Tag Archives: God

The Sins of the Father ► A Pastoral Letter


Pastor Kenny Pastorizing his flock

Dear Pastor Kenny:

It was great seeing you last month, as unexpected as it was. Almost immediately after the Not Now Silly Newsroom officially announced there would be no Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research this year …. What’s that old Jewish expression? “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

Since God and I are not on speaking terms, I have absolutely no idea how He might have learned of my plans to stay home this year. Unless He reads my facebookery.

When I made my announcement, I obviously didn’t know that Hurricane Irma would force a Road Trip on me. However, by the time I finally made the decision to flee, Irma was headed straight for the condo as a Category 5. Originally, I was only going to go to as far as Pensacola to get out of her path. However, in the final analysis that wouldn’t have done any good. Irma curved to the west side of the state. I’d either have had to continue north or make a left in the panhandle and head west towards Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

At the last minute, however, a facefriend of some years standing, whom I had never met, suggested we hightail it to Michigan, where he also has relatives. At first I resisted, then changed my mind. In the end that proved to be the least expensive option. Driving anywhere else would have required us to spring for hotel/motel fees, more meals in restaurants, and other accessories.

Talk about your synchronicity: It was only when I was finally in Ohio, traveling north along I-75, I asked Siri to call you. Siri didn’t know your number because it was in my old Windows Phone, where Cortana ruled the roost. Not long afterwards — at the very next rest stop, in fact — I opened up my facebookery and the top post on my timeline was one of your infrequent (compared to me) ones.

That’s when I facebooked you and we set up our time together. This year we spent more time together than any previous year. I especially enjoyed visiting the old neighbourhood with you:

https://www.facebook.com/headly.westerfield/videos/1054733027995662/


FULL CONFESSION: I only really think of sin when I’m writing to you. Otherwise, I just carry on day to day without a single thought of eternal damnation whatsoever.

Of course, Jews don’t really believe in Heaven. Nor Hell. To bastardize Woody Allen’s joke: I’m a Reformed Jew. I’m so Reformed, I’m a Atheist.


♫ ♪ ♫ Knock, knock knockin’ on h— WAIT!!! WHAT???

Regardless, in “Heaven and Hell in Jewish Tradition“, at the Jewish Learning website, it says (among a bunch of other stuff worth reading):

What the next world is, however, is far from clear. The rabbis use the term Olam Ha-Ba to refer to a heaven-like afterlife as well as to the messianic era or the age of resurrection, and it is often difficult to know which one is being referred to. When the Talmud does speak of Olam Ha-Ba in connection to the afterlife, it often uses it interchangeably with the term Gan Eden (“the Garden of Eden”), referring to a heavenly realm where souls reside after physical death.

The use of the term Gan Eden to describe “heaven” suggests that the rabbis conceived of the afterlife as a return to the blissful existence of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the “fall.” It is generally believed that in Gan Eden the human soul exists in a disembodied state until the time of bodily resurrection in the days of the Messiah.

One interesting talmudic story, in which the World to Come almost certainly refers to a heavenly afterlife, tells of Rabbi Joseph, the son of Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, who dies and returns back to life.

“His father asked him, ‘What did you see?’ He replied, ‘I beheld a world the reverse of this one; those who are on top here were below there, and vice versa.’ He [Joshua ben Levi] said to him, ‘My son, you have seen a corrected world.’”

Ken, anything you can add to this internal discussion is always welcome, but it occurred to me a long time ago that I’m really writing to myself. These Pastoral Letters, as you know, are a self-examination of my spirituality, or — to put it into other terms — my relationship with a non-God.

Anyway, as I say, my mind jumps to sin at times like these. Having actually never done so, I decided to use Der Googleizer. Who knew there were so many kinds of sin?

There’s Mortal Sin,, when you’re going to straight to Hell, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Venial Sin, in which you’re surely testing the limits of your relationship with God, but you know in the back of your mind that all you have to do is beg forgiveness, and BINGO! It’s a done deal. In fact, the same goes for Mortal Sins. That’s why confession is good for the soul. Because it lets one off the hook.

Then there are the Seven Deadly Sins, which is what people tend to think of when they think of sin. The WikiWackyWoo suggests the Seven Deadly Sins should not be confused with Mortal Sin. It adds:

The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of Christian origin, of vices.[1] Behaviours or habits are classified under this category if they directly give birth to other immoralities.[2] According to the standard list, they are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth,[2] which are also contrary to the seven virtues. These sins are often thought to be abuses or excessive versions of one’s natural faculties or passions (for example, gluttony abuses one’s desire to eat).

But later, just to confuse the issue, the Wiki also says:

The seven deadly sins in their current form are not found in the Bible, however there are biblical antecedents. One such antecedent is found in the Book of Proverbs 6:16–19, however only in the Masoretic Text (the earlier translated Septuagint version of this passage lacks a clear preface and lists only five). Among the verses traditionally associated with King Solomon, it states that the Lord specifically regards “six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him”, namely:[6]

  1. A proud (vain) look
  2. A lying tongue.
  3. Hands that shed innocent blood
  4. A heart that deviseth wicked acts
  5. Feet that be swift in running to mischief
  6. A false witness that speaketh lies
  7. He that soweth discord among brethren[7]

Another list,[8] given this time by the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 5:19–21), includes more of the traditional seven, although the list is substantially longer: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, “and such like”.[9] Since the apostle Paul goes on to say that the persons who practice these sins “shall not inherit the Kingdom of God”, such sins are usually listed as mortal sins (unless sufficient reflection and deliberate consent are not present) rather than capital vices.[10]

Who’s got time to keep track of all those sins? Especially the “and such like” category, in which you can lump just about anything? Instead, let’s (quickly) take the Cardinal Sins one by one.

  • Lust. Most people think this means “sex”, but there is lust for things as well: money, status, and respect. Personally, I lust after nice pieces of brass.Meanwhile, sexual lust can’t be evil. Otherwise, only a practical joker of a God would have hardwired it into us. It’s what one does with that sexual lust that can be evil — or illegal, for that matter.
  • Gluttony. This week I ate a quart of ice cream by myself, but for the most part I’m not a glutton, except for punishment.
  • Greed. The unfettered acquisition of money has never been one of my problems. In fact, had it been one of my problems, I’d have fewer problems.
  • Sloth. It comes and goes. I can be real lazy when I set my mind to it. But a sin? Not to me.
  • Wrath. I get angry, but can blow & go; get pissed off about something and then forget all about it after the volcano erupts. But, I never take it out on people that don’t deserve it, if that helps.Yet I also recognize that there are some people on my shit list that I will take pot shots at again and again, and never forgive.
  • Pride. Like jingoistic flag-waving? Not my problem. However, there’s some things I justifiably take pride in. Is it Foolish Pride? Just crank it up and D A N C E ! ! !

  • Envy.

Envy? You ask.

DING! DING!! DING!!! Oh yeah, that’s the one. I’ve long recognized it’s my biggest fault; my biggest sin.

Now, I’m not envious of people’s money, or the things they have acquired [see above]. I’m envious of people’s situations, which is really hard to explain. The story I told you about pretending to be on the Safety Patrol (way back when) must have been born from my envy of you.

Here’s how sick I really am (and I’m not talking about this vaguebooking): I have a dear friend, who happened to fit incredibly comfortably into a situation, due to an introduction I made. At the very same time a brass ring I had been reaching for receded well beyond my reach and was denied me. Thru’ the facebookery, I am forced to confront both of these things simultaneously. I should be happy for my friend for the former, but I am nothing but envious due to the latter.

