Ed Spivey Jr. was working as art director of the Chicago Sun-Times Sunday Magazine in 1972 when God called him to join the fledgling Sojourners community and work for its publication, then called the Post-American. The fact that Ed has not heard from God SINCE is not what's important here, because Ed figures God had other things to do, what with making the world a more peaceful place. Why the world is still NOT a more peaceful place is none of Ed's business and he would never think to criticize God for slacking off since, who knows, God could have been sick or something.
But, 36 years later, Ed is still with Sojourners, still the art director, still happy with his life-long dream of working hard for very little money. The only down side is that Ed is beginning to feel his childhood plans of being either a cowboy or an astronaut may not be realized in his lifetime. But such are the sacrifices one makes when one responds to the call of the Lord, even if immediately after that the Lord apparently changed His phone number.
Of a more biographic note, Ed holds an Associate in Arts degree from Vincennes University. He was denied a Bachelor's Degree from Indiana University because of a disagreement with his psychology professor who did not appreciate Ed's refusal to complete his rat experiment. Apparently, Ed's was the only laboratory rat that bit, so Ed insisted on wearing huge motorcycle gloves when handling the animal, which, the professor insisted, skewed the rat's response to stimuli. Ed told the professor what he could do with his stimuli, which unfortunately did not put the professor in the mood to accept Ed's alternative suggestion, which was to study the response of rats being loudly cursed at while simultaneously being flushed down university toilets.
Since his college days he has made a bit of a name for himself, and not just “You, There,” which is the name his mother calls him when she forgets. Ed has won numerous awards for his design of Sojourners Magazine, and his monthly humor column consistently garners top honors from both religious and secular media associations. His recent book, A Hamster is Missing in Washington, D.C. won the top prize in humor at the Independent Publisher Book Awards in New York City. (Due to scheduling conflicts, Ed was unable to attend the gala tribute and banquet, but had he gone he would have ordered the fish.) Now in its second printing, Ed’s book is available at store.sojo.net and at on-line booksellers near you.
Ed is married and has two daughters, all of whom refuse to walk in public with him, on account of the little whoop-whoop sound he makes when he sees a fire truck.
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What, This Again?
TIME, THE GREAT healer, had almost cleansed my memory of “The Nashville Statement,” that unhelpful treatise from conservative Christians insisting that gay people keep their hands to themselves, despite being squeezed together in the closets they should return to, biblically. But now, only a year later, another document comes out, equally unhelpful, and almost identical in its utter lack of theological necessity.
It’s called “For the Sake of Christ and His Church: The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel,” and to its credit, it omits the Nashville sex talk, no doubt a disappointment to Bible belters always eager for an excuse to get sweaty and judgmental. The new statement instead focuses on another topic: justice.
Drafted by pastor and author John MacArthur (yeah, I’d never heard of him either) and other Christian leaders, it assumes Christians have grown weary of turning the other cheek (so tedious) or loving your neighbor as yourself (BORING!) and asserts that the gospel has nothing to do with empathy or working for the common good.
“WE DENY that political or social activism should be viewed as integral components of the gospel or primary to the mission of the church.”
You pretty much knew where the author was heading with those first capital letters. “WE DENY” sets a certain tone that brooks no discussion, offers no compromise, and please don’t let my granddaughter hear of it or she’ll be even more expressive when refusing her vegetables.
THIS IS A tough time to be an American human. We wake up each morning jittery and anxious, wondering what new outrage will cause us to reflexively fling our arms across our faces in a pointless attempt at self-defense. We are in harm’s way, the nation is in jeopardy, and the axe-throwing club on my street looks like it’s closing down.
You might not think this is a problem, but then you probably never threw an axe across a room and stuck it in a wooden bullseye, and then said, with shameless pride, “Yes, oh YES, I’m BAD!” Once you’ve thrown an axe, throwing darts in a bar just seems so unsatisfying. (Note: Axe throwing is not usually done in venues that serve alcohol, for obvious reasons.)
But few customers are showing up these days, and the hours are irregular. It’s just another casualty of an America so debilitated by the state of our politics that we don’t even want to get out of bed, much less pick up an axe. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but an axe-throwing high only lasts so long. Eventually you start remembering why you wanted to throw sharp objects in the first place:
- The EPA is again permitting coal companies to flush ash into West Virginia streams. (Game fish now come pre-blackened.)
- The economy is on a sugar high that will inevitably end with a crash, followed by the government’s heroic response to stimulate markets by passing more tax breaks for the rich. (It’s called “Tinkle Down Economics,” how prosperity gets passed on to the deserving, who should never look up during these troubled times.)
