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Blanche et Noire, parte deux

(cross-posted to Facebook)

So here’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.
When I was in Haiti, visiting Ravine a l’Anse with a team from St. Paul’s, we were in the marketplace of Les Cayes. (Whenever you’re in a foreign country, go to a grocery store or the marketplace–it’s the best.)

As we were strolling along, a woman approached me, and announced to me, in a loud voice, “Tu es blanche!” (trans. You are white.) Drawing on my six years of French, I responded, “Oui” for indeed, this was so. She repeated herself, pronouncing the words like the ruling of a monarch setting forth a new law: “TU ES BLANCHE!” Again, I agreed, “Ouais.” I am never more casper-like than in Haiti.
She drew herself up to her fullest height, fluttered her hand in a sweeping motion down in front of her, as if encompassing her entire being, her essence, the soul of her humanity in all its glory, and pronounced her final verdict to me, in a voice smooth with dignity: “Moi, je suis noire!” And turned and sauntered away, as if she had established, once and for all, her infinite claim to truth in the world. 

I think about her this week, this ordinary Haitian woman who literally proclaimed her pride in existence to me in the public square. I think of the faces of the children who pestered me, in ever more creative ways, to give them a ball. I think of the man who tied a rope around his waist, and lowered himself into a hole in the ground to dig a well for the village–by hand. So they would have water. And I think of the faces of the vestry of the church we work with, who patiently sat with us for hours, as they explained how they wanted to improve the lives of their people.

Haiti (and South Sudan, and Kenya, and Togo, and the other places the president slandered) aren’t notable because occasionally a great person emerged from there. They are notable because ordinary people live there, with the miraculous yet commonplace human capacity to live and thrive and be human. That nameless Haitian woman in the marketplace wears her pride with ease for she is the living image of God, and she knows it.

May we all know it too.

Fun Camp Interlude!

Each year, at the beginning of June, I head to the wilds of the Ozarks for a week to help staff Camp Wemo–a week-long camp for middle–high school youth in the diocese.  I am a cabin counselor, I help run games, and activities, I plan and lead liturgies, I explain why we can’t panic at the sight of ALL bugs, only the really hairy ones, and generally attempt to keep the lives of 6-8 middle school girls on track for a week.  It’s a trip.

This year, our theme was Proclaiming the Good News to All Creation.  Because the Presiding Bishop had come to the diocese earlier in May, we decided to springboard off that theme, and continue the idea of evangelism all year.  So on the day that I had to give a 5 minute clergy talk, I decided to talk about what good news was, and what our experience of the gospel was.

Here’s what I said.  (More or less.  I didn’t have this in front of me, and I was standing outside talking off the top of my head.)

What is Good News?


We promise at our baptism to share by word and example, the Good News of God in Christ.


We also promise to persevere in resisting evil. (Hold these two ideas in your mind.)


What is this Good News, and are there times when the gospel is heard in ways that aren’t good?

Now think about it–can I say some things that aren’t good news to you right now?  What if I come over here to Amanda (walks over to Amanda, counselor) and tell her that I have some great news for her!  News that will change her life, news that will make every day of her life worth living!  Isn’t that great, Amanda?!

Amanda says yes.

Amanda, I need to tell you, that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ really hates your shoes, and you need to give them to me immediately.  THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS I HAVE BEEN SENT TO PREACH.

Now, Amanda, does this seem like good news to you?

Amanda, correctly, says that no, this does not seem like good news at all.  She likes her shoes.  

See, that’s the thing.  Sometimes, I think we can preach the gospel in ways that people don’t hear as good news.

I grew up in Virginia, I think most of you know that. My family has lived there for generations. We had a mill in Spotsylvania, outside of DC. And we owned slaves.  We did. Because it was the south, and that was how you made money. And I know, from hearing my grandparents’ stories, that they and other owners made their slaves go to church and be baptized and they preached to those slaves. And they read to them those parts of the Bible where it talks about submitting to authority. And how God placed leaders in power, so you should see them as God appointed. And turn the other cheek meant suffering without complaint, and being meek, silent and obedient.


And I know, if I were a slave, and if my life, my family’s life, was not mine that none of that would sound like good news.  How is it good news if God wants you to suffer like that?!