Read “Facebook, the “spiral of envy,” and our Botox Life

Since I returned from Michigan, I even started to envy you, Ken.

As you know I offended one of your parishioners deeply. When I apologized and asked for her forgiveness, she replied that she had, but only because I’m an old friend of yours. I envy that relationship you have with her; instead of having her accuse me — in the same sentence — of both mansplaining and whitesplaining. She would never accuse you of Pastorsplaining. She would have listened.

I’ve always said that the most important thing to remember in discussions about race is that White folk need to listen when Black folks speak about Racism. I still believe that. They’re on the front lines. They have the experience(s). However, it wouldn’t hurt Black folks to listen once in a while. I may not be totally woke, but I’ve been wiping the sleep from my eyes about Race Relations since I was a teenager working in Pops’ store on 12th Street, now known as Rosa Parks Boulevard. I feel I have something to contribute to the discussion and to use terms like whitesplaining and mansplaining is not designed to have a dialogue, only to turn one into a pillar of salt.

TO BE FAIR: She was not wrong to be offended. I used an offensive word. But, here’s the thing, Ken: Pops never said “the N-Word” in his life. Pops said “nigger”. I’m not going to WHITEwash what Pops said, as ugly as it was. This is the titular “Sins of the Father“. I don’t let Pops off the hook just because he’s 1). Dead; 2). My father. Using the word when appropriate is just an extension of my essay, which predates our reunion, “A Reasoned Defense of the Word Nigger“. Furthermore, I see no contradiction in using the word and being sorry that I did.

If you think of it, Ken, please show this essay to her. Not to offend her all over again, because I truly fell in love with her. But, to offer her as much space in rebuttal as she’d like to take. I promise to print every word.

As always, the same goes for you.

I’ll sign off here, Ken, as this Pastoral Letter is long enough already. As they often do, this one went to places I never intended when I started and I’ve had enough self-examination for one day.

With all my love,
From your oldest friend in the world,

Marc Slootsky

Before and After Synchronicity ► A Pastoral Letter

A reading assignment from Pastor Ken Wilson.

Dear Pastor Kenny: I began this Pastoral Letter several weeks ago and have been tinkering with it ever since, trying to get it right. Then came the car crash. That’s why this essay is bifurcated into Before & After; before my accident and after.

BEFORE:

It’s been well over a month since my last Pastoral Letter and almost 2 months since I received your response. I have so much to tell you that I barely know where to begin.

It hardly seems like a year since I rediscovered you and wrote the first of my Pastoral Letters, which I called Finding An Old Friend. It was slotted under the Unpacking The Writer rubric because little did I know at the time it would become another series in the Not Now Silly Newsroom. I don’t know how they’re working out for you, but they sure are helping me. Being forced to turn what’s firing through my neurons into words, helps me get my thoughts straight on these weighty matters.

First let me thank you (I think) for your reading assignment and sending me “Changing Our Mind” by David P. Gushee. (I have so many books on my “to be read” shelf, that the last thing I needed was a reading assignment.) I’ve yet to crack it open, other than to look at the chapter titles, making special note of Chapter 20, Ending the Teaching of Contempt, the one concerning anti-Semitism that you felt I should read. However, I’ll be reading the whole thing.

In your last Pastoral Letter, which I called a Pastor Kenny Responds (in lieu of a better title), you said: 

One of the things I’d forgotten was just how racist things were growing up. You reminded me what it was like to grow up Jewish— and it all came rushing back, the horrible jokes about Jews, and Blacks, and Poles, and well, non WASPS. I remember being warned by someone not to attend a Catholic Mass because they spoke Latin and you didn’t know whether they were saying bad stuff or not.

It made me feel ashamed. Using the N-word was strictly forbidden in my family. Same with anti-Jewish rhetoric. But talk of “Injuns,” “Krauts” and “Japs” was tolerated. Now I’m ashamed. But I was also ashamed because of my forgetting. Forgetting how bad the Christian participation in anti-Semitism was in that era.

Back in college I edited the school’s alternative paper
(ie: the one not put out weakly weekly by the Journalism
students). This was the cover of our Revelations issue.

While I never participated in racial denigration growing up — perhaps because of my Jewish upbringing or the fact that Pops had a store on 12th Street, where I got to know a lot of Black folk — I have my own shame over the names I called people in the LGBT communities back then. I console myself with the notion that it was a different time and I simply did not know any better.

My children were taught to know better, which is one of the ways with which we CAN change the world. And, that reminds me of a story:

One day my youngest son and I were walking down the street when he was about 8 or 9. Suddenly he yelled, “LOOK, DAD! A FAGGOT!!!”

Just as I was about to blast him for using such an awful word, I looked at where he was pointing. There, waiting for trash pick-up, was a bundle of sticks. How can you not like word play like that from a child? He now owns a successful restaurant in Toronto.

Ken, you also told me:

I must say I have been honored by your interest in my little LGBT soap opera. Spreading the word about Letter to My Congregation,
being interested, curious, sympathetic.  But it has also been
comforting to reconnect a little bit with my Gilchrist past through your
reaching out. 

The cover design is a bundle of sticks

The fact of the matter is, Ken, that I feel you’ve written a very
important book, which I tell anyone who will listen, for as long as they
will listen. With your book you are on the leading edge of an important
Social Justice Movement within the church. Only time will tell whether
the masses will follow, and I mean masses in both senses of the word.

Books: another one of the ways with which we can change the world.

And, as I explained to you as we walked around downtown Ann Arbor in July, reaching back and reconnecting with my Gilchrist past has become very important to me because of The Trunk Lost In Transit.

What I find amusing, Ken — and your mileage may vary — is that I reject almost everything else you believe in. I identify as a non-evangelical Atheist. I don’t proselytize because I don’t care all that much whether people agree, or disagree, with me. Whether they do, or do not, affects my life not one iota. That’s why I don’t understand evangelicals, whether they’re about Jesus, Atheism, or FitBit. (Say Ken, have you heard about E.W.F. Stirrup and his house?)

Having said that, while you may be used to having your beliefs challenged, I am not used to having my disbeliefs challenged.

Which brings me to what I really want to talk about: Cosmic Synchronicity. But first, some definitions:

Merriam-Webster defines “synchronicity” as “the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality—used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung.”

In the same post I defined it differently:

Think of your own personal synchronicity as a blanket you are shaking rhythmically up and down. The sine waves created by the blanket is a two dimensional representation of your synchronicity in a 3-Dimensional space. However, everyone knows that synchronicity works in the 6th Dimension, where it interacts with the ‘waving blankets’ belonging to everyone else. Where these waves collide are where the EXACT moments and locations the FSM [Flying Spaghetti Monster] has stitched together Space and Time and Gravity and Dimensionality and Predestination. If, as they contend in Quantuum Mechanics or String Theory or Whatever They’re Calling It These Days™, that all choices are possible in the Alternative Universes that exist, then the chances of anything so improbable can be proven possible by multiplying boiling water with pasta and adding sauce.

So . . . where to start? Let’s go all the way back to the beginning, Ken. And, get comfortable, because this is going to take a while.

Barbara way back when

Back when you were visiting me in the early ’70s, my first ex-wife was going to school at George Brown College to learn all about the Sewing Arts, the field she eventually made her living in. There she met a gal named Barbara. I don’t think I met Barbara back then.

