I have great respect for Christianity as a concept. I just think most Christians should take a lesson from the Quakers and shut the hell up. They might learn something. It would be nice, though, if Churches actually worked for social justice, sustainability and peace, which is what I was hoping when I met Jack Smithy.
Jack Smithy was the pastor of a small, suburban church in Colorado. The membership of this church had declined so steadily that they were fixing to say one last benediction and sell the building to Latino Pentecostals. Jack Smithy and I both went to college in Austin, Texas.
Like many modern romances, this relationship began on the Internet, but not because of computer dating. It all started on account of my blog, Menopausal Stoners. The Preacher stumbled over a couple of years ago, when I was fantasizing about The Menopausal Stoners Militia – a group of generally older women with shotguns and weed, prepared to return fire if any Teabaggers started shooting. Jack Smithy offered his services as shooting instructor and chaplain in the comments.
I followed the link to his blog, where Jack was carrying on about a neighboring church singing Onward Christian Soldiers in support of The Troops without the faintest idea that it was the theme song of the Salvation Army and appeared to advocate killing infidels. I commented, “Dude, surely you must have noticed that Christians are notoriously obtuse when it comes to recognizing inherent contradictions.” He wrote that one of the great disappointments as a preacher is that bright, energetic people like me who were committed to making the world a better place won’t come to church any more because of the assholes. He then started leaving more and more comments at my blog, and we became cordial. When he offered to teach me to shoot again, I figured that a preacher with a shotgun would come in handy if the world got so fucked up we needed to get off the grid. He could shout scripture at the Teabaggers while he reloaded. One afternoon in February, he sent me a personal email.
It was a pleasant little missive wherein he described some of the questions he was pondering about his own self – like changing his career and moving back to Austin. I wasn’t sure what the preacher wanted from me and needed clarification in order to respond. I replied with a simple question: So, Are you married?
He wrote back that he was separated which was all the clarification I needed to know the preacher was looking to get laid. Since I’m always happy to explore the idea of getting laid, I sent him my phone number. As it happened, though, he was more interested in talking about theology, comparative mythology, and the power of story. I knew plenty of Bible stories from vacation bible school, but Jack Smithy particularly enjoyed telling me all about the Bible once he heard I refused to read it. I should have been more concerned about his lack of flirting, but I was having too much fun influencing the sermons going out from a midwestern pulpit on Sunday mornings.
We quickly fell into a habit of talking on phone all night on Thursdays, sorting out The Message for his Sunday Service. Since it was Lent, our conversations focused on stories leading up to Holy Week, most specifically about the time Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus’ feet. I explained that from a pagan perspective Mary was nurturing and restoring his spirit. Somebody had to since all his disciples kept getting drunk and passing out. Even if Mary Magdalene had fucked him blind, calling her a prostitute was a patriarchal imposition. Kind of like calling Smurfette a Ho.
The Preacher was stimulated by this discussion. He asked me watch a movie called The Last Temptations of Christ and to tell him what I thought. After I got it from Netflix, I told him I thought it was bullshit, and that Jesus reminded me so much of Peter Sellers in The Ruling Class that I couldn’t separate the two. I made him watch Crimes of Passion with Kathleen Turner as the hooker China Blue and Anthony Perkins as the crazy preacher who tried to kill her with a gleaming razor dildo.
The next thing you know, Jack Smithy wanted to buy a plane ticket to New York with the extra money he made from conducting a funeral for some old guy in the bible study group. I tried to discourage the idea even as I assured him he was welcome.
He said that he had only known one other woman in his whole life who made him feel like springtime and wasn’t going to let this one slip away. I smelled a midlife crisis, but was flattered nevertheless. He scheduled himself to arrive a few days after he delivered the final sermon in his dying church, and I got used to the idea that a preacher was coming down from the mountains just to meet me.
He made sure I understood that as soon as a few financial questions were settled, he intended to file his divorce papers – but he called me so frequently that I got nervous. All the random phone calls looked like he was trying to fill the empty place in his life since he’d left his wife.
Things got worse once I saw a few photos. There was no denying that the man was a pudgy hayseed. I felt guilty for being a snobby New Yorker, and told myself that even if Jack Smithy had spent his adult life playing Little House on the Prairie, in tiny Nebraskan farm towns, he’d been intimately involved with the human heart, which is the same all over the world. I told myself that a person’s quirks could become endearing, and I took the precaution of reminding the preacher that he would be sleeping my son’s room.