But I also know that the slaves didn’t listen for long. They read the Bible, oh they did. But they read the parts where Paul said “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.”  They learned about Jesus, but they figured out that Jesus didn’t come to make them more submissive, but they read that part in Luke where Jesus preached in his hometown synagogue and told the people that he had come to set the captives free and preach Good News to the poor. And they knew that Jesus did not want them to suffer as they were. They heard the Good News.

IN SPITE of what my ancestors were telling them.


They would sing songs to God at night about a sweet chariot coming to take them home, and my ancestors would say “oh how lovely, they have such faith in a heaven!” But little did they know it was a code. they were singing their way to freedom in Canada. Because Jesus brought Good News.


I tell this story, because there is still today a danger that we mistake bad news for good. That when we preach about God, we get turned around and confused, and say things that are hardly good for anyone to hear. Because there are people out there trying to sell a lot of bad news. There are people and there always have been, trying to promote a lot of meanness, hatred, division. Telling us that if we just learn to fear those who are different from us, everything will be better, and in fact/-that’s what Jesus wants. More fear. More anger. More violence. That those who are poor or sick or hurting deserve it and are on their own.  That there are people out there that God doesn’t love.  Can you imagine?! 


But that is not Good News. We know that. And to quote Michael Curry–if it’s not good news, it’s not of God.

Jesus came and brought us Good News. Jesus came and asked us to care for one another. He asked us to heal the sick, shelter the weak, knock down walls, and feed the hungry. He demanded that we love one another, and he told us that perfect love casts out fear. And that with him we wouldn’t even need to be afraid any more if we just learned to love each other.

That is the good news. That is the story we have to tell. That is what the world needs to hear. The amazing news that God loves us so much he asks us to love each other and LOOK WE ARE DOING IT.

So, I know it’s hard. I know we mess it up. But never be afraid to tell the good news.  Because that is what the world needs to hear.  And that is what we need to hear.


Both sides now

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, I confess to you, my neglected blog that I have gotten into more internet fights than is usual for me.  

I don’t know that this is intentional; at least on my part, I find that I have markedly less tolerance for people continuing to excuse actions I find inexcusable.  These past few months have seemed to take a heavier toll than usual, and I daresay this is true for people on the other side of the spectrum as well–who knows?

But one refrain I have heard several times has stuck with me: “both sides.”  “We have to hear both sides.”  “There are two sides to this.”  “What about the other side?”  “Aren’t we called to love the other side?”


It has haunted me, this idea of “both sides”, and in the terms of the President on Saturday afternoon “many sides”.  Is that what we’re called to do as Christians?  

It is certainly a modern expectation of polite society.  The common understanding is that every situation is a Rashomon: a complicated situation that we may never fully understand, because everyone’s story is necessarily different.  So, in order to gain a more full picture, we have hear all sides.  We are blind people grappling with an elephant.  We are tiny insects on a beach ball.  And for most nuanced situations, these analogies work very well.  They encourage us to question our own assumptions, and stay humble in the moment.  They remind us that what we see is not all there is to see.  


And yet, in situations like what happened in Charlottesville on Saturday, can we, as Christians, take the same feeling-out-the-elephant approach?  For the most part, that approach is predicated on the idea that truth, while it does exist, is ultimately unknowable.  It’s a mystery!  So that’s great for situations where the full truth is overly complex or impossible to fully grasp.  And there are many of those.  


But on Saturday?  Saturday, we had all the information.  There was a long-planned rally of several white supremacist groups organized by a far-right blogger.  They came to Charlottesville, ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.**  They came well-armed, and bearing tiki torches, chanting slurs and Nazi slogans.  They attacked counter-protesters with bottles, metal bars, and finally and most tragically, with a speeding car.  19 people were injured: 1 person died.  2 police also died when their helicopter crashed.  


The dogmas of white supremacy are familiar to us; they have been the virus embedded in the soil of this country since its founding. It snakes out in various forms at various times: chattel slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, the war on drugs, mass incarceration–and sometimes it recedes, but it’s always there.  Lurking.