A few years later I lived and worked on Bedford Road. Barbara lived on Bedford Road, just up the street. I don’t think I met Barbara back then.

I finally met Barbara when I
was a freelance writer selling my words to any publication that had a
few extra dollars to spend. Among those was TO Tonight, Yorkview Magazine and a tabloid called Entertainment Weekly (long before and no relation to the tee vee show), where Barbara worked.

She was gorgeous and I asked her out. We went to a concert and then a
bar. Afterwards, full of liquor and hormones, we repaired to my place on Nassau Street, in Kensington Market, which makes me an official Marketeer. At some point — maybe we were discussing George Brown College, or maybe it just came out in casual conversation
— but Barbara realized she knew my ex-wife. Which explains why we
never did The Deed that night. Sisterhood Solidarity was more important to Barbara. She left shortly after that.

Later Barbara left Entertainment Weekly and I became its Editor and Head Writer.

Skip ahead another 30 years, or so, and somehow I became facefriends with Barbette Kensington, her online persona. She’s done community outreach for more than 3 decades in The Market and is often called the “Unofficial Queen of Kensington Market.” She’s posted a lot of pictures of herself and the various Marketeers at various locations in The Market. There’s The Stoop, The Office, The Office Annex, the Alley and Lola.

Every time I saw one of her pics, I would gasp. She simply takes my breath away. She’s gorgeous.

Knowing she’s an event organizer, when I needed to throw myself a party in Toronto, I went to her (digitally) and asked where she’d hold such a party. [Read: The Nuptial Nostalgia Tour and the follow-up, Love Makes The World Go Round.] In all honesty, I had no expectations, other than she might know of a place. I haven’t lived in Toronto in 17 years and Canada in 10. What do I know about entertaining in Toronto these days?

I certainly didn’t expect her to take that ball and run with it. As an event organizer she assumed that’s what I was asking. She found the perfect location in Kensington Market, Lola, and went about organizing the whole thing. Selfishly I let her because I didn’t have to do a thing. However, I did sent out the invites on the facebookery.

When Barbara and I met up I hugged her. Hugged her hard. She tells me was not the kind of hug one normally gives an old acquaintance, but she allowed herself to fall into it. We’ve been allowing ourselves to fall into it ever since.

I keep telling Barbara that “I don’t believe in any of that Mumbo Jumbo.” She’s Mohawk and deeply spiritual. I keep saying that because of all the coincidences that have built up to the point of cosmic synchronicity.

• Late last year one of Barbara’s face-to-facefriends messaged me requesting facefriendship on Barbara’s recommendation. I replied, “That’s good enough for me.” Little did I know that ever since this friend has been urging Barbara to go to me.

• One of the first conversations Barbara and I had at our reunion included an off-hand remark she made about her upcoming birthday and how she always thought she’d be married at that age. Without thinking I blurted out, I’ll marry you. And, I meant it.

• Days later, at my Coming Home Party, one of Barbara’s dear friends, who is downsizing and loves to give her things to random people, arrived at my party at Lola with a bag of jewellery. Some of it was real, some of it was costume. [I was on the other side of the patio, so I didn’t realize this was going on at the time.] She slipped Barbara 2 very simple, tasteful, wedding rings and said, “Here.”

This hand shook the hand of Bob Marley

• After the jewellery had been divided up, there remained one piece which was handed to me. It spoke to me immediately. It’s the colours of the Jamaican flag and the Rastafarian religion, if a religion is said to have colours. I slipped it on my right wrist, where it has remained. Since returning to Florida several people have taken note and remarked on it. Now I get to say with more emphasis than ever something I’ve been saying for many years anyway: “This hand shook the hand of Bob Marley.”

That’s as far as I’d gotten with this Pastoral Letter.

AFTER:

And, then came the car crash. Long story short: I was sideswiped by a car turning right on the red as I motored through a green light just a mile from home. After all those 3,000 mile road trips it seems ironic to be taken out of commission so close to home.

That was more than a week ago and I didn’t know where to take this essay after that. Therefore, I’ve just let it sit and stew in its own juices hoping I would be inspired.

The problem was: I no longer felt inspired. I’d read this and re-read this, not knowing where to take it, what to add, what to subtract, and whether to start all over. Yet, this morning I woke up inspired by the word “bifurcated.” Here’s where I’m taking this now:

I returned from Toronto feeling better than I have in decades. 

It wasn’t just being back in the city that I love and call home, no matter where I happen to be. It wasn’t just how Toronto feels as comfortable as a Johnny LaRue‘s smoking jacket. It wasn’t that, as a Marketeer, this was like a homecoming. It wasn’t even that Kensington Market, in which I spent most of my time while in Toronto, revitalized the Hippie slumbering in me. And, it wasn’t that I fell in love with one of the most fascinating women I’ve ever known.

Me in Johnny LaRue’s actual smoking jacket

No, Ken. It’s that one of the most fascinating women I’ve ever known fell in love with me and calls me handsome. It was such an ego boost to know my affection was being returned. It made me feel good right to my core. It made me forget all the trials, tribulations, and challenges I have in Florida taking care of Pops. It gave me something to look forward to after feeling my life has been on hold for so very long.

Then came the car crash. Like an elastic band, it snapped me back to where I was — what I was — before I went to Toronto. I was morose. I was filled with ennui. While I put one foot in front of the other, I merely moved through life, life didn’t move through me.

During the interregnum between returning from Toronto and the car accident I had more than once wondered, “What’s it going to be like when this good feeling goes away as it inevitably will? What will the bubble-bursting feel like?”

Now I know.

However, and here’s the important part: I don’t feel as if I have regressed completely. Barbara has provided an important spark, which won’t be extinguished. I told Barbara I was seeking her healing energy, which she gladly gave. Her spiritual beliefs go far deeper than my deeply held Atheism.

I feel spiritual when I’m banging two wooden sticks together in a drum circle when the rhythm takes me to a place where I’m not thinking any longer. I call that my Zen space, but I don’t really know squat about Zen because I also say that driving with the tunes cranked up is also my Zen Space.

UNITY

I won’t even begin to describe Barbara’s spirituality (because that would be unfair to her), but I have on several occasions felt the need to say, “You know I don’t believe in any of that mumbo jumbo.”

Which is, I guess, the worst I can say about your beliefs, Kenny. While we appear to agree on so many Social Justice issues, we have a giant disagreement about the core belief driving us. I act in a socially conscience manner because I’ve long come to the conclusion it’s the only way to live, both with the world at large and with myself. I don’t need a God in my life in order to know the difference between right and wrong. You know I don’t believe in that mumbo jumbo.

Maybe it would be easier if I could ascribe all events to a higher power. Reconnecting with Barbara after all these years certainly feels fated, predestined, kismet. Yet, the car accident does not.

My happiness can only be found within myself, as opposed to the belief that praying to a higher power brings me fulfillment and makes me happy. That thought, and that belief, makes me happier than I’ve been since the accident.

Two headlines that crossed my electronic transom yesterday couldn’t be more diametrically opposed:

Now, that’s funny. We’ll see if I’m still laughing once I start fighting with the insurance company of the teenager who hit me.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

Desperately Seeking Spirituality ► Another Pastoral Letter

Analog writing

Dear Pastor Kenny: 

I’m not feeling terribly pastoral these days, yet it seems time for another Pastoral Letter, so here we go into the dark abyss of my soulless psyche. 

