Month: June 2016

War, Memory, and Quantum Mechanics: An Interview with Curtis Smith

War, Memory, and Quantum Mechanics: An Interview with Curtis Smith

Interview by Jen Grow Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five by Curtis Smith, is part of Ig Publishing’s Bookmarked series, which asks authors to respond in various ways to books that inspired them as writers. In Smith’s capable hands, the project transcends literary criticism to become a free-form […]

Cardiac by Josip Novakovich

Cardiac by Josip Novakovich

Jon and I drove from Sarajevo to Oraŝje to cross into Croatia, and we were going to pass through Republika Srpska. I had a book listing 3,000 slain Croatian civilians by Serbian forces in Croatia. I thought if the Serbian police searched us, they might […]

Thomas Sageslush’s Support of the Moronvia Heights Pit Bull Ban by Douglas J. Ogurek

Thomas Sageslush’s Support of the Moronvia Heights Pit Bull Ban by Douglas J. Ogurek

June 18, 2016

The Honorable Stephen Goobrain
Mayor of Moronvia Heights
Moronvia Heights Village Hall
5235 Loon View Street
Moronvia Heights, Illinois


Dear Mayor Goobrain:

I enthusiastically applaud your support of the recent Moronvia Heights pit bull ban. As a proud member of Concerned Residents Against Pit Bulls (CRAPB), I wholeheartedly agree with your contention that these abominations that kill 0.0000006% of the US population each year “pose a severe threat to our safety, and have no place in our community” (U.S. Census Bureau, National Canine Research Council “Investigative Reports”). It is with this focus on our beloved community’s safety that my fellow CRAPB members and I urge you to consider a few more bans.


A comprehensive study by the NCRC identified 31 dog bite-related fatalities in the United States in 2011 (“Investigative Reports”). You might be surprised, Mayor Goobrain, at how many of the 31 offenders the NCRC conclusively documented as American Pit Bull Terrier: two. The rest were other breeds or indeterminate. Thus, since other dogs are fifteen times more likely to kill than pure pit bulls are, I propose to extend our pit bull ban to all dogs in Moronvia Heights.

We should also ban all other mammals, since we are more than twice as likely to be killed by a mammal that is not a dog than we are by Fido (National Safety Council).


Texting and other cell phone diversions may be responsible for nearly one in four car accidents ( Cell phones are 272 times more likely to kill people than dogs of any breed (CDC “All Injuries,” NCRC “Investigative Reports”).

Cell phones have more “muscle” than landlines. Often, we blame the drivers for these accidents. In reality, the phones are at fault. They are programmed to attack concentration and delay responses. Moreover, the hypnotic nature of cell phones has forced many people to ignore the law that prohibits their use while driving. Thus, banning cell phones is a critical early step for ensuring our community’s safety.


Between 1989 and 2006, there were 39 baseball-related deaths among players between T-ball and college levels (Dudek). That’s two a year. Sound familiar? And that’s just baseball! How many times have we heard about a young man, in the very prime of his life, dropping dead on the basketball court, the football field, or the running track?

Winter sports are even more dangerous: the slopes kill more Americans annually than all dogs do. According to the National Ski Areas Association, more than forty Americans die from skiing and snowboard-related accidents in the U.S. each year.

Clearly, sports are another major threat that we must expel from the community. Our young people are three times more likely to be killed by sports than by a dog of any breed, yet we continue to sign up Timmy for little league and Susie for cheerleading (Youth Sports Safety Alliance, NCRC “Investigative Reports”).

Now I know that there are many misinformed individuals who see sports as a way to build camaraderie within the community and enhance teamwork skills among children, just as many deluded pit bull owners believe that their dogs are a means of increasing happiness, getting more exercise, and having a more active social life. But let’s be sensible: considering that there is a much greater chance of our youth dying while playing sports than of dying by dog attack, it is imperative that we adhere to your pledge to “keep our community as safe as possible by eliminating every threat.” Sports are a threat, so we should prohibit them.


Each year, suicide accounts for just over one percent and homicide just under one percent of deaths in the U.S. (“15 Most Common Causes of Death”). Since people are more than 1,655 times more likely to die by suicide or homicide than by dog attacks, we need to be a bit more liberal with our banning to put an immediate halt to these activities (CDC “Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury,” CDC “Assault or Homicide,” NCRC “Dog Bite-Related Fatalities”).