This is not a mystery to us.  We know what fascism is.  We know what white supremacy is.  We have seen both before. And we have lost many human souls to both.


That, to me, is the crux of the issue, so I don’t think that “what about the other side?” is the right question to ask.  We aren’t missing any information.  I don’t think it’s the proper metric for this situation.  When I read the gospel, I do not find Jesus urging his followers to examine many sides of an issue.  Instead, he urges them to alleviate human suffering wherever they find it. Period.  Love God, and love your neighbor, he says: and from these two commandments come all the law and the prophets.  


Those commands don’t urge us to a concept of ‘fairness’.  Instead, they push us to focus on our fellow humans, and their needs.  Jesus tells us that the meek are blessed, the grieving will find cheer.  He tells us that he has been anointed to bring good news to the poor, and release to the captives.  He reminds us that he has come to seek and save the lost, as he eats with tax collectors, sex workers, and Samaritans.  In Christ’s world, it isn’t about ‘sides’, it’s about love.  What does love require?


In fact, Jesus is not fair at all.  As Fr. Jim Martin pointed out, the Beatitudes are one-sided:  the meek inherit the earth; those who aren’t?  They’re on their own.  The sorrowful will be comforted.  Those who are already happy?  Presumably they don’t need comforting.  

Consider also Mary’s Magnificat, where she describes how God acts in the world.  “He casts down the mighty from their seats, and has lifted up the humble and meek.  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”  This is not fair!  God isn’t portioning out equally to both sides–but the inference is that God sets right that which human order has made unjust.  God is interested, not in standards of fairness, but in what makes for human flourishing.  God is interested in love.  And that’s it.


Which brings us back to Charlottesville.  As a Christian, my job is to love my neighbor, and love God.  My job is to incarnate God’s mercy and justice into the world.  So I cannot stand by in situations of human suffering and oppression and equivocate.   More important than all sides on a situation is the suffering inherent in a situation.  Did people suffer this weekend?  Yes. Because of the slogans, because of the doctrines espoused, because of the actions taken, children of God were hurt and killed, and made to feel like less than God made them to be.  That is evil, however you slice it.  


To stay silent on that evil is unloving, both to the victims of this racist violence, and to the perpetrators.  We cannot love the victims if we allow them to suffer, and we cannot love the perpetrators if we allow them to do the hurting.  Inflicting violence, be it physical, emotional, or participating in systemic violence, deadens the soul of the violent person.  It does something to you.  To love someone and want their flourishing must mean not wanting them to suffer that loss of humanity.  So we have to confront and name their violent actions as wrong, rather than minimize them as just ‘another side’.  


The gospel doesn’t have sides–it has a position.  It doesn’t ask what the facts might be, or what can be proven–oddly enough, the gospel doesn’t seem to care as much about that.  The gospel only asks us where the suffering is, and how we have helped.  That is the call of the gospel: to heal the suffering: to love God and love others.  


There are no other sides.


**Which was erected in the 1960s–meaning my parents are both more historic than that statue.  But #history, #heritage, etc.  


The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, was in Kansas City over the past few days for a revival.

I realize this sounds highly un-Episcopalian.  As I commented to someone afterwards, I was not raised to worship outside, to sing Jesus songs while clapping, or to raise my hands unless at the altar.  These things were unseemly and altogether too Baptist to be borne.

However, yesterday afternoon found me outside, in a public city square, cheering on a sermon as the head bishop of my church urged us all to get out there and reclaim the word “Christian.”  Will wonders never cease.

I admit to being a cradle Episcopalian with some trepidation–like pandas raised in the wild, we’re increasingly rare, and that’s not a bad thing.  The more the church becomes a refugee camp for those seeking solace from the terrors of the world, then the more it’s doing its job, perhaps.  However, I am a convert to the idea that we actually need to speak openly about our faith in Jesus.  I am a convert to evangelism as being A Thing.

But I have come to realize that we need to attach words to this hope that is in us.  That we need to learn how to explain to others why we care so deeply about faith, because it is, in fact, something they need to hear.  Why is it that my little church devotes so much of its time and energy to an enormous food pantry?  Why did my youngest parishioners show up yesterday morning to eagerly hand silverware to our pantry guests so they could eat a hot meal?  Why do we pray daily for the famine in South Sudan, and write our representatives at the UN, urging them to seek an end to that situation?  Why do we care so much?