Jail: Perfect for a Little Me-Time
FORMER TRUMP campaign manager Paul Manafort has a lot of time these days to relax, put his feet up, and fondly remember his sweet career as a jet-setting consultant to politicians whose character flaws were easily offset by their deep pockets. Those were the days, he muses from his bunk in a Virginia detention center, his snug cell reminding him of the similarly cozy—and opulent—cabins of the private jets he used to hire.
While I would never, in this data-driven world that strips people of their humanity, reduce a man to a mere number, his is 45343. (Which I’m totally playing in next week’s Pick Five lotto! Why should Manafort have all the luck?)
Most people awaiting trial for wrongdoing involving millions of dollars in bribes, kickbacks, and influence peddling—you know, victimless crimes—can remain in the comfort of their own homes. And Manafort did this for a few months, padding around his house in slippers and a decorative ankle monitor (available in beige or artichoke). But being a social guy, he couldn’t stop contacting a Russian associate to discuss ways to help potential witnesses remember that he did nothing wrong. This was considered witness tampering by a judge, although I call it “just getting your stories straight,” which is important when facing trial. (I’d also suggest posting your innocence on Facebook, because the number of “likes” is now part of the senten-cing guidelines.)
Driving to the Future (Without Signaling)
WALKING INTO my house after another exhausting day in the Fields of the Lord—I had to work, like, six hours straight in an air-conditioned office, with only a couple hours for lunch!—I encountered the usual pile of mail on the floor, below the door slot, and underneath the cat who doesn’t move until the door squeezes him into the radiator. (Another window into my world. You’re welcome.)
Picking up the pile I noticed a letter from my car insurance company. Most correspondence I receive on this topic rudely accuses me of “paying too much!” (How do they know?), but then offers to correct that error in a mere “15 minutes of your time, because you can’t afford not to!” And that’s just on the outside of the envelope.
But this envelope was unmarked—no italicized words of condescension or false promises to trigger an immediate toss into the recycling bin. It was a plain envelope portending—as plain envelopes do—ominous content, such as a legal summons for some unknown transgression that I’m sure was unintentional, plus I swear I wasn’t even there when it happened!
THIS MONTH marks a planned historic meeting of hundreds of evangelical leaders with the president of the United States, currently Donald J. Trump. At press time, the actual number of participants had not been tallied, but you know what the Bible says, wherever two or more evangelical leaders are gathered a pulpit must be provided for each one or there’s gonna be trouble. (Or words to that effect.) Not to mention a good sound system, a wireless microphone to facilitate breathless pacing, and a telegenic congregation. And don’t forget the offering. That private jet’s not going to pay for itself.
And speaking of private jets, not all of America’s top evangelical leaders will arrive in well-appointed Gulfstreams. Some will travel in smaller jets, a lesser witness that suggests their owners have not earned the full fruit of God’s blessings. Turns out, their last emotional appeal from the altar failed to touch the hearts and checkbooks of their followers. (Their advisers warned them to keep a straight face when promising God would give back a hundredfold, but frankly it’s hard not to giggle. I doubt any of those Prosperity Gospel preachers actually believes what they’re promising. But to be fair to their gullible congregants, a hundredfold is a much higher rate of return than your average 401(k).)
New President for Life
CONGRATULATIONS to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who just ordered new business cards. The ink was standard black, on white card stock, but it was the “president-for-life” after his name that made it special.
We wish Xi Jinping well in his future years of unquestioned authority, and expect he’ll soon be known simply as Xi, a name that will become synonymous with unlimited power, fearsome brutality, and a Facebook page that boasts 1.3 billion friends. (Note to Chinese citizens who think they might not friend him: Think again. Facebook has gone to a lot of trouble to make your personal information available to undemocratic regimes, and you can’t fight progress.)
Single-word names have long been associated with unwavering strength and power. China’s last president-for-life went by the name of Mao; Hannibal was one of the greatest generals in history; and Beyoncé makes you cancel singing lessons, because why bother? (Cancel those dance lessons, too.) But one-word names don’t always convey awesome power. People still tremble at the name of Genghis Khan. But Genghis? Not so much.
BEFORE THE Chinese president gets too full of himself, however, I’d like to point out that Xi looks like a Roman numeral with a typo, or a new Tesla model (which will be delayed another six months), or the latest version of Microsoft Office after all the bugs were fixed. (So embarrassing.)
A Brush with the Almighty
THE BRILLIANT white lights could mean only one thing. Okay, two things. Either I was in heaven, in the place where people wait nervously for their performance review with God, or I was in the recovery room after one of those Elderly Man Procedures and the nurses were keeping their humorous thoughts to themselves, something that would have been impossible for me had our positions been reversed. (“Hang on, I’ve got another one. What’s the difference between a colonoscopy and a ... shh ... he’s waking up! Darn it!”)