Just as it is not the pit bull owners who are responsible for the damage that these dogs have inflicted, but rather the dogs themselves, it is not the murderers or suicides that are responsible for more than 50,000 deaths each year, but rather the weapons that they employ (CDC “Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury,” CDC “Assault or Homicide”). We should start by banning the most obvious threats: guns, knives, razorblades, etc. And by knives, I don’t just mean switchblades and bowie knives. I mean steak and butter knives, paring knives, plastic knives. Anything that cuts.

We should also ban hammers, wrenches, baseball bats (though these should go with the sports ban), and any other instruments capable of inflicting fatalities on oneself or others. Americans are sixteen times more likely to die by a hammer or club blow than by a dog attack (Hawkins, NCRC “Investigative Reports”). Just as our ban ignores the ignorant arguments of those who claim pit bulls can make good companions, so should our weapons ban ignore the nonsensical assertions that hammers can be used for good.

We must not stop at the obvious. For instance, some of the more subtle devices that are responsible for murders and suicides include ropes, wires, and bridges. I propose to head up a committee that would develop a list of “highly dangerous” items to ban. We could call it Denizens Against Fatal Things, or DAFT.


According to the CDC, more than one-third of American adults are obese (“Overweight and Obesity”). Moronvians are not exempt from this statistic. Lack of exercise and unhealthy diets contribute to heart disease and a host of other problems, but what is ultimately to blame?

Using your esteemed anti-pit bull logic, Mayor Goobrain, I think that we’ve wrongly accused people of not taking care of themselves. The true culprits behind our collective corpulence include high-cholesterol, high-fat, and high-sugar foods and beverages. These should all be banned.

These bans will take steps toward the ideal of banning all foods; people are almost ten time more likely to be killed by choking on food than they are by dog attack (NSC).

Then there is the other half of the dog, so to speak: the sedentary lifestyle. The so-called experts tell us that people spend too much time in bed, or sitting on the couch. So why don’t people exercise more? Lack of time? Doubtful. Americans watch nearly five hours of TV a day (Hinckley). Are they lazy? No. If that were the case, then people would not line up in the wee hours of the morning every Black Friday, then knock people over to get the status symbols that prove how important they are to neighbors and show family members how much they are loved.

The problem is furniture. I’m talking about seating and beds in particular. These monstrosities, many of which have four legs (sound familiar?), force people off their feet, thereby causing obesity.

Then there are the more overt furniture attacks. Furniture has been known to kill with staggering ferocity. For instance, falls involving furniture kill 31 times more Americans every year than all dogs do, and people are 23 times more likely to be accidentally strangled or suffocated in bed than they are to meet their demise by dog attack (NSC).

When all chairs, tables, couches, and beds are banished, lives will be saved, and Moronvia Heights will be held up as a pillar of community safety.


Another predator prowls the streets of Moronvia Heights. There are some who argue that this beast serves a purpose, but they are sorely mistaken. Motor vehicles are nearly 1,400 times more likely to kill a person than dogs are, yet we let these four-wheeled monstrosities run rampant in our neighborhood (NSC).

Think about all the lives that have been cut short in automobile accidents, and the reasons people incorrectly attribute to them: texting, speeding, fatigue, talking on the phone, driving under the influence. The true problem is the automobile. The car, like the pit bull, is a killing machine that, to pull a gem from your superb lexicon, “poses a major threat to our peaceful way of life.”

Again, many have argued that the owners of pit bulls, not the dogs themselves, are to blame for the attacks that kill 0.006% as many Americans as automobiles do (CDC “Accidents or Unintentional Injuries,” NCRC “Investigative Reports”). Mayor Goobrain, I think you and I can agree that’s utter nonsense. Similarly, I’m tired of the misinformed blaming accidents on drunk or distracted drivers, when in actuality it’s the cars and trucks that are to blame. Vehicles are hardwired to kill. If there are no automobiles, then there will be no automobile accidents.


Even if DAFT identifies a thousand different death instruments to ban, other potential weapons that we cannot (and should not) ban will still exist in the community. For instance, plastic shopping bags have been at the root of many deaths, but I would never propose to ban something so valuable. More on this later.

So in the spirit of preservation, let’s take the weapons ban one step further. Since “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” let’s rid ourselves of that workshop by banning hands in Moronvia Heights.

