A Chaplain of Pirates Redux: Prologue Part One
Ok so, I know I already posted some of this, but here is the edited version of the Prologue:
A Chaplain to Pirates: My life among the Pastafarians
By Jonathan Weyer
Introduction: Addressin’ my fellow ship mates.
“What’s with all the buttons?”
It’s a question people ask when they get in my car for the first time. Both visors are filled with colorful buttons, ribbons and strange pins. I put them there so I can remember stories of my life as I’m driving.
If people are curious, they will ask about certain buttons.
Most know that I’m a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, so, when they see a Cleveland Indians pin near the center of my visor, they ask about it. I tell them the story of my oldest son’s first Cardinal game at the beautiful Cleveland ballpark. It was an interleague game against the Indians. We ate a pretzel and licorice. We cheered when Albert Pujols hit a home run. We stood with some fantastic Cleveland fans in the right field stands as even the drunken frat boys took time to explain baseball to my son. The Cardinals didn’t win.
But I sure did.
The next thing they might notice is a bright orange ribbon. I tell them it’s the ribbon I wore when I searched the woods for Shawn Hornbeck, a southern Missouri teen who disappeared and was found alive four years later. He had been held prisoner by his kidnapper for nearly five years and is now back with his family.
I still get a lump in my throat when I look at it.
Inevitably, eyes are drawn to a curious collection of buttons. Curious because it’s highly doubtful there are many ordained evangelicals have one just like it.
There is one button with a picture of a half crocodile/half duck. A few buttons that say, “Teach the Controversy”. A rather large button that reads, “Skepticamp Ohio”. And yet another, “I was there with PZ Myers at the Creation Museum”.
And finally, they gaze upon on him. His two wise snail eyes perched atop twirled pasta centered around two large meatballs.
His Noodley Goodness.
They ask a logical question for someone who never hangs with atheists: “What the heck is that?”
I smile at the quizzical look on their face as I tell them it’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster, icon of the modern atheist movement. Yes, it’s true. Atheists do have icons, except they would probably be uncomfortable with the word “icon.” Symbol might be a better word. Symbols are powerful. For the atheist, the symbol of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is half joke and half symbol of frustration.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster started in 2005 when atheist Bobby Henderson protested the actions of the Kansas school board teaching Intelligent Design in Kansas public schools. With flair of humor, Henderson came up with the Flying Spaghetti monster, as in, “Well, we can’t disprove God doesn’t exist, but we can’t disprove a flying spaghetti monster doesn’t exist either.”
In a fit of tongue in cheek humor, Henderson wrote, “Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing toward evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence put in place by Him.”
Henderson set forth the rules for the followers of the FSM, “Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia.”
This hit the internet through Henderson’s website and in a way only the internet can, it made him an instant celebrity. Atheists all over the world began to adopt the Flying Spaghetti Monster, dress as pirates and call themselves Pastafarians. They greet one another with a “May you be touched by His noodley appendage.”
For the record, the proper response is, “Ra’amen.”
I love these Pastafarians. Deeply. It’s why I go to their meetings, make friends with them and listen to the stories of how they became atheists. I speak at their events to tell them why I think God exists and the story of how He fully identified by becoming a man. They be my mates, arrgh.
This, I tell people in my car, is why these buttons are here.
I usually get a few different reactions that range from wide-eyed stares to the one person who bluntly asked me, “Why?”
I’m pretty used to these reactions. A few years ago, I might have reacted in the same way. It does seem odd that a minister spends his time with people who completely disagree with him about the nature of reality. Not only that, but also many of them view my profession as being just above a snake oil salesman at a traveling carnival.
Why, people wonder, would I even bother?
I understand these reactions. It runs contrary to human nature to hang out with people who dislike what we hold dear. It’s one thing for a Cardinals and Cubs fans to be friends (as odd as that arrangement would be to my ears). It’s only baseball after all. There are even marriages that make such an arrangement work.
Belief in God is way more personal and close to the heart of who we are as human beings. To be friends and love people who don’t believe the deep things of our hearts seems impossible.
Christians have to understand that is exactly what the Lord calls us to do. And we don’t have to look far. A recent Pew survey told us that nearly sixteen percent of the population describe themselves as either unaffiliated or nonreligious. Now that doesn’t mean that all of them are atheists, but other stats tell us that a large majority of that sixteen percent either outright don’t believe in God or are at least doubtful of His existence. The Secular Student Alliance, the national atheist student group, reports that their groups have almost tripled since the organization started in 2001. Atheist signs are appearing on billboards, buses and even park benches.
It’s very likely there are some people among your friends, family or neighbors who are closet atheists. They are in the closet for some good reasons. A survey taken just after 9/11 showed that people don’t trust atheists at all. In fact, radical Muslims were higher on the scale. Whenever atheists speak on news shows, they are treated with contempt, anger and are not taken very seriously.
I’m talking to you Bill O’Reily.
I think this is because most people, Christians and non-Christians, have a warped picture of atheists. I have heard comments like, “Atheists are ungodly reprobates,” “They are destroying America’s Christian ways.” “They are arrogant. They are rude. They are always in your face.”
On and on it goes.