I’m starting this in longhand on the night of the Summer Solstice as I catch a breather before heading out to the Tequesta Summer Solstice Drum Circle. It’s a drum circle so crowded that trying to find any kind of spirituality seems foolish.

So why, you may ask, am I going? Good question. Bad answer: I’m not entirely sure, but I have equated drum circles with serenity and the search for something pastoral, as you know. Which, if nothing else, explains why I am writing a Pastoral Letter, Ken, even if I’m not feeling it.

Recently I revealed to a drum circle buddy that I was going to the Tequesta Summer Solstice Drum Circle to see if I could find spirituality. I was surprised when they told me that they were a Nihilist, something I never would have suspected of them. I think that’s one of the few philosophies I haven’t tried on yet.

As an aside, I learned this morning that:

[T]he meaning of the “the shruggie” is always two, if not three- or four-, fold. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ represents nihilism, “bemused resignation,” and “a Zen-like tool to accept the chaos of universe.” It is Sisyphus in unicode. I use it at least 10 times a day.

I’m feeling more nihilistic than pastoral because of last week’s church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, cradle of the racist south. I’m not feeling very pastoral because, as soon as it happened, so many people on the Right became heavily invested into denying that racism had anything to do with it, instead blaming the War on Christianity, video games, and the evil Left Wing Libruls, as opposed to the twin scourge of Racism and easily available guns in this country.

Even after Dylann Roof admitted it was a racial attack — that he was trying to start a race war (echoes of Charlie Mason and Helter Skelter) — Fox “News” and others were still denying the obvious. It’s that denial that allows incidents like these to happen time and time again in this country.

Coming so close on the heels of Ferguson, Baltimore, McKinney, and more, the senseless slaughter of 9 innocent people — at a Bible study class — is simply an overt example of the pernicious racism that pumps through this country’s bloodstream. It’s in our DNA. It’s baked in the cake with the Constitution’s 3/5ths compromise. Black folk were chattel, property to be bought and sold, owned by anyone who could put up the cash at the many Slave Auctions through the south.

When slavery was outlawed — following the Civil War — and Reconstruction was abandoned, Jim Crow took its place. Redlining folks into ghettos, refusing home renovation loans, lower wages, worse schools, a lack of opportunity, and White Flight — not to mention lynchings — kept Black folk in enclaves as tightly controlled as those that existed during slavery. This as Black folk did most of the back-breaking work that built this country.

As you know, Pastor Kenny, I use these Pastoral Letters, for the most part, to kick around ideas about religion and atheism that I’ve had my entire life. This one will also address some of my ideas about race relations in ‘Merka.

Bottom line: If there was a God, She wouldn’t have allowed 9 innocent people to be slaughtered in Her house. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s been said a million times before me, so many times that religionists have a ready answer for it. I forget what it is because I just think it’s a bogus rationalization.

Oh, wait! I remember now. It’s God’s will. Got it.

I had been on the verge of tears all week following the massacre, but I totally lost it when the families of the victims started giving their impact statements at the bail hearing. Every one of them spoke about God’s forgiveness and Jesus. Their capacity for forgiveness was more than my already over-wrought emotional capacity could bear.

They were forgiving Dylann Roof, but it sounded to me more like they were forgiving God for allowing it to happen in the first place. 

To me this was incomprehensible. More incomprehensible is that this fellow Jesus, by all accounts a pretty good guy, was the God of their Slave Masters. Why would anyone adopt the God of their Masters? Still more incomprehensible to me: The same Bible used by the Slave Masters to justify slavery was used by the slaves as a prediction of their eventual emancipation. They identified with the Jews and the motto “Let my people go!”

It’s a tricky book that can be used by all sides to justify whatever people want. Right now it’s being used to deny LGBT communities basic human rights. I’m glad you’re fighting against that, Ken.

Tequesta Summer Solstice Drum Circle at sunset, June 21, 2015

The overriding reason I go to these drum circles whenever possible is because I felt an irresistible spiritual tug to it when I covered the Coconut Grove Drum Circle marching in the King Mango Strut.

Tonight I went to the Tequesta Summer Solstice Drum Circle, but I wasn’t feeling all that pastoral either. I had had an intermittent stomach ache all day, that only got worse once I arrived at the park. That kept me from getting inside the rhythm, which is my comfort zone within a circle. I’ve yet to achieve that at Tequesta, because of how crowded the field is with 3-400 people in it. For some reason I still want to see if that’s even possible.

You see, I’m still trying to figure out why I have such a visceral need to bang 2 pieces of wood together. Is this a desire on my part to replicate the human heartbeat? Or, in the alternative, am I just another case study for Dr. Oliver Sacks. While standing and watching the crowd on Sunday, I couldn’t help but feel a weird kind of cultural appropriation.

When I first experienced a drum circle, at the 2013 King Mago Strut, I couldn’t help but think of Kebo. Apparently Kebo was a village in Africa. It’s also the name some of the original Bahamian immigrants gave the enclave that is now known colloquially as West Grove in Coconut Grove. On that day I was struck with the fact that I was standing in modern day Kebo and listening to a bunch of White folk bang on drums. I couldn’t help but wonder what the ancestors buried in the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery would think of this development.

Now, I don’t want to say that only Black folks have rhythm because
I’ve heard a lot of amazing White drummers in these drum circles. What I
will say is that I see very few Black folk at these drum circles. I find that interesting and worthy of note.
Before I left Tequesta (at 9:30, long before the crowd would have reached its zenith) I decided to walk around the circle 3 times,
which isn’t easy when it’s so crowded. While I did so I counted the Black folk I saw. I
counted 14.

For reasons I can’t even describe it didn’t help make me feel pastoral.

I’m still recovering from whatever stomach bug I picked up, but am starting to feel better, Kenny. Well enough to try to organize the rest of my thoughts and finish this latest Pastoral Letter before it gets too old.

Some people see things through Rose Coloured Glasses; Since leaving Detroit I see things through Race Coloured Glasses. It may be a blessing, or a curse, but my mind almost always immediately jumps to how Race plays into whatever sitch-eee-ay-shuns I’m observing. There are many reasons for this. However, I believe it all goes back to the awakening I had when Pops lost everything in the ’67 Detroit Riot.

I didn’t have the words for it at the age of 15, but these were my first inklings of White Privilege and Black Rage. I’ve been piecing the rest of it together ever since.

Read: The Detroit Riots, Part Five
of the Unpacking My Detroit series

Ken, yesterday I went to Barnes and Noble to get your book. There’s only 3 weeks before we get together next month and I wanted to have digested it before we talk about it.

It turns out A Letter to my Congregation is not one of the religious books Barnes and Noble stocks, so I had to order it, pre-pay for it, and pay an additional $3.99 shipping fee for the experience. Just for shits and giggles I told the clerk that I didn’t want a book that I couldn’t examine first. Couldn’t they have it shipped to the store so I could make an informed decision on whether I really wanted it or not by holding it in my hand?

No. That’s not something they do. But, I was given a choice. I could either buy it, or not buy it. I chose to buy it. Furthermore, I was told your book will be shipped to me anytime between a week to a month. It may not arrive before the 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research, so I may not know what’s between the covers before we meet again. Worse yet, how will I get it inscribed by the author?

So, I am still forced to read discern your Biblical reasoning from your posts and the book reviews I’ve been reading.