A few weeks later, I met him at the airport. From a distance he didn’t look too bad. He had a big belly and a non-existent old man’s butt, so his body looked like a lemon on toothpicks, but I was prepared to like the man and my own stretch marked jelly belly was never far from my mind. We went out to my favorite neighborhood restaurant for dinner, and after a bottle of Italian Red, I figured I could get used to one of his eyes being way bigger than the other. But by midnight, I knew for sure there was no way I could get used to having sex with him.
Never one to waste time, I took him straight to bed when we got back to my place. I’m sad to say his half-mast hard on drizzled jizz down my leg in under four minutes. I understand that fifty-three year old erections can be erratic, but when that happens, a man needs to know what to do with his hands and his mouth. I knew more about mouths than Jack Smithy when I was in sixth grade and me and my best girlfriend sucked each other’s little titties in a tent made out of a bed sheet in the back yard.
He sighed and said, “You’re very different from my wife. She was never into it.” All I could do was nod and try to look wise when I sent him off to sleep in the other room. If that was all she ever got, I was surprised she hadn’t been depressed to the point of suicide, and I say that with all the authority of someone who has been hospitalized for suicidal depression.
The next morning, I told him I wasn’t ready to have sex again. He quietly agreed to keep his distance. We went sight seeing all afternoon, and had a modest dinner at Patsy’s Pizza. Instead of going to the bathroom when the bill came, like I usually do when I’m out with a man who wants in my pants, I paid well over half the bill. Generally, my out-of-town friends pick up the tab a few times when they’re staying in my apartment, where I make sure there are endless amounts of weed, beer and tasty snacks, but when Jack saw forty green folding American dollars, he said, “Hey Thanks!” and stuck it in his pocket. His enthusiastic appreciation for cash donations showed exactly why the Church won’t shake the foundations of American Exceptionalism and mainstream complacency. Jesus himself can’t disrupt the bond between the clergy and the collection plate.
I took the next day off from work because he wanted to see some monastery up near Bear Mountain and an estate in Sleepy Hollow. We walked around the grounds, appreciating the fresh green landscape and the sweeping view of the Hudson. He declared I had magical powers, but five years in seminary and a decade of watching people doze off during sermons had not prepared him for the ego hit he had taken in a few days with me. He confessed he had believed his romancing would heal all the pain in my past.
He was so pitiful that I gave him another chance at bedtime. As I situated my naked self on the bed, he quickly stripped and proceeded to crawl between my open knees. He paused briefly and looked at my pussy like a big, hapless mutt who didn’t know he was allowed go there, took a deep breath and started lapping. I made him stop. He pulled himself up, looked perplexed and asked, “Did you want me to stop because it was so bad?” I kissed him on the head. I had never given anybody direct instruction before, but maybe that’s what The Goddess had in mind when Jack Smithy took a chance and landed in my bed. A couple of minutes later, he rolled over and exclaimed, “That was Great!” I gently suggested that he might put down the Bible sometime to read The Joy of Sex and sent him off to the other room. He went to sleep that night a happy man.
The next morning, as that yellow taxi went off to the airport, I was grateful to see the last of Jack Smithy. He may have thought it was wrong to insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible, but that man was a Bible Thumper through and through. A living, breathing patriarchal imposition who couldn’t imagine any point of view other than his own.
It never entered Jack’s head that some people might have a problem with him smoking weed and shacking up while he was still married. He was so comfortable with his behavior that he cheerfully blogged about his New York vacation knowing his preacher buddies read Menopausal Stoners and could tell the Bishop all about Jack Smithy smoking weed and chasing pussy in New York City. He’s not the first person to start dating before the divorce was final, but most folks aren’t unemployed preachers looking for a job delivering sermons as if they have some sort of moral authority.
About a week after he got back to Colorado, he called to tell me about a new job in Wyoming. He was dead serious when he said he could ride into that church like a Texas Ranger and bring the congregation back to life except that instead of a horse, he’d be riding his Kawasaki. I never talked to him again.
Maybe we are heading toward Armageddon.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and forest fires have been plaguing the planet for some years now. Between BP, Fukushima and fracking chemicals in the water shed, mutant life forms could rise out of the ocean like Godzilla any day. Cinderella, Snow White, Lightning McQueen and the Little Mermaid are plastered on so many little kids across the land that it looks like they’re in the Devil’s Army, and The Disney Princesses are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
I remain convinced that it’s a good idea to prepare to get off the grid, but we don’t need a preacher around, whether he can shoot or not.