Gold Beach Thanksgiving (Part 2)

And that was the genesis of Fortress for Christ and Reverend Dave Bland. Reverend was such a better title than pastor or preacher or minister. It just rolled off the tongue.

The Reverend erected a yurt with hardwood floors and a wood stove near the winery. His pulpit was of custom-made myrtlewood from the Southern Oregon Coast. Word got out in the Christian addict community and his Sunday afternoon service grew to a respectable 50 former and still-functioning Christian addicts (mostly sex and booze). He was all over social media where his sermons garnered a couple thousand hits every week and trickled in a few donations.

For his sermonizing, the Reverend stuck to the Old Testament standards such as Moses and the burning bush, Samson slaying the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, and, of course, Jonah and the whale.

How in the world the Reverend managed to graft homilies of capitalism onto stories like the parting of the Red Sea and sell them to his flock like the newest i-Phone? Well, such are the vagaries of a spirituality based on hierarchy. When your spirituality is the ocean or mountains or desert or old trees, you recognize no such hierarchy and don’t rely on homilies to lead your life.

Jonah’s story was the Reverend’s personal favorite, for its always-bad notion of trying to run away from performing a righteous duty. Was he pulling a Jonah right now? Running away from something important? Or was he more like Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” and running blind?

The Reverend didn’t know. All he knew was he wanted to see the ocean in his moment of extreme distress, to walk on the beach as so many Oregonians do in similar crisis situations. The beach is the Great Therapist of Oregon and it never charges a cent nor recites banal jargon.

Thirty minutes later, none of the flock had texted him back. An hour later, one person finally responded, not with any offer to help, but something about “thoughts and prayers” and multiple crying emojis.

The Reverend was disappointed but not surprised. His congregation was more about capitalism than compassion. His church wasn’t even a real church by most Christian definitions. It was more of a personal coaching service with the goal of motivating the rich to get richer and the poor, well, who cares?

He loaded up the Navigator and made a couple sandwiches for the road. He considered taking a last visit to the yurt, but why bother? Fortress for Christ was kaput. The Reverend was actually relieved at the prospect. It had never been a true calling, just more of a side hustle. He cherry picked the Bible for lessons of power and conquest. He never sermonized the teachings of Jesus. That was way too unsettling for his flock. Besides, the Parables were over his head. The Battle of Jericho was not.

The Reverend drove south on I-5 listening to sports talk radio. The incoherent, ungrammatical blathering of the announcers kept his mind occupied. At some point, he would turn west and take one of the roads through the Coast Range to Highway 101 and the ocean. But which road?

He passed exits for the coast at Salem, Albany, and Eugene. He’d driven them before and wanted to see something new, new country. The Reverend was surprised to see people living in tents, tarps and pallet shanties in the trees and shrubs along the interstate. He’d seen such a sight around Portland-area freeways, but here they were near farms, orchards and rural rest stops.