pops’ love letters.

Even though I’m trying to downsize, I find that can’t throw it out. Therefore, I’m repurposing it as a holder for the television remote controls.

So, what’s new with you?

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

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Headly Westerfield
Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.