Podcast 029: I Thought You Were a Christian Organization!

In This Episode: Two segments of No Longer Weird to catch up a little, and one of the most ridiculous reader complaints about a story EVER (and my response). There’s a twist at the end: even in this kind of hilarity, there’s a real lesson to be learned about The Human Condition, supplied by an amazing reader letter.

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Welcome to Uncommon Sense, the Podcast companion to the ThisIsTrue.com newsletter with the mission to promote more thinking in the world. I’m Randy Cassingham.

A special episode this week to show that my rants don’t have to be angry, and can indeed be hilarious.

But first, it’s been a few weeks since we’ve had a segment of No Longer Weird, so let’s do two of those to catch up a bit.

The first story type that’s No Longer Weird: ordinary people who try to hire a hitman to kill a loved one, and of course the hitman is an undercover police officer, who arrests the obliviot who thinks it’s easy to find a professional who carries a sniper rifle in a briefcase, and is willing to hire themselves out to just anyone for a few hundred dollars.

Now, it’s true that I have run several of these stories over the years, but you wouldn’t believe how many I see in the news every year. I pass by an amazing number of them.

As I’ve said all along on these No Longer Weird entries, just the bare fact that someone tries to do this isn’t weird anymore, in part because the story is so common. Yet, if there’s something really good about the story that really makes it stand out, then it gets featured in True.

For example, in 2016, Andrew Gordon, 53, of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, tried to hire a hitman to kill his wife. As usual, the hitman was actually an undercover cop, a state trooper, and Gordon was arrested. While in jail, Gordon tried to get out of trouble by offering another inmate, a gang member, $15,000 to kill the state trooper and another witness in the case against him. Of course, the “gang member” was …an undercover police officer, and Gordon was arrested again. He was convicted in both cases. He was sentenced to 3–5 years in prison in the first case, and 20 years in prison for the second case.

Get this: Gordon was a financial planner. If he planned your finances, it would be a good idea to find someone else who actually knows how to make plans that actually work.

The story along this line that I saw recently, but passed on, was from Fairfax County, Virginia: a homeowner paid a contractor $41,000 for a remodeling job. The contractor did a little work, but didn’t complete the job, so the homeowner sued him. In an apparent attempt to get the suit dismissed, contractor Daniel Jamison hired a hitman to take the homeowner out. Naturally, the hitman was a cop, and Jamison was arrested. In court, Jamison cried for the judge, swearing he didn’t really mean it, and would never hurt anyone. The judge replied, “I don’t believe a word of your story,” and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. I’ll link to the story on the Show Page, but it just didn’t have a twist to make it past the cut as I was reviewing stories to use — not even his statement to the supposed hitman, “I can give you the layout of the f-ing house like nobody’s business,” including where there was a safe stuffed with cash and valuables. A safe that didn’t actually exist in the house.

So again, hiring a hitman that turns out to be a cop is No Longer Weird …unless there’s a great twist to the story to make it extra entertaining.

The second No Longer Weird category this week shows that weird stuff happens so often to become No Longer Weird everywhere — not just in the United States. This one happened in Sweden Denmark: it’s when a criminal jumps into a taxi …that happens to actually be a police car, and the cops catch him with enough evidence to link him to some sort of crime. In Copenhagen, it was a drug dealer who had, police say, “around” a thousand joints of marijuana on him. I’ve seen similar cases when a bank robber tried to use a cab for his getaway and it was a police car, and he was caught with the loot, and other examples. Sometimes it’s a regular police cruiser, sometimes it’s an unmarked car with detectives, but unless there’s some sort of twist, it’s now officially No Longer Weird. I’ll put a link to that one on the Show Page too.

You can find the complete list of No Longer Weird items at thisistrue.com/nlw (for No Longer Weird).

So let’s get to the fun little rant this week. One of the most hilarious letters of complaint True has ever received was generated by a story way back in the 6 July 2003 issue. I’ll start with the story, and then read you the ridiculous complaint about that story. And then, of course, tell you my response to that letter — my little rant that was so fun to write, I could hardly stop laughing.

The story is called “Down Under”:

Remington is introducing its Bikini Trim and Shape electric razor in the U.K. The razor, which was previously introduced to the U.S. market, is specifically designed for women to use to shape their pubic hair. According to the company, their market research found that 79 percent of women shaved off part or all of their pubes, and 36 percent trimmed their hair into a specific design, such as a heart or their partner’s initial.

And my tagline on the story: “In block letters, or Braille?”

The one complaint came from Jeff in Washington — a Youth Pastor at a First Baptist church, who actually sent his complaint from his church-issued email address. He says:

I am totally offended by this article. What purpose does it serve? I subscribed to your newsletter under the belief that you were a Christian organization sharing bizarre but true stories. I have occasionally used a story as an illustration during a youth lesson and directed my students to your web site. I am now shocked and embarrassed by what I have directed teenagers to. These teenagers trust me and look to me for spiritual guidance, not for stories concerning peoples private body parts. Church leaders are in a constant battle with the internet and entertainment industry for the attention of the people God has put in our care. When I find something enlightening and uplifting to pass on to my students I do so hoping it may direct them away from some of the negative influences of this world not to articles about pubic hair. I hope I never see another article like this in your newsletter.

