Monday, June 9, 2014


Alice has a new friend, a 30-year Marine Veteran.  She had never known anyone in the military except for her brothers who basked on the beaches of Biloxi.  It turns out this particular Marine had been trained as a sniper.  Yikes!

Let’s call him JR for Jack Reacher, Alice’s fantasy man (created by Lee Childs) … in spite of the fact that she doesn’t like guns or war or violence of any kind.  Jack Reacher is a good guy; he respects women; and only kills bad guys.  Alice hopes JR is the same way.
They met at the Church of How Big Thou Art.  Great music, terrific people, and wonderful breakfast for the homeless and anyone else who shows up in time.  There is a guy who stands by the stage like a bouncer, all dressed in black, with steel toed boots.  He reminds Alice of one of those Soviet guys in one of the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” books.

Then there is the preacher, Slick Willy.  Oh, could that man sell!  He held the congregation in the palm of his hand, and then told them what God wanted them do to this week. And then reminded them that Jesus took both VISA and American Express.  Well, I’ll be! thought Alice as she remembered the Bible passage about Jesus and the moneychangers.
Last Sunday, when Alice and JR were going to meet in the parking lot to attend church together, JR got hassled by the bully who watched over the cars. Somebody called the cops; JR left; and Alice marched into church and confronted Slick Willy.  She wanted to know why this house of God was so lacking in kindness and compassion when it came to veterans who spent three decades in harm’s way so guys like Slick Willy didn’t have to do his time there.

Originally Alice reached out to JR in kindness because it seemed like he needed a friend.  She didn’t think about what he might have done during his tenure in the service of his country.

As a young man of 18 from the Heartland of the US, he enlisted because he was patriotic and wanted to become a good man.  In return, our military establishment trained him to kill people.  And not always in defense of our country … but by picking them off one by one with a scope and a rifle.

Alice could see something in JR’s eyes that she’s never seen before.  Like something inside him was frozen.  Maybe that’s how someone looks after decades of taking the lives of others in the name of duty.  Not knowing if they had families, or what kind of people they were before they were forced to put on a uniform and pick up a gun.

Maybe what she saw was the “1000 yard stare” which another Marine Veteran in the same line of work mentioned to her.  The phrase was coined during the Vietnam War.  Many soldiers are stuck in the 1,000 yard stare after combat stress.
Alice could have just walked away and found another friend who played chess or was good at Sudoku.  But instead she decided that it wasn’t enough for people to just slap a “Support our Troops” sticker on the back bumper of their cars. 

Someone needed to step up to the plate on these issues.  It didn’t seem at all right to train young men to do awful things; then kiss them off – perhaps with a big shopping bag full of drugs -- when they had served their time.

And how do these brave men assimilate back into society when people like Slick Willy -- who claim to be speaking the wishes of “our savior Jesus Christ” -- showed no shred of kindness or compassion for this veteran with PTSD? 
It’s not the vet’s fault.  How is he supposed to spend the rest of his life if he’s not even allowed to volunteer in a church parking lot?!
Alice normally boycotts places that do her wrong, but she didn’t want to boycott the church.  She loves some of the people there.  Plus they surely have good food, especially the biscuits and gravy on the last Sunday of the month.  Not to mention the ab fab coffee that her Special Guy in the Food Room makes just for her.

The music is so uplifting and the musicians are amazingly talented. During the music section of the service, a sense of the celebration of life pulses through her and soaks right into her soul.
Then Slick Willy takes the mike and tells them all the stuff they can’t do.  Like sharing a meal out with someone of the opposite sex.  Holy Tom Jones! (the movie not the singer).  She had never heard of anything lewd taking place in any restaurant in this county in the last 30 years.

She thought this place was different from the Catholic Church of her youth where the priest would serve up big heaps of guilt each Sunday; or the Evangelical Church where talk of fire and brimstone echoed in those down home places of worship and scared the bejesus out of believers.

And this place is different.  Here at the Church of How Big Thou Art, Jesus even takes PayPal.
Alice thinks if Jesus had been in that church parking lot that Sunday morning and seen what happened, he would have washed the feet of that brave veteran who gave thirty years of his life to what he believed was protecting his country.

And after seeing that, Alice would have no problem at all believing in Him.



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