I have said more than once that those who believe in God have it a lot easier than the rest of us. How nice it must be, whenever one is buffeted by the injustices in life, to be able to place everything in the hands of the Lord and just go on. Even more interesting to me is that whole “Get out of hell free” card religions offer: Make a confession, do a few Hail Marys, and poof! You’re good to go again with a clean slate.

An Atheist like myself has to live with the fact that I screwed up. Only I can make it right. A prayer won’t fix it. Yet — as I take a quick self-examination — I’m not breaking any of the 10 Commandments anyway. At least none of the biggies. I don’t need a book to tell me what’s the right thing to do. None of us should. I don’t need a promise of Heaven to do what’s right.

Nor do I have to find justification in the Bible for treating people with simple dignity. That you have had to spend all those pages to say, in essence, “What would Jesus do?” seems like a waste of time and energy. That you are considered an outlier in your religion should tell you something. It tells me churches have been wrong — about so much — for centuries and that’s not about to change in our lifetimes.

If there really was a God it would change tomorrow. She’d kick some ass and get ‘er done, to quote a Redneck comedian.

My receipt: Barnes and Noble
didn’t stock your book, but it still
tried to sell me books it did have.

As fresh as today’s Headlines Du Jour, because it was published today, is Pastors want to create a Christian community open to all, your interview on Michigan Radio:

Ken Wilson founded Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor and served on the national board of Vineyard USA for seven years.

Then,
he and co-pastor Emily Swan left Vineyard to form Blue Ocean Faith, a
new church that seeks to create an evangelical Christian community in
Ann Arbor that openly welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender
members.

Wilson says that leaving his congregation at Vineyard was difficult, but it’s a move he’s proud of.

“The
denomination I was a part of rejected my move toward being fully
inclusive with LGBT, and so that necessitated our starting a new
church,” he says.

How many breakaway churches are needed before we reach the least common denominator?

In that interview you are making the same point as I did above before I even heard this, about the church being wrong:

Absolutely. We were wrong on interracial marriage, we were wrong on slavery, we were wrong on the full inclusion of women. For 2,000 years the church taught a very, very strict line on divorce or remarriage, where virtually no one who had a living spouse could be remarried. And this was just — didn’t square with reality.

However, we look at these previous errors of church doctrine differently. How could God let Her creation be so self-deluded? Over and over again? How do you know you’ve finally got it right?

Over the last 2 days we’ve have seen a seismic shift in our treatment of the Confederate flag in this country. Soon  the Supreme Court will hopefully rule in favour of LGBT marriage and equality. Eventually, the church will either have to embrace LGBT equality, or die. I believe it will be the latter.

Until that happens, I’m not feeling very pastoral. Maybe I can find some of that at Saturday’s drum circle.

See you next month.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

A Pagan Pastoral Letter

The Winter Solstice Drum Circle

Other Chapters of Pastoral Letter
► Part One – Finding An Old Friend
► Pastor Kenny’s reply: The Gospel of John,
Chapter One: They Came in Twos

Merry Christmas and a Happy Yule, Pastor Kenny:

I’m not really a Pagan, but I got your attention, didn’t I? I don’t know who said it first, but the biggest difference between you and me is that I have rejected one more God than you have. Freedom of religion is also freedom from religion and I am proudly religion free.

However, if forced to choose a religion I would go with one that worships Mother Earth and Her children. My second choice? Pastafarianism because I love the headgear.

First apologies for taking so long to get back to you, Ken. It simply didn’t occur to me right away that you’d reply to me through a sermon from your pulpit. That realization took a few weeks. Then, once I found the written version online, I needed to understand it. Your response was wrapped in religious allegory and I’m not as steeped in religious allegory as you. That’s why I had to read it many times and why I listened to the audio version many more than that. I didn’t want to misinterpret it, which I probably have anyway.

Another reason for taking so long is that I realized it was your last
sermon from that church. Whether you were fired, or resigned, or came to
a mutual understanding with your church, is something I have no way of
knowing. However, your brave stand on LGBT issues almost certainly contributed to your leaving. I chose to respect a mourning period.


Then, because making excuses is so easy, I had other writing and
research to do, yadda, yadda, yadda . . . but here I am just in time for
the holiday, which seems incredibly appropriate. Is it Synchronicity? [More
about that later.]

I note you are now seeking your spirituality with a new church. Clearly, seeking spirituality has been a lifelong pursuit for each of us. To that end, Sunday night I went to my first Winter’s Solstice drum circle. Remember I mentioned my fascination with drum circles in my last letter? In another nice touch of synchronicity, it was exactly a year ago when I got hooked on the eternal drumbeat (which I wrote about in The 32nd Annual King Mango Strut. The 33rd Mango Strut is this week.).

The Winter Solstice Drum Circle is a massive dealie with hundreds of people who take over a small section of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Normally the park closes at sunset, which is pretty early this time of year. However, on the Winter Solstice the drum circle is allowed to bang away until 11PM. This huge, family-friendly event was both a delight and a distraction. Ken, I thought about you and this response during the drum circle, but I was not able to find spirituality inside the rhythm that night. It was just too crowded.

I suppose there was a time I found spirituality in a God, but it was
so long ago I no longer recall the feeling. I was a child, as willing to
believe in unicorns and fairies as Sky Dudes. I don’t mean to be
insulting, Ken, but we’re both old men now and we can be blunt with each
other because we’ve been friends since 1957. As Rob Hampton says in
the Study Guide to your sermon:

Since Jesus doesn’t focus on the sin of the people He calls, we can be free to be ourselves in His presence.

In other words, Pastor Kenny: I gotta be me . . . for better or worse. I’m hoping you’ll see this Pagan Pastoral Letter as better. If nothing else it will test your capacity for forgiveness.

Where was I? Oh, yeah: As I entered adulthood and became a writer, I started to require proof
for things. Unicorns and fairies fell off my list of things to believe
in. However, for a belief in God, I was still willing to accept proof. I
hadn’t rejected Her the way I had unicorns and fairies. That’s why in
my early adulthood I called myself an Agnostic. I used to tell people
that if God were to show up, I’d invite Him in for coffee because I had
a lot of questions. But, until then, I was going to reserve judgement.
Take it under advisement. Give in to the benefit of the doubt. Suspend disbelief.

As I got older this door I left open a crack slowly drifted closed as refreshing breezes filtered through the belief system in my attic, or my empty head.
Take your pick. I remember in my late 20s consciously deciding that
being Agnostic was the coward’s way out. I was leaving myself a loophole in
case God did show up at my door. That way He wouldn’t strike me dead with lightening
bolts for rejecting Her. That’s when I started to check the Atheist box and, quite frankly, never looked back.

I am
reminded of the W.C. Fields story when he was found reading The Bible
while waiting off-camera for the next scene. A friend couldn’t believe
it. Atheist Fields reading a Bible? Why? He replied in that drawl that only
Fields had, “Ah, yes! Looking for loopholes.” I no longer needed a loophole.

Let me be clear about a belief in God, any God: There have been many times in my life that I was sorry I didn’t belong to a religion, that I didn’t have a God to fall back upon. How nice it must be, when the gale forces of the world are blowing against life, to find peace and serenity by believing in something bigger than oneself. That whole “confession/forgiveness” dealie of some religions is just the icing on the cake. No matter what you’ve done wrong, all you have to do is confess and do the penance. Suddenly your ticket to heaven is stamped GOOD TO GO all over again. Atheist me? I just feel guilty about things until the feeling passes or I feel I’ve atoned in a real, tangible way for my screw ups.