For most of my life, I thought it went without saying.  That I did just what anyone would do, if they had time, or thought about it, or slowed down, or something.  Lately, I have realized that this is not true.  I live my life this way–my church acts this way– because I believe this is what Jesus wants of me.  Jesus wants me to feed the hungry.  And to fight for the poor.  And to make sure the sick are cared for.  That’s what Jesus asked of me, and because I love Jesus, I must do that.  Because we follow Jesus, this is what we do.

This isn’t true of everyone.  And by that, I don’t mean that Muslims don’t fight for the poor.  (Boy howdy, do they ever.  I’d like to introduce you to the women who staff KC for Refugees sometime if you’d like to dispute this.) Or that Jewish people don’t worry about the hungry, or that atheists or agnostics don’t worry about the poor.  They all can and frequently do.

What I mean is that there are people who choose to live selfishly.  To live as if their personal lives and wellbeing is the most important thing in the universe, and seek to structure the world around THAT belief, rather than any other.  Let the poor starve; I have enough food.  Let the sick get sicker, my staff and I will have care. And even worse, there are times when these people cloak their selfishness in the name of the Jesus I follow, as if that makes their selfishness more palatable, instead of a grave slander.

What the presiding bishop reminded me (aside from the fact that I really should use this blog for stuff other than sermons) is that we have an important story to tell, we Jesus people.  The world needs to hear that Jesus isn’t a free pass for selfishness and hatred; Jesus wants us to live for others, and to love each other. And that’s just as easy and as hard as it’s always been.

There are times when you need someone to preach to you, so that you remember the truth, and this was one of those times.  So thanks, Bishop Curry.  Let’s go tell our story.


Everything on One Day

Last year, the parish administrator and I coined a new term: Holy Week-ing.  This describes, as little else does, the phenomenon well known to church staff and clergy–that during times of high liturgical stress, everything and everyone chooses this particular moment to have a crisis.  People get ill, people die, copiers break, organs implode, weird occurances become commonplace, and everything basically goes bananas for a period of a few weeks.

For people new to church work, this is often upsetting, and they wonder if they have done something to provoke this, or if they could have prevented it.  Would better planning have prevented the $250 copier malfunction?  Would more meetings ahead of time?  Would more pastoral attention have averted the 3 parishioners who chose this week to enter hospice?

The answer, dear ones, is no.  No, not a single thing you do (in most cases) can prevent the holy week-ing of those around you.  There are just certain times when the world goes nuts and it is no one’s fault.  Best to see it coming and roll with it.

To that point: this week has been another case of epic holy week-ing.  A sudden, tragic death in the school community, and the (somewhat expected) death of a parish patriarch hit on Monday.  Then came the news that the new “rushing wind” sound of the organ was not a fun new effect, but a symptom of a cracked windbox.  Then, yesterday, the lovely lady cleaning up after the midday Eucharist dashed into my office to inform me that smoke was rapidly filling up the sacristy, and would I like to evacuate?!  I went to check; apparently plumbers were running a smoke test, in which they pump smoke into the pipes to see where it comes out, to diagnose leaks.  They just forgot to warn us.

And then there’s whatever is currently happening in our whirlwind news cycle.

The good news, is that whether or not we actually get our act together, Christ still rises from the dead on Sunday.  Regardless of whether I get the smoke cleared, or whether we can duct tape the organ back together, Christ still defeats death, and all we have to do is show up.   And there’s nothing like holy week-ing to reinforce that lesson.

Anyway, here’s what I said Thursday night.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

April 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday


Every year, at the Jr High Retreat, we have a workshop where youth can ask anonymous questions of a clergy panel—any question they’ve pondered, or long been troubled by.  Usually, we get the same sorts of things:  do all religions go to heaven, is it acceptable to disagree with my priest, who created God, etc.  Some easy to respond to, some requiring lots of hand gestures and diagrams.  

The one question we almost always get is something about the Eucharist:  what happens to the bread and wine?  

I always get a kick out of this one, and not just because I get to read the part in the 39 Articles that says that “transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of the Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.”