Squeeze. Pull. Punch. Pinch. Hit. Slap. Smack. Shoot. Stab. Smash. Crush. At the foundation of all these violent actions are hands. If we ban hands, people will be unable to engage in any of these activities and unable to operate the majority of potential weapons that are not banned. Banning hands has additional benefits. For instance, people won’t eat as fast, and they’ll be less inclined to play sports.


Another pit bull lurks within the cupboards and vanities of most Moronvia Heights homes. Its modes of attack vary: misprescriptions, overdoses, addictions, side effects. Now some people believe that medications can be good, but you never know when one’s going to “get off its leash” and make its way into the wrong hands. Well, not hands, if we pass the previous ban proposal.

I’ve heard stories purporting that medication can reduce the risk of stroke, fight cancer, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, and many other claims, just as you may have heard stories of pit bulls that save families from fires, aid the fallen, sniff out drugs for customs agents, visit schools to support positive pet ownership, and assist with therapy. All nonsense!

According to the CDC, a hundred Americans die from drug overdoses (mostly prescription) in the U.S. every day. Therefore, people are a thousand times more likely to meet death in a medicine bottle than in a dog’s jaws (CDC “Policy Impact,” NCRC “Dog Bite-Related Fatalities”).

I therefore call for an immediate ban on all medications.


When we think of dangerous spiders, we usually imagine Africa, South America, and other exotic locales, but I’d like to introduce a place whose spiders are just as malicious: Moronvia Heights. I’m sure that you’ll remember that terrible incident two years ago when poor Mrs. Rocksenhead reached for a spider while vacuuming at the top of her staircase.

That spider was just as malevolent, if not more so, than the villain who pushes the harmless old lady down the stairs.

Regarding the pit bull ban, you said, “A single incident, no matter how rare, that threatens our community, should be addressed.” Therefore, it only makes sense that we ban spiders as well.

We can also pay our respects to Mrs. Rocksenhead by banning stairs; people are sixty times more likely to die by falling down stairs than they are by dog attack (NSC).


Last year, we Moronvians lost the esteemed Maestro Silverberg, conductor of the electrifying Moronvia Heights Orchestra. His senseless death could have been avoided if we simply banned the abomination responsible for it. Never mind that the maestro climbed a tree to better observe the sunset, and then, in the midst of inspiration, touched his metal conductor’s baton to the power lines.

The real cause of the problem, the pit bull if you will, was electricity. Each year, almost twelve times as many citizens fall prey to electricity than to dogs of any breed (NSC). Moronvians are twice as likely to get killed by consumer products, like power tools and lighting equipment, than they are by dog attacks (Electrical Safety Foundation International, NCRC “Investigative Reports”).

Therefore, I ask, in Maestro Silverberg’s memory, that we ban electricity.


Electricity is but a tooth in the massive and unrelenting set of jaws known as the home. Think of all the beloved Moronvia Heights residents that have been ripped away from us by homes, which, according to the NSC, harbor a plethora of weapons:

  • Bathtubs: 12 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Ladders/scaffolding (falls from): 14 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Swimming pools: 22 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Beds: 23 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Furniture: 31 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Stairs: 60 times more likely than dogs to kill a person

These are just a few of those, to quote you yet again, “dangerous and harmful creatures that need to be eliminated from our community.” Homes even house pit bulls!

Then there are the rarer, but much more vicious brethren of the home: the hospital and its henchman, the senior living facility. I would venture to say that this trio of terror was responsible for the deaths of more than ninety percent of the Moronvians who perished last year. Let us, therefore, ban these pit bulls in bricks, glass, and sheet siding from our community!


One of the so-called leading causes of death in this community and across America is hypertension. Health care professionals would have us believe that we have the ability to reduce our stress, that a healthier lifestyle will do the trick, but that places the blame on the victim. It’s just as absurd as this contention that people, rather than buildings themselves, are responsible for the falls that kill eighteen times as many Americans each year as dogs do, or that pit bull owners who’ve abused their dogs and trained them to be aggressive are responsible for pit bull attacks (NSC). No, it’s the buildings, and it’s the pit bulls.

We can reduce stress by banning the three most barbaric attackers: finances, sex, and work. This ferocious triumvirate has been at the helm of thousands of deaths in Moronvia Heights.

