I spent most of 2013 doing my level-headed best to not write. The thing that got me back was a goofy-ass writing prompt over at Slacktivist wherein Fred suggested suggested a Wheaton-centric Christian version of Portlandia. I immediately wanted that to exist and, more importantly, I wanted to write it. Wheaton, after all, is my hometown and Portlandia is one of my favorite shows. So I wrote a bunch of “episodes” and posted them in the comments. Now they’re here. For posterity.
This was the last of the original posts. The story obviously needs some sort of conclusion. That will (hopefully) be popping up next week.
WHEATON EVANGELICAL FREE CHURCH
9:00 PM WEDNESDAY
(Establishing shot of a room with several long tables. Each one is covered in pictures of various exotic
locations. PASTOR KYLE stands in the middle of the room looking nervous. BRENDAN and AMANDA enter.)
PASTOR KYLE: Hey, guys, thanks for coming.
BRENDAN: No problem. Was this what you wanted to show us?
PASTOR KYLE: Yes. I spent a lot of time thinking about what you were saying about doing service projects and I
decided that I could do something.
AMANDA: And you did…this?
PASTOR KYLE (smiling proudly): Yup. It’s Wheaton Ev Free’s first annual missions conference.
BRENDAN: This is a conference?
PASTOR KYLE: Isn’t it great?
BRENDAN: But…there’s no one here.
PASTOR KYLE: Well, I scheduled it at the same time as the DuPage County Republicans meeting. And it’s a little
late for the retirees at Windsor, so, um, there are some kinks to work out. We’ll get it right next year,
AMANDA: So…what’s going on, anyway?
PASTOR KYLE: It occurred to me that there are lots of people in other places that don’t come to church here, so
I should probably highlight some of those locations. It turns out that the church supports many missionaries in
Africa and Central America and Asia. So I thought we’d do a missions conference to highlight the culture of
BRENDAN: What areas?
PASTOR KYLE: Africa, Central America, and Asia.
BRENDAN: Um, you realize that there is no single, say, African culture, right?
PASTOR KYLE: Sure there is. Just look at the Africa table.
(PASTOR KYLE gestures towards a table labeled “Africa” that has pictures of the pyramids of Giza, a Zulu
warrior, a zebra, and a ring-tailed lemur.)
BRENDAN: Um…the pyramids are in Egypt and Zulus are in South Africa. That’s like saying that the Empire
State Building is in San Francisco and everyone in Maine wears ten gallon hats and carries six shooters around.
PASTOR KYLE (laughing): Nonsense! We have missionaries in Africa who have seen all of those things.
BRENDAN: But has the same one seen all of those things at the same time?
PASTOR KYLE: I’d assume, yes.
BRENDAN (sighing heavily): Well, at least you’re trying.
LA SPIAZA COFFEE HOUSE
10:00 AM WEDNESDAY
(Establishing shot of inside of a coffee shop. ETHAN and EMILY are drinking coffees while sitting at a table with Apple laptops, iPads, and leather-bound Bibles.)
ETHAN (clears throat): So, um, there’s been some pretty weird stuff going on with, y’know, butt stuff, lately.
EMILY: What’s so weird about that? I’ve been doing it since high school.
ETHAN: You…you have?
EMILY: Yeah. You think you were my first?
EMILY (laughs): Oh, Ethan. You’re adorable.
ETHAN: I don’t know what to say right now.
EMILY: We seem to have gotten off track. What did you want to talk about originally.
ETHAN: It doesn’t matter. I think there’s something more important going on right now.
EMILY: Not really. You thought you were my first. You’re not. It’s not like I’m your first.
ETHAN: Actually…you are.
ETHAN: I thought we had something special.
EMILY: We do. But I had something special with Danny, too. And Greg. And Lars.
ETHAN: Wait. You’ve done it with three other guys?
EMILY: Five. You didn’t let me finish.
EMILY: Wait, no. Six. But Ryan barely counted, if you catch my drift.
ETHAN: But…but…you told me you were a virgin when you started.
EMILY: And I still am. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?