Now, clearly, that’s a thought from centuries ago, and not necessarily something we actually hold to.  (The same article also says we aren’t supposed to reserve the sacrament either….which we do.  Whoops.)

But clearly, this idea has always inspired some passion, shall we say.  What is the Eucharist, this thing we do each week?  This ritual that was established on this night, so long ago?

It’s the organizing ritual of who we are as Episcopalians, this thing we do, and yet, we don’t talk about it all that much.  We just do it, over and over.  We take bread which tastes like nothing, and some really strong wine, and bless them and give them out, week after week.  To the point where it becomes both routine and absolutely necessary.  What even is church, we start to wonder, without this organizing principle, of bread and wine, blessed and shared?

This meal is the foundation of who we are.  

And it is on this night, that we remember how we got here.  That on the night before he died, Jesus did an ordinary thing–ate an ordinary meal with his friends.  Surely, they had done this countless times before, over the years they had been together, shared meals before.  And surely they had even eaten Passover seders together.  Over the three years they had travelled around, preaching and teaching, they had shared a lot together and become a community.

But on this particular night, Jesus did something different.  He took this ordinary meal, and changed it.  He took the ordinary bread, and blessed and broke it, and proclaimed it to be his Body.  He took the ordinary wine–more common then than even water, blessed and shared it, and announced that it was his blood.  “Do this,” he told them, “each time you gather, to remember me.”  

Suddenly, the ordinary was no longer ordinary.  Common bread became, not just food, but a reminder of Jesus–normal wine became not just a way to quench thirst but a memory as well.  Ordinary things made extraordinary.

Perhaps that’s the power of the Eucharist–Christ takes the most common elements of our lives, and makes them into the holiest things imaginable, so that everywhere we looked, we would find God, even in the most mundane and common things.  In the Eucharist, Jesus shows us what his life had been about the whole time–God made tangible for us to hold.  God was no longer far off and inscrutable, up a mountain or behind a flashing cloud–God was here, in this piece of bread.  God was in this sip of wine.  God was in this ordinary guy from your hometown.  

God is right here.  God is real, and accessible, and present, in ordinary, common things.  

So the glory of the Eucharist is both how holy it is, because it is that–it is how common it is.  Because each time we say these prayers and take this bread, it changes us.  Not in a flashy, immediate sort of way, but it does transform us.  Each time we take this bread and drink this cup, we embrace the God who wants so badly to be with us, and allowed himself to be broken and given away.  Each time we share this bread and wine, we grab hold of the God who shared himself with us.  

Now, I don’t know if the bread and wine magically change into literal Jesus particles.  Honestly, I don’t know if that even matters.  The miracle of the Eucharist is less about what happens to the bread and wine, and more what happens to us.  Because as we participate in this sacrament over and over, as we remember how God came among us in ordinary things, as we remember how Christ was willing to be broken for his loved ones…..slowly, we become those holy ordinary things too.  Gradually, we too become the vessels of the divine in the world–what carries God out into all the broken places into the world around us.  We become the consecrated Bread and Wine–common things transformed into the presence of God, so that it may be broken and given out for the life of others.  The more we partake in the Eucharist, the more we become it.  The more we become the Body of Christ.  

In the midst of some of the darkest times in our history, Christ gave us a way to cling to the presence of God in the world.  And more than that, to become, ourselves, that material of God in the world.  So on this night, when we remember this immense gift, we remember also the betrayal, violence, and darkness.  Because these are why it was given.  So that no matter what comes, no matter what we face, God would never be farther away from us than the commonest of things.  



John the Baptist is coming for you!

Funny thing, but all those readings about the end of Days no longer seem quite so bad as they did a year ago.  Now, when Scriptures talk about the coming desolating sacrilege, I think, “Huh.  What did The Orange One tweet now?”

I learned in college about the role of apocalyptic literature for minority communities, and always liked that interpretation, but I confess that I had never understood it on an emotional level.  While I could intellectually grasp why someone hiding in the catacombs would feel better hearing about Michael the Archangel fighting with the Beast, for me, those texts were still mired in a lot of ‘Left Behind’ stuff.