Anyway, I wasn’t an evangelical Atheist like Richard Dawkins, nor a showbiz Atheist like Bill Maher.
I have always believed a person’s relationship with their God, or lack thereof, is a
personal matter best kept to oneself. Which is why writing about this has been more difficult than I thought it would be when I begain.

Now, keep in mind, Kenny, I was
still living in Canada. People in Canada are far more reserved about
expressing their religious views. It’s not that they are any less deeply
held. It’s just the Canadian way to be more reserved about everything.
So, I was quite shocked when I returned to the States 9 years ago and
saw so much religious proselytizing that it even extended to the bumpers of cars.



Then
I became aware of the Fox “News” Phony War on Christmas and everything changed for me. There’s an entire history on the innertubes of my writing about Fox “News” mendacity so I won’t bore you with all of that, Pastor
Kenny. However, when I first got back down here, I couldn’t believe the crap that Bill O’Reilly
was selling about there being a War on Christmas. Year after year that fatuous asshole has proclaimed there’s a
War on Christmas. Hell, the last 2 years running he’s claimed that he
single-handedly defeated the dark forces who would ban Christmas from ‘Merkin life. You can only win a war once, Bill O.

That’s when I consciously chose to be an Atheist who speaks out about the extreme contradictions in religion. It turned out, once I started to examine my feelings closely, I realized I actually resented a lifetime of being forced to participate in a religious holiday I didn’t believe
in — have never believed in — even when I believed in God.

IRONY ALERT: Until Bill O’Reilly brought it up, I never gave it a second thought when someone would wish me Merry Christmas. It was just what people said at this time of year and I accepted it in the spirit it was intended. But that was BO, Before O’Reilly. Now I’m deeply offended when someone who doesn’t know me wishes me a Merry Christmas, but not nearly as much as I resent it when people who know me do it.


Why is this the default position? Why do people automatically assume I’m part of their Christ Club?
I came to recognize it’s the same resentment that I have when White people say
racist crap to me assuming I belong to the same White Skin Club they’ve
paid a lifetime of dues into. That’s White Privilege personified. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, regardless of what they may believe, is Christian Privilege.

Why would people like Bill O’Reilly get their Christmas stockings in a twist if people use the more inclusive “Happy Holiday”?
Even an Atheist like myself can get behind that because New Year’s is a holiday I
celebrate.


It’s taken a lifetime, living under this dominant religion, for my resentment to build to this heat. Let me share some of that with you, Ken. Growing up I was forced to sing Christmas Carols in school, just like everybody else. Never once did we ever sing about a dreidel. For a
solid month radio stations feature Christmas music, but nothing about the
many days of Hanukkah. Stores are decorated for this holiday as if a
wartime prohibition on lights and glitter has suddenly been lifted.
This year people are enormously proud that their Christmas decorations can be seen from space. Is this the reason for the season? Or, is it keeping up with the Joneses? To my mind it’s breaking the Commandment against idolatry.


I never talked about this with you, but I can say with confidence that you were never called a Kike, a dirty Jew, a Christ Killer while growing up. Once I had a kid once look at me very closely. When I asked him what he was
looking at, he said, “I don’t see any horns.” He was serious. He thought Jews had horns. Where the hell do people learn things like that, because it’s sure not in any Bible I’ve ever read? 

I
can only imagine the chagrin my parents felt when I came home singing
“This Little Light of Mine,” a song I didn’t even know had religious
connotations until years later. It’s a simply, catchy tune and kids love
simple, catchy tunes. Maybe that’s why singing in church took hold.
Song is a great way to distribute propaganda.

In fact, Pastor
Kenny, I’ve become far more cynical about Christmas since returning the
States, where it is celebrated as if it’s an Olympic event. This is supposedly the birthday of the Savior, yet the holiday itself is being used to divide people. The Bill O’Reillys of the world use religion to attack others, while portraying themselves as the victims. In the
words of Gandhi, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.
Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

While on the topic, the commercialization of Christmas is something that I simply find amusing. It’s almost as if more people believe in Santa Claus than they do Jesus Christ. In the ’60s evangelists in this country burned Beatles’ records because John Lennon said:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first—rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.

I agree with Lennon; I’m just more sarcastically cynical. All of this preamble is to explain why I created a hashtag for times when (I believe) people have taken the Lord’s name in vain. When I am
truly exasperated by crazy, evangelical MoFos I share their blathering on social media with #WhoWouldJeusBitchSlap? appended. To my extreme disappointment this hashtag has yet to go viral. Maybe one day. Feel free to use it.

A Letter to My Congregation: An Evangelical
Pastor’s Path to Embracing People Who Are Gay,
Lesbian, and Transgender into the Company of
Jesus
, by Ken Wilson, is available at Amazon,
but order it from your local bookseller instead.

I know it seems like I’m rambling, but what a difference a month makes. Last month I was thrilled to learn of your book (which, I confess, I have yet to read) and that you were the Senior and Founding Pastor of one of the first churches in the country to be accepting of the LGBT community. Acceptance is miles farther along the path to Humanism than mere tolerance.

Imagine my disappointment when I learned, from your sermon no less, that you are no longer Senior Pastor of that church. I guess they were not as accepting as I thought. Hell, I guess they weren’t as accepting as you thought. Or, as accepting as Jesus.

One positive element religions provide is a grand capacity for forgiveness, something else I wish I had. I’m sure you’ve already forgiven your former-church for kicking you to the curb after 40 years of dedicated service. I haven’t yet. Forgive me if I’ve yet to forgive them because they are discriminating — in the name of God — against my family and friends who are part of the great LGBT rainbow. I’m certain I have family and friends who are LGBT that I don’t even know about. Nor is it any of my business. Nor is it important. What’s important is what kind of person they are and their capacity to love, not the person they’ve chosen to love.

I felt a weird kind of frisson to know you replied to me from the pulpit and that it was the last time you would address that congregation in that church. Weirder still is that your reply seems to imply that I you believe I was sent by Jesus to help you bring about a religious revival. [Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, on any of this.]


Don’t get me wrong. I was honoured, sorta, that you would speak through me to God, or through God to me. Or through God to you, and then to me. Or, you to God and then me. [How does all of this work?] Several of your descriptions of “pairs” resonated with me, as if you were describing us:

[…] 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 [sic], 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!”

Don’t be afraid to be seen by Jesus through-through. We harbor these feelings that maybe we are special. We’re afraid, though, to name it. Afraid that it’s just ego, or that we’re just fooling ourselves. Jesus knows what that thing is in each of us. And when he names it there’s no denying it.

[…]

We end with an allusion to Jacob who became Israel. Jacob on the run after really getting his brother Esau angry. Jacob going into exile. Like Israel centuries later would be driven into exile.

Exhausted, weak, out of gas, Jacob lay down in a field, his head on a stone for a pillow, fast asleep. And saw in a dream, heaven open and a ladder come down and the angels ascending and descending. And promises of blessing were made to him in his weakness.  And when he awoke he said, “Surely God is in this place and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven.”

All these pairs, John the Baptist-Jesus, Andrew-Peter, Philip-Nathaniel, Jacob-Esau. But over them all, God. And among them and between them, God.

Serving a great revival underway. 

More synchronicity, Ken. I am currently serializing Farce Au Pain at the Not Now Silly Newsroom. Within the electrons you may recognize Zachary’s house as the one you grew up in and Adrian’s house as mine. Still further synchronicity: Chapter Two starts off with a list of duos, which could be called pairs, if you squint.