Additionally, we are seven hundred times more likely to die by falling than we are by dog attack (NSC). Therefore, we should also ban heights.


Another way that we can “ensure for our citizens the most peaceful living environment” is by banning all elements. Some people claim that fire is warm and comforting. I think it’s scorching and life-threatening. If fire kills someone every 169 minutes, while dogs kill someone every 15,927 minutes, then fire is a much more severe threat. Think of it: for every one person that dies by dog attack, eighty die by fire (CDC “Fire Deaths,” NCRC “Dog Bite-Related Fatalities”).

Remember the Wood family tragedy in the eighties? Never mind that Dryden stored his hay and gasoline in his furnace room. That fire came out of the blue (which should also be banned so that nothing bad can come out of it and we never have to feel that way). Now I know that banning homes will begin to address this issue, but you can never be sure. Fire has no place in this community.

Earth is another deadly element that we must ban. Sure, we use it to grow crops, but crops lead to pesticides, and pesticides kill. Also, a hundred percent of the deaths in Moronvia Heights last year occurred on the ground. So if there is no earth, there is no ground. And if there is no ground, it cannot kill any more Moronvians.

The blame for the leading cause of accidental death among young children goes to water (CDC “10 Leading Causes”). Each year, drowning claims over one hundred times as many lives in America as all dogs do (CDC “Unintentional Drowning,” NCRC “Investigative Reports”). Consider water’s many methods. One person sees it as a means to take a relaxing bubble bath. I see it as the instigator of drowning or electrocution. Another person sees it as a refreshment on a hot afternoon. I see it as a conduit to overdosing. Moreover, ice is composed of water, and consider how much the accident fatality rate escalates when ice covers the road. Therefore, we should ban all water from Moronvia Heights.

The fourth element remains the worst. Like many pit bull owners, some claim that they couldn’t imagine their lives without it, but let’s be realistic: air is a brutal beast, biologically predisposed to kill. It carries the sicknesses that kill our elderly. It feeds the fires that burn our houses. It carries the oxygen that allows those dangerous hearts to keep beating. And worst of all, air allows pit bulls to thrive.

I realize, Mayor Goobrain, that banning the elements might meet resistance from the unenlightened, and may require some lifestyle changes, but if we truly want to eliminate all potential threats, then we’re going to have to stand united against these fiends.


Even if we eliminate all homes from our tree-lined streets, another highly aggressive predator will continue to target our citizens. It hides, it lurks, and then it attacks with the ferocity of the pit bull.

Last year, this monstrosity assailed sweet Mrs. Kadiver, who was merely sitting on her couch. Mayor Goobrain, if people can’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods, where can they feel safe?

I’m talking about age. For years, our residents have suffered its torments, while those of us capable of doing something have merely stood by. Though it hasn’t yet received much publicity, in-depth research reveals that the overwhelming majority of Moronvians get older. Thus, age needs to be banned.


Another problem that has affected many U.S. citizens, especially those in warmer climates, is skin cancer, which claims 277 times as many lives as dogs do each year (CDC “Skin Cancer Statistics,” NCRC “Dog Bite-Related Fatalities”).

Fortunately, the media and the workplace have taught women that they must be “hot” to succeed. However, if they spend too much time out in the sun in their quest to achieve the perfect tan, women could develop skin cancer.

Moronvians have long prided ourselves on our influential nature, and on our social outreach efforts. Therefore, I propose that we start a petition to ban the sun. When we get that ban passed, perhaps other regions will follow in our footsteps.

Think of it: if we prohibit the sun from shining on Moronvia Heights, women can be outside in their bathing suits as long as they’d like, without the risk of being mauled by UV rays. Moreover, they will be able to spend their hard-earned dollars on more important things, like makeup, clothing, and purses, rather than on expensive lotions to absorb the sun’s predatory rays.

Ban the sun, I say, and illuminate the people!


There is yet another abomination that is just as uncontrollable and prone to violent attacks as the pit bull. I hold this brute responsible for some of the most prominent contributors of death (e.g., heart disease, cancer, stroke). We’ve wasted too much time ascribing the ultimate blame to fatty foods, sedentary lifestyles, genes, and a host of other scapegoats.