This year, it’s starting to make sense.  So here’s a sermon about that.


Rev. Megan L. Castellan

December 4, 2016

Advent 2, Year A

Matthew 3:1-12



I had a dear friend in college named Claire.  Claire has spastic cerebral palsy, uses a motorized wheelchair to get around, and is easily the smartest person I know.  She would sit in class and memorize the lecture, rather than take notes, and had firm opinions about everything from the puns in Shakespeare to the politics of the ADA. *Americans with Disabilities Act

Second Advent was unironically her favorite Sunday of the year.  “It was” as she explained to me one year “the accessibilities act of the bible–the mountains were lowered and the valleys lifted, the rough places made plain–so that even people in wheelchairs could get to the house of God without trouble.”  

To Claire, John the Baptist wasn’t bringing a message of doom–he was bringing a message that sounded like inclusion. Because interpretation depends on location.  

To the Pharisees, John sounded like a really mean man.  (Getting called a brood of vipers will make you a bit irritated, as I understand.)  Also the Sadduccees.  But to the rest of the people flocking to him, he offered something lifegiving, even as his words sound pretty harsh to us.  

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.  And anyone who does not bring forth fruit worthy of repentance is thrown into the fire. What he’s talking about here isn’t individual sin, it’s plural.  It’s sins, it’s corporate.  John is describing a repentance of EVERYTHING–not just individuals deciding not to cheat on their taxes any more.  

And yeah, that may not sound so great.


But here’s the thing.

When we’re feeling on top of the world, and powerful, and like everything is going great, then John’s message of the coming judgment sounds harsh and scary.  We like the way things are going; we don’t want to hear that we’re doing something wrong.

But when we are feeling like the world is working against us, like we are outnumbered by forces beyond our control, like we are being taken advantage of by mighty systems that don’t have our welfare at heart–then John’s announcement that judgment is coming is good news indeed.  

It just depends on where you fall when you hear this.

Think about who John’s audience is after all.

For the Pharisees and Sadduccees, they’re doing ok.  They’re organized, they’re basically political parties of Second Temple Judaism.  They have pull in the temple structure, and they have the ear of King Herod.  On the other hand, the people in the crowds don’t have any of that.  For the most part, they are excluded from a lot of the religious power and the political power structures of the day.  They live in an empire that doesn’t give them rights, and frankly–there’s a lot that’s going wrong for them.

Then John shows up and proclaims that they aren’t wrong–everything IS broken.  Everyone does need to repent.  And God is coming soon to fix this broken, messed up world.  The Pharisees don’t like it, but boy, do the crowds love it.  They were right all along!

Real quick, I want to point something out.  There is a profound difference between what John is saying and the sort of political populism that we’ve seen sweep the globe recently.  John’s repentance does not depend on turning people against one another or spreading fear and distrust.  It rests on raising the valleys and lowering the mountains–bringing everyone together.  The difference is in the perception of that–because if you have lived on a mountain all your life, that doesn’t sound as good as being raised out of the valley.  But that’s very different from being told you will be supplanted as king of the mountain and made to serve someone else.  

All this to say–the judgment of God doesn’t come in the form of earthly political systems.  What John is preaching has material implications, but it begins and ends with the action of God.  We repent and turn towards God, and God resets the world, and God brings us all in.  

So where are we in this scheme?  Are we the Pharisees or are we the crowd this morning?  Does John’s call for a complete turn around sound like the apocalypse or a welcome reprieve?  

When I lived in Jerusalem, a wise bishop told me that to the oppressed, God’s judgment always comes as good news.  It is only to the oppressor that judgment is feared. So I wonder if we are both right now.  If there are parts of us that, like the powerful of that time period, are not thrilled when John tells us that we need to repent, that the way things have been is not the way God wants them to be.  Because–let’s face it–we’re not doing that badly.  Most of us.  Most of the time.

But in other ways, we are like the crowds.  While there are parts of us that love the comfortable lives we enjoy, the security of this country, and the lives we know, in other parts of us, we do know that something is wrong.  We do know that this world is broken.  And in that part of our soul, we can welcome the coming advent of God, when the rough places shall be made plain, and the lion and lamb shall lay down together.  