This is as good a time for my definition of synchronicity, cribbed from one of my earlier posts:

Think of your own personal synchronicity as a blanket you are shaking
rhythmically up and down. The sine waves created by the blanket is a two
dimensional representation of your synchronicity in a 3-Dimensional
space. However, everyone knows that synchronicity works in the 6th
Dimension, where it interacts with the ‘waving blankets’ belonging to
everyone else. Where these waves collide are where the EXACT moments and
locations the FSM
has stitched together Space and Time and Gravity and Dimensionality and
Predestination. If, as they contend in Quantuum Mechanics or String
Theory or Whatever They’re Calling It These Days™, all choices are
possible in the Alternative Universes that exist, then the chances
of anything so improbable can be proven possible by multiplying boiling
water with pasta and adding sauce.


While tongue in cheek, it’s not far off what I believe about random chance, like that which allowed us to find each other after 40 years of radio silence.

Ken, if you and Jesus expect me to take part in a great religious revival, I have to be honest with you both: This heathen is not be up to the challenge if it requires a belief in a Supreme Being. That’s simply not happening. I’m more inclined to test your religious faith than you instilling any in in me.

When you delivered your sermon I was disappointed you skipped over a small portion of my email when witnessing to your church. That’s because it was the most important part of my email, in my mind anyway. It becomes that much more important now that you’ve been pushed out of your church.

I have a hard time squaring that [your total acceptance of the LGBT communities] with the evangelicals I am
always reading about. I know the squeaky wheel gets the ink, but I keep reading
of evangelical hate for various factions of folk in this world, whether it’s
The Gay, or the poor, or people of colour, or immigrants both documented and
un. While the religion preaches love, there’s a whole lot of hate expressed
quite openly. One shudders to think of what might be said in private.

That paragraph encapsulates my overarching feeling about organized religion. Religious texts seem to preach something entirely different than the organized religions that profess to follow them. Using the Bible people find their justification for hate and discrimination. Your Third Way is simply a new interpretation of the very same words. That you found justification for treating LGBT folk with dignity is admirable, but how can you be any more certain that your interpretation is any closer to the truth? And, don’t even get me started on lobster and shrimp.


I do want to sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas, Pastor Kenny. I hope Santa brought you everything that you and your family wished for all year. More importantly, I hope your religious prayers are answered.

Before I sign off, it occurs to me that I don’t really know what you believe. That you believe in God is a given. That you believe in Jesus as the Son of God is also a given. Beyond that I can only guess.

Do you believe that Jesus’ birthday is December 25th or are you willing to accept the proposition that, no matter when His birth actually occurred, it was moved to be closer to Winter Solstice in order to co-opt the Pagan holiday celebrated for millennia Before Christ? Do you even believe there were millennia BC?

Geez, look at that. Even our date numbering system
is based upon your religion, even though experts think it’s off by as
many as 6 years. Jews are living in their year of 5775, but how much farther back does time go?

I hope you’ve taken no insult in anything I’ve said, Ken. In all honesty I am thrilled to have found you and would be sad if I were to lose you again, especially if I pushed you away. For many years I have lamented privately that my event horizon for friendships goes back no further than the day I moved to Canada. Soon after I moved to Florida 9 years ago I received an email from one of my sons. He had been contacted by Jeff Deeks — do you remember him? — looking for me. I used the email and phone number he provided many times, but Jeff never replied or called back. And, I didn’t even attack his religion like I have yours. I do hope you reply and we can continue this dialogue as far as it takes us.

Lastly, in your writings you use the word “gospel” a lot. Not meaning to be patronizing, you may be gratified to know that Gospel music is a favourite genre. While I must have been aware of Gospel prior to this, but I clearly remember when Deeks introduced me to it. He took me on a bit of a mystery tour downtown by DSR, refusing to tell me where we were going. Eventually he led me to a Black church he had read about in a newspaper. We were the only two White faces in the pews as we listened to Aretha Franklin singing Gospel in her daddy’s church.

As I like to say, “I don’t know Jesus, but I sure like his music.” That’s why I’m going out on my absolute favourite Gospel tune:

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, KEN!!!

With all my love and affection,

your childhood friend,

Marc Slootsky

Finding An Old Friend ► Unpacking My Detroit

 

EMAIL TO: Pastor Kenny
SUBJECT: Long Time No See
Dear Pastor Kenny:
Lately my life is in turmoil. I am in need of something pastoral. Tag. You’re it.
I think back to the last time I saw you. If I’m not mistaken you were on your honeymoon with Nancy.
You visited me in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, and, from my point of view, it was a very strange visit. Now that I think about it, it was the very last time I saw any of my childhood friends.
[I understand that Nancy has passed and that you’re remarried. Condolences and congratulations. I’m a sucker for love and it sounds like you have had decades of it.]
It was a strange visit for me because during much of your visit you and Nancy were trying to sell me on Jesus, despite knowing I grew up in a Jewish home and had even thrown off that religion years before. I had never known you to be evangelical before.
We had an amicable discussion, but neither of us convinced the other. When you left, you left behind (no pun intended) a Good News Bible, which you inscribed to me. I carried that Bible – along with a pilfered Gideon’s Bible, an Old Testament, and a book on Scientology – with me until about a decade ago, when I lost my small religious book section in my last break up.
Before the internet made biblical text searches much easier, I would refer to that Good News Bible occasionally for research, or just to rifle through it and read passages. Each time I couldn’t help but think of you and wondered what happened to you. I’ve thought of you often over the years and not always when reaching for that book. Just this summer, when I last visited family in Michigan, I went to Gilchrist. However, after taking a picture of my old house, I stood
and stared at yours for a while.
Outtake from While Detroit Crumbled, Gilchrist
Street Hung On
. That’s Kenny Wilson’s house on
the far right, across the street, with Danny Harris
of the Gilchrist Block Club in the foreground.
This visit prompted me to write While Detroit Crumbled, Gilchrist Street Hung On.
I visit Gilchrist often because I’m still looking for something there. Me, I think.
As mentioned above, I have found my life to be chaotic as of
late. Pops is 88 and, after my mother died, I moved from Canada, where I lived for 35 years – taking out citizenship in the process – to take care of him. I’ve been in Sunrise, Florida, for the past 9 years. Some days are harder than others and on Friday I expressed my opinion to Pops at full volume.
Skip ahead to Sunday morning. I was still feeling remorseful that I lost my temper with Pops when I got an IM on Facebook from a name I didn’t recognize. She said she had lived on Fenmore. After exchanging a few messages it turns out I didn’t know her or her brother Randy at all. But then she asked me if I knew you.
I said “yes” and that you were one of my best friends growing up, and that I had been looking for you for years with no luck. Do you know how many Kenneth John Wilsons there are in this world? The internet was no help.
She told me you were a pastor in Ann Arbor, which I did not find surprising, considering our last encounter. However, what she told me next surprised me a great deal. She told me that you were the first person in Michigan to wed a same sex couple. I thought, “WAY TO GO, KENNY!!!” I am a long time supporter of the LGBT communities, believing they should have the right to marry in every state. Sadly I read today that all the Michigan marriages that happened in the interregnum are null and void. How sad for those people. How sad for love.
This book seems like a game-changer for evangelicals.
The internet was an immediate help in finding Pastor Kenneth Wilson, but I’ve still not confirmed you were the first to marry a same sex couple, or that you have actually wed any same sex couples. No matter. I have since read about your book ‘Letter to My Congregation’ and several interviews with you. It’s a brave stance.WAY TO GO, KENNY!!!
I have a hard time squaring that with the evangelicals I am always reading about. I know the squeaky wheel gets the ink, but I keep reading of evangelical hate for various factions of folk in this world, whether it’s The Gay, or the poor, or people of colour, or immigrants both documented and un. While the religion preaches love, there’s a whole lot of hate expressed quite openly. One shudders to think of what might be said in private.
Right after having this Facebook conversation I left for a drum circle. This is a new hobby/habit I’ve developed in the past year. It turns out that I still have no rhythm in my left hand, something I should have remembered when I tried to play guitar as a teenager. That’s why I was the singer in the band that Dean Donaldson drummed in; I couldn’t play an instrument. After 2 attempts at a drum circle I remembered that my left hand will simply not fire when I want it to. It’s pretty useless. However, I managed to find my niche within these drum circles by playing claves, which only needs one coordinated hand, while the other is passive.
What does this have to do with anything? Almost nothing, except this particular drum circle meets in Snyder Park, an oasis in the middle of a heavily industrial area of Fort Lauderdale. You would hardly know you were in the middle of a city. While in the park I took a panorama which I sent to my Facebookery with the caption “How pastoral.”
As I played the claves, and zoned out into the rhythm, I suddenly realized why the word “pastoral” came so readily to mind. By the time the drum circle had ended, I had already written parts of this email in my head.
So, what’s new with you?
Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky
P.S. I’m a writer and it looks like you are too. I’m planning on printing this email at the Not Now Silly Newsroom. Unless you expressly forbid otherwise, I plan to share your response, if there is one.