If the citizens of Moronvia Heights can unite to ban bodies and their contents, the death rate will plummet. Cancer? Gone. Stroke? Bye-bye. Think about all the claws and teeth that the body uses to attack: kidneys, livers, bones, and the worst transgressors, brains and hearts. Additionally, if we ban bodies, we will never again have to read a headline about someone being attacked by a pit bull, because neither those vicious creatures nor we will have bodies.

Moreover, elimination of bodies would mean elimination of dietary diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. We could lift our ban on healthy foods so that people can eat as much as their hearts—maybe not their actual hearts, since bodies will be banned—desire. Chips, muffins, cheeseburgers, milkshakes, beer, fried foods, chocolate. Bring it on!

According to the CDC, bodies are involved in one hundred percent of deaths in the U.S. each year (“Deaths and Mortality”). And here is an often overlooked fact: we all have bodies.

The true cause of cancer is the body and its many organs. Laziness, cheeseburgers, genes, and stress are not responsible for heart attacks; hearts are! We are Moronvia Heights, and we must ban bodies!


Mayor Goobrain, I have covered a variety of threats that we must address. However, there remains one aggressor so brutal and so vile that it kills more people in our community (and the world over) than anything else. And frankly, I’m quite shocked that nobody has done anything about it.

Stroke? No. Heart disease? Guess again. There is another creature so deadly that scientists and researchers leave it off the charts, mainly because every one of them has dealt with this abomination, this harbinger of doom: the mother!

All mothers are murderers. Think about it: mothers give birth to a child, and in so doing, kill him or her. One thing that fatality statistics never point out is that every person who dies has a mother. You referred to the pit bull as “aggressive and dangerous.” Cannot such names also be applied to those who tear down children who are not their own, who use photos of their offspring to maul social media channels, who knock over others to get the latest toy or gadget, or who even rationalize their children’s poor behavior? “The reason Timmy’s failing is that he’s not challenged by the material. He’s much smarter than the other kids.”

Mothers cause cancer. Mothers cause strokes. Mothers cause AIDS, heart disease, suicides, and murders. Let us work together to keep these most treacherous predators off the streets of our neighborhoods.


As I approach the conclusion to this call to action, I’d like to cautiously return to the worst chapter in modern history: the Holocaust.

One question that often comes up is, “Could we ever allow something like that to happen again?” The answer involves identifying and eliminating the true cause of death among the millions who perished. Scholars have cited a host of causes: racism/hatred, a charismatic leader, manipulation, even economic instability.

Though I appreciate the scholarship associated with these premises, I have to conclude that they are sorely mistaken, for they have misidentified the true cause—the pit bull, if you will—behind the tragedy. The source of the greatest tragedy the world has ever seen is the canister. Just as pit bulls contain the jaws and teeth that destroy, canisters held the Zyklon B tablets that the Nazis used in their gas chambers. If we ban canisters and inspire the world to follow suit, an atrocity like the Holocaust will never again scour the face of this earth.

Mayor Goobrain, we never know when a canister might give someone the wrong idea. Canisters are responsible for the untimely death of millions. To ensure that Moronvia Heights is committed to never again even considering such a stain, we must ban canisters. This also gives Moronvia Heights the opportunity to emerge as an international leader in the fight for human rights.


Though I understand the thought process behind our recent plastic grocery bag ban, I learned that, had that ban not been imposed, Tommy Dumphuk would still be alive today. The official police report states that Tommy was texting, eating chicken nuggets (with barbeque dipping sauce), talking on the phone, smoking pot, drinking whiskey, high on meth, and applying lip gloss when he lost control on the way home from the grocery store.

Now I understand that applying lip gloss and engaging in some of those other activities aren’t the smartest things to do while driving, but what isn’t in that report is that Tommy’s container of ice cream had begun to leak in the seat next to him. Since the ice cream was in a paper rather than a plastic bag (due to the ban), it was getting all over the seat. So naturally, Tommy reached over to solve the problem. That’s when he lost control.

Now, plastic grocery bags do take a thousand years to degrade, constitute one of the most common types of ocean refuse, retain toxicity even after they break down, and kill by asphyxiation thousands of animals every year. However, these are all minor compared to the value of a human life. We are not perfect, and sometimes we make mistakes. Therefore, in respect to Tommy Dumphuk, I call for an immediate ban on all bans.


Mayor Goobrain, thank you again for your tireless efforts to keep the residents of Moronvia Heights “safe and thriving.”

