Who Loves You?
Jesus or Wal-Mart?
Editor's Notes: Stacey Warde
Welcome to our Jesus loves you, Wal-Mart hates you edition of The Rogue Voice.
In this month’s issue, worlds collide.
The evil world of Sam Walton and fundamentalist Christians clashes against the sensibility of love and life lived with color and passion and protest.
Imagine getting evicted from Wal-Mart, the symbol of America’s pride, where we can fulfill our lust for ever-cheaper goods and services, consume more and spend more, where senior citizens work to supplement their meager retirement, where travelers in gas-guzzling RVs camp free in mega-parking lots and chomp on food that causes cancer and holds no nutritional value, and where possibly, one day, you might even meet Jesus. Well, that’s exactly what happened to our window-washing wanderer, Ben Leroux, when he stopped for a visit at the Wal-Mart in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He got the boot for overstaying his welcome. See page 8, where the ninth installment of his Window Washing Across America series begins, and check out page 9, where you can read his Wal-Mart eviction notice.
Ben didn’t exactly meet Jesus at Wal-Mart but he’s met a lot of his followers over the years and once prided himself in turning them away through his great wit and charm. But something’s changed. The Christians are after him again, and this time he can’t shake them off. They keep coming back with friendly invitations, like going to church and bible study and stuff like that. Maybe it’s his lifestyle that turns gets them excited and convinces them he desperately needs salvation. Whatever it is, if you’ve been following his journey across the country, you can see why God would want a guy like Ben. For one thing, he’s good at washing windows. For another, he’s exactly the kind of person God loves most: poor, resourceful, cheerful, and living day to day. Turn to page 14 for another story by Ben Leroux where he describes his latest confusing exchanges with Christians and how they have stirred up his theophobia.
Ben isn’t the only Rogue contributor who had something to say about Christianity and organized religion in this edition. (He’s the only Rogue contributor who’s ever been evicted from Wal-Mart.) Dr. Steven Sainsbury, one of the more respectable members of our Rogues’ galley, puts faith in a positive light and it may appear to you that we ganged up on him, because his experience with religion, as written on page 4, is the only one that openly says it’s a good thing. We salute Dr. Sainsbury, brave soul, for joining us in what otherwise is mostly a good bash against organized religion. We started with our esteemed doctor because we respect his opinion, a fine apologetic on behalf of believers, in “Religion bashers: practice what you preach.”
What follows, tends to take us down the slide toward paganism, prison ministry, and religion on university campuses such as Cal Poly. While these accounts may read like slams against religious life and Christians in particular, if you look carefully, you’ll see that they’re a whole lot more than that. They demonstrate some of the more contradictory elements of our culture where you can simulatneously praise Jesus, burn women at the stake or treat them like second-class citizens, and shop at Wal-Mart with a clear conscience.
Tito David Valdez Jr. relates what mischief can occur in the prison chapel, where inmates gather to do the Lord’s work. They strive to keep homies in the yard happy by supplying bibles, music, and materials for making greeting cards. On off days they might use the chapel for a tryst or for stashing their porn. Appearances aren’t always what they seem, which might explain the Catholic Church’s failure to screen a priesthood overpopulated with pedophiles, and it’s probably true that mischief will abound in any religious setting because, as Dr. Sainsbury notes, we’re all human and imperfect. In any case, Tito wrote what I consider to be his best work yet, a penetrating, humorous and compassiante look at how inmates serve the Lord while serving time, see page 5.
Now, picture yourself tied to a burning pole, greased for the fire, with Christians waving their crosses at you, telling you to repent or you will surely die in the fiery flames and go straight to hell. While it sounds fantastic — gothic, almost —a kind of modern horror film like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, these things really happened. And they could happen again, which is why I take issue with Christians who hate pagans. I like pagans and I especially like those she-devils who dance naked around the fire and sing and laugh and love and celebrate life as well as, if not better than, most Christians I know. My account of the church’s treatment of heathens, “God loves pagans,” begins on page 12. This is my apologetic for those who would rather get naked and worship in the forest than put on a coat and tie and sit in a stuffy church all day.
Finally, meet the Christians at Cal Poly who would like students to study their bibles as much as they study their science texts. See intern Joe Sargent’s story, “Cal Poly on the Cross,” on page 18.
By now, you’re getting a taste of the mix we’ve prepared for you in the current edition of The Rogue Voice. We’ve got scandalous women chasing after a chef who may not have enough vigor left to outlast them. He needs help to keep up. He’s caught in a dilemma when, after a full night of loving an older woman, a younger hottie the next day says, “What’re you doing tonight?” Elder Cabby Dell Franklin, whose love for author Tobias Wolff is obvious and whose quiver of experience with women is full, offers a few helpful suggestions to the young lover (see “Cabby’s Corner: Ode to Tobias Wolff,” which starts on page 10).
We’ve also got aliens and probes and dope smokers mixing things up on Route 166 near Santa Maria (see Anne R. Allen’s “Alien monkey love” on page 22). How three local yokels end up on a spaceship is a mystery to me, but as Dan Hicks suggests in one of his songs about UFOs, if visited by one, “Hell, I’d go.” If not for the ride, then I’d go just to be with that sexy greenish gal who doesn’t know when to quit.
And a trip to the city finds “T.J.” (for Talmadge Jarretee Jr.) and his friend Rocco dodging rain and ducking into in a bar with flamboyant, chatty men who love to cook. This month starts a three-part series called “The rain” (starting on page 20), where the Santa Cruz author recounts a recent visit to San Francisco where he likes to drink at the local dives and play pickup basketball games at area courts.
Finally, don’t miss our Rogue of the Month, Brad Heizenrader, who’s got whatever you need and can fix you up right away and whose unfixed cat, Salem, runs the way we all want to run, terrorizing neighborhoods, loving with abandon and going balls out in all our enterprises. Meet Salem and Brad on page 16.
Special thanks goes to Grady Houser, who’s as spiritual as anyone you’ll ever meet and who loves us and who created this month’s cover. Be sure to check out Grady’s art this month Kelley’s Espresso in Cayucos and at Fiona Bleu in Morro Bay.
Stacey Warde is the editor of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.