===============================
Don’t forget to read my Not Now Silly blog and look for me on Twitter and facebook.

Headlines Du Jour ► Friday, December 13, 2013

It’s Friday the 13th and the Not Now Silly news interns have been toiling all night long in the darkest recesses of the internet, collecting only the must scrumptious headlines for your reading pleasure. So, here are today’s unlucky Headlines Du Jour.

BEST HEADLINE OF THE MONTH:

U.S. Charity Revealed As Buyer
Of Hopi Masks, Promises To
Return Artifacts To Tribe

LGBT NEWS:

George Clooney Addresses Gay Rumors In The Best Way Possible

TODAY IN IMMIGRATION:

Arizona detective quits after learning she’s
been living in the U.S. illegally since childhood

SO GLAD WE’RE LIVING IN A POST-RACIAL SOCIETY:

Virginia GOP senatorial candidate: Desegregation
‘was the beginning of the decline’ for schools

Volunteer fire chief resigns over shockingly offensive Facebook posts, but denies he’s racist

COMPASSION CORNER:

Startup CEO Wishes Homeless ‘Degenerates’ Would
Stop Ruining ‘The Civilized Part’ Of San Francisco

IT’S A SMALL WORLD, AFTER ALL:

We Found This 20-Year-Old T-Shirt In Kenya. The Internet Found The Original Owner

FOX “NEWS” IN THE NEWS:

Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade
Mocks Nelson Mandela Sign
Language Interpreter

Other ‘Verifiable Facts’ for Fox to Investigate
About Your Favorite Christmas Characters

NO LONGER PREGGY LEGGY MEGGY IN THE NEWS:

Megyn Kelly Wants Kids At Home To Know That Jesus And Santa Were White

What Megyn Kelly’s White Santa Says About Power Dynamics In Journalism

The (Race) War on Christmas: Megyn Kelly Declares ‘Santa Claus Just Is White’ and So Was Jesus

THE “O” IN GOP STANDS FOR OLD:

Rachel Maddow: GOP in shambles as internal war goes public

GOP Planning on Tighter Control Over 2016
Primaries: Fewer Debates, Better Moderators

THE “G” IN GOP STANDS FOR GOD:

For Budget Deal, Paul Ryan Called the Jesus of the Republican Party

THE NEWEST EXCUSE FOR RICH PEOPLE TO GET AWAY WITH MANSLAUGHTER:

Texas man who lost wife and daughter to rich kid drunk driver fuming over sentence

CRACK MAYOR CORNER:

Rob Ford: Daniel Dale tells us why he’s taking legal action
I am serving the mayor of Toronto with a libel notice. Here’s why.

Rob Ford: Daniel Dale files libel notice against Toronto mayor
Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale has served a libel notice against Mayor Rob Ford and Vision
TV in connection with comments Ford made on Conrad Black’s television show The Zoomer.

BEST HEADLINE OF THE DAY:

The woolly jumper flashmob that became a YouTube hit
Loes Veenstra spent 50 years knitting woolly jumpers on her home street in
Rotterdam only to pack them away, never to be worn. Surely she and they
deserved better? Enter one very colourful (and toasty) flashmob

VIDEO DU JOUR:


 

Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of National Trufax, a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Not Now Silly,
home of the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic and your rest stop on the Information Highway. Use
our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in today’s open
thread.

Headlines Du Jour ► Thursday, December 12, 2013

While you were sleeping the Now Now Silly news team was wandering up and down, back and forth, throughout the entire internet to gather nothing but the best in headlines. Only when they return are they finally fed their one meal a day. But don’t be concerned for them because it’s time for today’s Headlines Du Jour.

WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE:

It Takes A McDonald’s Worker 4 Months
To Earn What The CEO Gets In An Hour

TODAY IN GOD:

Hindus join Satanists demanding equal placement on Oklahoma capitol grounds

FINALLY! A FAIR AND BALANCED REPORT!!!

Rupert Murdoch Called
‘Evil’ In His Own Newspaper

FOX “NEWS” IN THE NEWS:

Megyn Kelly Ignores Guest’s Depiction
Of Danish PM As “Danish Pastry”

Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade tells general:
Iraq was a ‘great place’ until U.S. left

I GOTCHER WAR ON CHRISTMAS RIGHT HERE:

Christmas is a Pagan Holiday – Get Over it Already

6 conspiracy theories about the imaginary war on Christmas

Satanists & Atheists Vie For Space In Florida Capitol

ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF COPS GONE WILD:

Cops killed Harlem man after they mistook friendly Taser fire for knife stab: lawsuit

The “O” IN GOP STANDS FOR OLD:

GOP Plan to “Punish” Democrats Is Probably the Stupidest Thing You’ve Ever Heard Of

Republicans’ self-hatred swells: The GOP vs. its own base

MORE DISPATCHES ABOUT DETROIT, ‘MERKA’S FIRST THROWAWAY CITY:

Sci-fi pilot ’12 Monkeys’ filming in Detroit,
will get $1.5M in state incentives

What Should Be Done About Detroit? A Gawker Internal Debate

FREE THE WEED:

Denver legalizes marijuana for use on private property

Uruguay legalizing marijuana breaks
drug control treaty, says watchdog

Study finds no link between teen
pot use and schizophrenia risk

CRACKHEAD CORNER:

Daniel Dale: Rob Ford is lying about me, and it’s vile
Literally every single thing Mayor Rob Ford told Conrad Black about
my conduct on May 2, 2012 is false in some way. Let’s go lie by lie.

RUTLES NEWS:

DVD Review: Mock songs give life to ‘The Rutles’

VIDEO DU JOUR:

 

Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of National Trufax, a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Not Now Silly,
home of the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic and your rest stop on the Information Highway. Use
our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in today’s open
thread.