I hope to meet with you soon to discuss my proposals. We can launch our campaign with a few immediate bans:

  • Hornets, wasps, bees: almost 2 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Animals ridden and animal-drawn vehicles: 3 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Clothing/apparel (ignition of): 3.5 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Agricultural vehicles: 4.5 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Gastric contents (inhalation of): 10 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Natural heat: 10 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Machinery: 20 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Natural cold: 22 times more likely than dogs to kill a person
  • Alcohol (poisoning): 42 times more likely than dogs to kill a person (NSC)



Thomas Sageslush, Vice President
Concerned Residents Against Pit Bulls

P.S. If even one of the proposed bans doesn’t save a life, I propose to ban myself.


Works Cited

“15 Most Common Causes of Death in the United States.” Publications International, Ltd. 18 September 2007. Web. 20 June 2014.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “10 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths by Age Group.” 2010. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “Accidents or Unintentional Injuries.” 2010. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “All Injuries.” 2010. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “Assault or Homicide.” 2010. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “Deaths and Mortality.” 2010. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “Fire Deaths and Injuries: Fact Sheet.” 2010. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “Mortality.” 2010. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “Overweight and Obesity.” 2014. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses.” 2008. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “Skin Cancer Statistics.” 2010. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury.” 2010. Web. 20 June 2014.

—. “Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts.” 2012. Web. 20 June 2014.

Dudek, Mitch. “Youth Baseball Deaths Are Very Rare, Studies Show.” 13 April 2012. Web. 20 June 2014.

Electrical Safety Foundation International. “Injury and Fatality Statistics.” Web. 20 June. 2014.

Hawkins, AWR. “FBI: More People Killed with Hammers, Clubs Each Year Than Rifles.” Breitbart News Network. 3 January 2013. Web. 20 June 2014.

Hinckley, David. “Americans Spend 34 Hours a Week Watching TV, According to Nielsen Numbers.” New York Daily News. 19 September 2012. Web. 20 June 2014.

National Canine Research Council. “Dog Bite-Related Fatalities.” 2010. Web. 20 June 2014.

National Canine Research Council. “Investigative Reports of Dog Bite-Related Fatalities.” 2011. Web. 20 June 2014.

National Safety Council. “Injury Facts.” 2011. Web. 20 June 2014.

National Ski Areas Association. “Facts About Skiing/Snowboarding Safety.” 1 October 2012. Web. 20 June 2014. “DWI: Driving While Intexticated.” 2012. Web. 20 June 2014.

U.S. Census Bureau. “State & County QuickFacts.” 2012. Web. 20 June 2014.

Youth Sports Safety Alliance. “Youth Sports Safety Statistics.” 2013. Web. 20 June 2014.

A Conversation with Nathan Holic

A Conversation with Nathan Holic

Interview by Stephanie Renae Johnson Nathan Holic is the author of the novels The Things I Don’t See and American Fraternity Man. He is the editor of the 15 Views of Orlando anthologies, and the Graphic Narrative Editor at The Florida Review literary journal. He writes […]

Illustrations: Samantha Lucy Haslam

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Preaching in My Yes Dress: Confessions of a Reluctant Pastor by Jo Page

Preaching in My Yes Dress: Confessions of a Reluctant Pastor by Jo Page

SUNY Press, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-438460-83-3
Hardcover, 234 pp., $19.95
Review by Andrew T. Powers

As a young girl, self-proclaimed church geek Jo Page often fantasized about living the religious life, romanticizing herself into the role of Sister Luke (played by Audrey Hepburn) in The Nun’s Story. Yet, brought up Lutheran, she couldn’t have become a nun, and the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church doesn’t ordain women pastors. From the pamphlet her pastor gives her, whose basic content is scripture-based reasons why women should be silent and submissive, she learns she could become a deaconess, or a pastor’s wife, but neither of those appealed to her. So she began to doubt her call to religious life. Preaching in My Yes Dress is Jo Page’s memoir about how she came to be a Lutheran pastor, about the events and people who influenced her (or discouraged her), and the movies and books that helped shape how she views herself in that field.