The tanks of oxygen around the room were another indication that this wasn’t heaven, although at that altitude they might come in handy. (Do you breathe when you get to heaven? I know you have to stop breathing to even be considered.)
I hesitate to recount another medical procedure to readers who have grown weary of the chronicles of my continuing decay. But I bring this up mainly for eschatological reasons. (Coincidentally, one gets a colonoscopy for scatological reasons. But I digress.)
At my age, if you’re undergoing any procedure that involves general anesthesia, you must be prepared for the possibility of not waking up. You need to have your affairs in order—such as writing down your passwords for surviving loved ones, skipping ahead to the last episode of the TV show you’ve been streaming at the office, and gassing up the car one last time (surviving loved ones should really learn to do that for themselves)—and make your peace with God.
And what better time to meet the Lord than when both society and technology are telling me I should step aside. This year’s election left me emotionally exhausted, I failed again to receive the MacArthur genius grant (how many more letters does my mom have to write?!), and I’m aging out of some features on my cellphone. I only use Facetime by mistake, inadvertently triggering the hideous apparition of some sickly relative of advanced years. And I’m afraid to open Yelp! because it sounds like it could hurt me.
Thanksgiving (Without the Thanks)
WELL, WE'RE glad that Thanksgiving is over. So much tension, just under the surface, which occasionally roared above the special lace tablecloth. “You’re carving a beautiful turkey, Aunt Edna. It’s too bad you cut the heart out of democracy when you voted for that buffoon. Could I have some more sweet potatoes, please?”
Or: “That’s the best pecan pie I’ve ever eaten, Sis. It helps take out the bitter taste of your voting to plunge this nation into a dark abyss of fear. Ooh, is that whipped cream!?”
It was probably okay in some households. Muslim Americans had no problems passing the green beans without mumbled criticisms of a relative’s recent vote. Jewish families, confident in their relative political unanimity, doubtless had a tension-free celebration. And most families of color could enjoy each other with minimal strain. (“Cousin Bob, bringing something from Chipotle is not appropriate for the Thanksgiving potluck. But you’re family, so it’s okay. Now let’s give thanks to God, who was totally not paying attention on Nov. 8.”)
WHITE EVANGELICALS had the toughest time, especially in families with mixed marriages (“You married a Catholic, but I still love you, and maybe even her, at some point in the future.”), and the inevitable presence of relatives with divergent political views
Saying grace was the hardest part of the meal, when liberal family members peeked accusingly at their cousins, whose eyes were closed in pious gratitude that their guns were safe and that energy companies can finally mine the coal under our national parks. They were also giving thanks for more excessive military spending, cutting taxes for the rich, and turning over women’s reproductive rights to the authority of aged white men on Capitol Hill, as is their constitutional right. At least, this is what the progressives assumed their kinfolk were praying for. You can’t really tell, of course, because most people’s eyes were closed, a classic mistake at family gatherings when you’ve got to mentally calculate if there’ll be enough white meat for seconds. Or if you should save room for dessert. (Kidding. This is America. We’ll have it all.)
Your First 100 Days
Funny Business by Ed Spivey Jr.
An Open Letter to Our Burglars
WHAT A MESS. What is it about you modern burglars that insists on such lack of tidiness, such disrespect for the common courtesy of wiping one’s feet? Not to mention a callous disregard for a law of physics, the one that states that every action has a reaction. Drawers, to name one example, close as well as open. No need to drag them out onto the floor, scattering the contents under foot, when you simply could have pulled them out part way—reviewed the contents, made your selections—and then closed. I understand the need for haste. Burglars, as a rule, are on a tight schedule. But the window of opportunity was, in our case, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., give or take.
As you probably know, the iconic symbol of your occupation is an unshaven man with a sock cap and a crowbar, a jittery skulker no mother would be proud of. He enters a home in the dead of night while the residents sleep, their faces relaxed and undisturbed by the beam of a flashlight briefly flickering over them, then illuminating the dresser where most people keep their valuables. In our case, as you discovered, there were none, only old Trader Joe’s receipts and a couple tear-stained movie ticket stubs that I can’t yet toss. (Note to Disney: You can stop now. You’ll never make anything as good as Moana and ... darn it ... I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry again!)
GIVEN YOUR occupation’s nocturnal custom, we were surprised to return home and discover you had robbed us in broad daylight. Apparently, your new business model is to wait until your victims leave for work and then, at a convenient time, start your own work day. One envies this, of course, since you can sleep in most mornings, setting the alarm for 9-ish, and listen to NPR as you linger over a second cup of coffee. Then you can take some “me time” before heading off to work.
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