ETHAN: No. It’s not. The point is that you’re supposed to tell those other guys that you’re not available.
EMILY: Those other guys? You mean the guys I met before I even knew you?
ETHAN: Yeah. Those guys.
EMILY: I can’t believe you’re being such a dick.
ETHAN: I’m being a what?
EMILY: A dick. And not the good kind.
ETHAN: Oh, there’s a good kind of dick now?
EMILY: Yeah. It’s the kind that I like to have inside me. Where yours will never be again.
ETHAN: Oh, like you’re have a hard time finding another one, apparently.
(EMILY gets up from the table and stomps out of the building.)
DUPAGE COUNTY PSYCHOSOCIAL REHABILITATION SERVICES UNIT
9:00 AM FRIDAY
(Establishing shot of the inside of a hospital. Several patients are sitting at tables in the room. PASTOR KYLE and TANYA enter. TANYA is carrying a clipboard.)
TANYA: So this is our actual behavioral services ward for those who need inpatient care.
PASTOR KYLE: I see. So what kind of help do they need? Prayer? Instructions on godly living?
TANYA: Um…no. We provide occupational therapy, physical therapy, and counseling in both a group and individualized formats. We also provide pharmacological intervention when necessary.
PASTOR KYLE: So…no prayer, then.
TANYA: We think that prayer holds therapeutic value for some of our patients, so we don’t discourage it. But we don’t see it as our role to play to push religious services.
PASTOR KYLE: But all you need is prayer. It says so in the Bible. I can’t believe you’d overlook that.
TANYA: But…uh, not all of our patients are Christians. Or even religious, necessarily. And we don’t use the Bible as a manual.
PASTOR KYLE: Well there’s your problem right there, then.
(PASTOR KYLE turns to the nearest patient.)
PASTOR KYLE: What’s your name, son?
PASTOR KYLE: Tell me, John, do you know who Jesus is?
JOHN: Of course. I talk to Jesus all the time.
PASTOR KYLE: Excellent. What do you talk to Jesus about?
JOHN: Oh, y’know, our day. The food. Books we’ve read. That sort of thing.
PASTOR KYLE: Books you…both have read?
JOHN: Yeah. Jesus is a big fan of Tom Clancy.
PASTOR KYLE: He is? How did you find that out?
JOHN: He told me. You can ask him, if you want. (JOHN points to another patient) He’s right over there.
(The other patient waves.)
JESUS: Hello, my son.
(PASTOR KYLE backs up and glances nervously between the two patients and the exit.)
TANYA: Are you okay, sir?
PASTOR KYLE (regaining his composure): Um, yes. I’m fine. So when do you want our people to come over? We can do prayer groups, Bible studies, counseling, the works. You obviously need a lot of that sort of thing.
TANYA: Oh, no. We can’t have unlicensed, untrained people doing that. Our volunteers help with cleaning, serving food, and, you know, stuff like that.
PASTOR KYLE: How are we supposed to do service projects if you won’t let us serve you.
TANYA (looking perplexed): We…um…(TANYA looks at her clipboard). You know what? It actually looks like we don’t need any new volunteers at the moment. We’re all full up.
PASTOR KYLE: But when I called you said you’d be happy to have a group come in and serve.
TANYA: Yeah, we’re, um, required to say that. By law.
PASTOR KYLE: Oh, I get it. Obamacare.
TANYA: Yeah. That’s it. So, um, sorry for taking your valuable time like this.
PASTOR KYLE: No problem. I understand.
[Ed. Note: From the “true tales of Wheaton,” there was (and may still be, for all I know) a man with obvious mental health issues who would travel around the town and crash church services claiming to be Jesus. I saw him on two occasions, once when he showed up at my church on Sunday morning and another time when he showed up at a church in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago where the junior high youth group was doing a short-term missions trip. There are few things more fascinating than seeing a group of ushers escorting Jesus out of church on Sunday mornings.
Also, this is the only one I changed before posting it here to make Tanya more neutral on religion. A friend pointed out that mental health professionals wouldn’t be particularly willing to let a pastor direct the conversation.]