It’s a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating, look behind the solemn scenes of seminary training and church work. When I imagine a Lutheran seminarian, I think of a pale young man reading Latin and Greek commentaries on the Gospels, supplemented by the memorization of favorite passages from Luther’s 95 Theses, all by lamplight in a small, dark room. I would never have imagined a course called Clinical Pastoral Education, a required internship focusing on hospital chaplaincy, ministering to the sick and dying in a hospital setting. Nor would I have thought about the training necessary to become all that’s required of a pastor, including being both social worker and therapist. Jo writes about the difficulties of holding the Office of the Keys, whose duty is to announce forgiveness, generally, during the context of Sunday service, and specifically, in individual sessions in her office.

And yet nothing said in a pastor’s office is inexcusable—no matter how awful. Because the theology goes that wrongdoings confessed by sinners are pardoned by God’s grace. We are told how that is how it is supposed to work. We are also taught that God’s grace extends even further, not merely to those who admit to wrongdoing, not only to those who confess. We are taught that God’s grace is a blanket amnesty.

But how are you to minister to people after they have confessed terrible sins, murder and sexual abuse? Yes, God’s grace extends to them as well, leading Jo to call it “the scandal of God’s grace.” This is an example of what is refreshing about this book, her frank admissions that despite her role in a field that at least ostensibly requires answers and certitude, she is brimming with questions and doubts.

Seven months after 9/11, she attended a conference themed, How then shall we live? while staying at the Holiday Inn that overlooks Ground Zero. How can we live in the face of massive scale, senseless death, and how are we to respond to a country’s thirst for swift—and righteous—retaliation? These were questions with which the best theologians and political thinkers grappled, no sure and absolute answer ready at hand. Jo acknowledges that we don’t understand all we believe, and that sure-footed certainty isn’t always a gift possessed by even the most devout of believers.

Throughout Preaching in My Yes Dress, Jo addresses feelings about her worthiness as a pastor. She hears a lot of talk about us and them in conversations about same-sex marriage and the ordaining of pastors who are in committed same-sex relationships, prompting her to realize her privileged place in the church in terms of her sexual orientation. She imagines how similar us/them conversations must have taken place when the church first began ordaining women pastors. As this book shows, the struggle to work within the undeniable patriarchy implicit in Christianity, stemming from the inescapable masculine pronoun of Him, is an ongoing battle. Women in the Bible, for example, are largely unnamed—Lot’s daughters, the Samaritan woman at the well, and so on—and their anonymity makes them easier to marginalize, to forget. And why, Jo wonders, is it easier to think of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute than as a disciple of Jesus?

Despite the sometimes heavy subject matter, Jo approaches it all with a down-to-earth, irreverent sense of humor. “Screw it; I’ll just go get my MBA” becomes her mantra as she copes with 60-hour workweeks. But in these pages, we also see a solicitous mind at work, a politically and theologically progressive sensibility grappling with what passes for Christianity in today’s world when it’s often inextricably entrenched in the language of rightwing political ideology. Before picking up this book, had I been asked to think of a female pastor, I would have immediately pictured British actress Dawn French playing the part of parish vicar Geraldine Granger in the BBC series, The Vicar of Dibley. That the only example I could conjure was a character from television tells me that Jo Page’s humorous and informative memoir is a necessary read for people concerned with, or at least curious about, contemporary religious life in America.

Illustrations: Stephen Dallas

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Stephen Dallas, an illustrator based in the Kansas City area, is interested in editorial and book publishing. Stephen started drawing as a fourth grader, making comics to entertain his friends. As a child, Stephen loved watching cartoons. Growing up, he started to find inspiration in […]

Illustrations: Erick Hice

Illustrations: Erick Hice

Erick Hice grew up moving around America with his family as they pursued a better life. From an early age his mother taught him how to draw, and instilled a love of creativity. Formally, Erick studied under George Pratt, and Philip B. Meggs, and is currently a […]

Linocuts: Anni Wilson

Linocuts: Anni Wilson

Anni Wilson is a print-maker working in linoleum. A classically trained cellist, she values formal elements of the arts over present-day conceptualism. Her most recent set of linocuts illustrates Molière’s “The Misanthrope,” and she is currently working on Ben Jonson’s “The Alchemist.” She resides at Twin Oaks Intentional Community in Virginia.

Illustrations: Kristin Kwan

Illustrations: Kristin Kwan

Kristin Kwan is an artist based in Lincoln, NE. She is an alumna of Union College. Through her work she explores themes of emotion and subconscious through a lens of storybook fantasy. When Kristin isn’t in the studio, she is mostly likely in the garden, […]