Because in each of us, I would wager, there is a Pharisee and a dispossessed crowd member.  Someone happy in the world as it is, and someone anxious for the world to change.  The struggle for us, this Advent, is to decide which inner voice we will listen to.  

Screwtape Letters, continued

When I was in high school, I had to read the Screwtape Letters for an English assignment. I unabashedly loved them, and I didn’t like the other CS Lewis I had read.** There was humor, there was some solid theology, and there was some solid worldbuilding.

It was towards the end of the year, and the teacher gave us an option of either writing a straightforward essay on the book, or writing our own version of the Letters. I wrote my own version. In my rendition, a demon named Headley Gristmill creates the 2000 election disaster in order to test the faith of a Palm Beach County retiree named Bobo who lived in Whispering Palms Leisure Park. Bobo is unaffected, primarily because he thinks the word ‘chad’ is hilarious, and figures the influx of lawyers to his locale will give his lemonade and pickle stand more business.***

You know–normal stuff.

In recent days, I saw the fake Screwtape letters meme travelling around Facebook and felt the time had come to perhaps revive my satire. So, here is Screwtape Letters, continued!

** I KNOW. I KNOW. Revoke my Anglican card right now. In my defense, the Chronicles of Narnia are a really transparent allegory that gives short shrift to the female characters which irked me, even as a child.

***FYI: The character of Bobo and his friends at Whispering Palms went on to have several other adventures which I also wrote about. Look, some people get bored and do drugs, or drink. Me, I invent characters that amuse me and write bonkers letters from them.

Helldate July 25, 2016

Young Scrimshaw,

It has not, perhaps, escaped your notice that I have not written you since the Great Defeat some years ago–when I, Headley Gristmill, first attempted to entrap one devastatingly simple denzien of Florida, only to meet with utter defeat. My downfall was great; my penance severe. I have only now, you will see, have returned from that pit of despair known as the waiting area of the Milwaukee Airport, wherein I have spent the last sixteen years in various and sundry minute temptations and irritations: flight delays, gate changes, inventive TSA regulations, and my personal invention–overhead storage that fills up in an instant.

While such nagging irritants does more to draw the humans away from the Enemy than nearly anything else, I felt that such monotony was beneath me–a descendant of some of the most fiendish minds of our times. Would Lady Gristmill be proud to see me administer fees for checked baggage? Would Undersecretary Hertzmunster VonBrine be pleased to hear me coax another infant to scream through a redeye flight? Nay. Blood (and maggots, but I digress) will triumph!

And so, I have emerged from my Wisconsin cocoon to undertake a new feat–one which, if I am successful, will prove more destructive to the Enemy than anything attempted in recent memory. (Except the invention of Jar Jar Binks. I remain jealous of that genius bit of devilry.)

I give you: your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving.

Think of it, Scrimshaw! The reality show blowhard postures about greed, hatred, and malice, while the cheers of good American citizens ring out across the countryside! Ah, it fills the cavernous void within my chest with delight just thinking of it.

The genius of this plan, however, is not the candidate. No–any mere imp may propose a highly irritating politician. Do not think so lowly of me! It is rare indeed that we find a person willing to echo our tenants so loudly or with such fervor, but no! Drumpf himself is not the crux of my plan. He is incidental.

Rather, the genius of the plan is what comes next–what creeps across the country in thousands of incidental ways. The mistrust that unfolds between friends, as their differing political views are now cause for alarm. The fear is unleashed against the Muslim, Latino, Black, and pretty much every other minority community. (Our Donald covers them all, doesn’t he?) The apathy that causes formerly engaged citizens to give up because they cannot take the ugliness and disappointment anymore. These, these, dear diary–are the true prizes. They are what will turn the people of this land away from the Enemy.

Do bear in mind, Scrimshaw, that the Enemy’s chief commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. How better to turn people from this law, from the disgusting, weak-hearted law of Love, than to spread hatred, fear, and finally–apathy?

Once this plan meets with success, Scrimshaw, do remind me to regale you with tales of my tempting of Shari Lewis. Such a drubbing I gave to that damnable sock puppet.

Your dedicated cousin-twice removed,

Headley Gristmill