After I stopped rolling around the floor laughing like a maniac, I researched Jeff’s subscription: when he wrote, he had been a subscriber for more than four months, so he should have been quite well versed in what True is about — weird-but-true news items. Frankly, I think the concept of women shaving their lover’s initials into their crotch is reasonably weird, especially since “R” (my initial) would be pretty hard to do well. Anyway, how could someone read True for more than four months and not understand that “ThisisTrue.Inc” isn’t a Christian missionary organization?!

In his very first issue, the headline of the week was “Whoopee? Oopsie! Honk If the Dealership Used Your Car for Sex”! Since then, the stories in the free edition have included:

  • High School staff says principal threatened to kill them, broadcasted gospel music and sermons from his office, claimed the school was possessed by demons, bragged of having a weapons cache, and threatened suicide.
  • A story about a new coffee house in Alabama called “Bad Ass Coffee Shop” that caused outrage over its name. Many reader letters followed about that, as well as another story in the same issue about a restaurant called “C.O. Jones” (say it with an accent: cojones — get it? If not, their slogan, “Ballsy Mexican cuisine,” ought to help). The restaurant’s owner called the name “a great marketing tool.”
  • A 15-year-old patient hires a prostitute to visit him in the ward at a children’s hospital. (Oh yeah, that’s an uplifting, churchy item! At least it’s about a youth of the age that Jeff probably sees in his church on Wednesday nights!)
  • Southwest Airlines fires flight crew for making flight …uh… “out of uniform” (if you know what I mean — nudge-nudge, wink-wink!)

And …well, you get the idea. Not to mention various letters from readers about my Get Out of Hell Free cards, stickers and t-shirts, which some fundamental Christians have condemned as “anti-Christian” — and others have embraced with wide grins, from Free Methodist ministers to priests at the Vatican.

Naturally, there were scores of other, less controversial stories during that time. In short, True covers the full gamut of human weirdness, including sex, since obviously humans act pretty weirdly in their pursuit of horizontal rock and roll. So how in the world could a youth pastor think that True is a church publication? Because he doesn’t read it. Not carefully, anyway: he’s going around telling his teens (who, he may be shocked to learn, also have “private body parts” and, I’m sure, many of whom shave unwanted hair), and telling them that True is a great publication. And you know what? It is! That’s why many hundreds of priests, ministers, preachers and other men, and women, of the cloth subscribe, including many to the expanded Premium edition. They get to stay in touch with what regular people are doing out in The World, and they get real life examples of lessons learned, or not!, to use in their sermons. Not to mention they get to be entertained in the process.

And yet, when the guy finally does read an issue, he has the gall to complain to me that he made an error in assuming that it’s a church bulletin?! Even though he’s read it closely enough now and then to have, as he says, “occasionally used a story as an illustration during a youth lesson”? Astounding. So here’s a guy who thinks he’s “watching out” for today’s youth, yet so irresponsible that he doesn’t have any clue about whether a publication he’s been recommending is sacred or secular. Yeah, there’s a role model for you. What do you want to bet that the teens in his group laugh at his cluelessness behind his back as much as I am? Except I do it in front of his front — I sure hope he has all of his parts covered.

As I told Jeff when I replied to his note, the only way for him to “never see another article like this in my newsletter” is to unsubscribe. I’ll link to the original page about this on the Show Page; it has a lot of great reader letters responding to Jeff, including from other youth pastors who have a clue.

And I have to read to you just one of those letters. Leni in California says:

I have to comment about Jeff’s letter. It is this attitude — that body parts and sex is not to be talked about — that has allowed pedophile priests (and others) to get away with their crimes for so long. The young victims have been taught not to say anything about such matters. They believe they are to blame for what has happened to them. Whatever damage they made have suffered from molestation is greatly increased by feelings of guilt and the inability to express what they feel. Because even talking about it would be wrong!! And the Church would rather put more children at risk than admit that a priest could do such things!!

Now that’s thinking about the real issues involved. Leni also noted that he is close to such a victim, so unfortunately he really knows what he’s talking about.

That’s it for this week, and a great example of what True is really about: the issues raised by these stories are not just social commentary, they’re not just “Thought-Provoking Entertainment,” but they’re about the human condition, whether the subject is sex, or religion, or anything in-between.

If you have a story to tell about people who dare to tell you how to live your life, but have no clue whatever about the real world, comments are open on the Show Page at thisistrue.com/podcast29.

And if you’re not already a subscriber to the This is True text newsletter, get thee to the web site and sign up, for God’s sake! There’s a form for that on every page at thisistrue.com.

I’m Randy Cassingham… and I’ll talk at you later.

[Easter Egg: an alarm on my phone alerted me to WHAT? And yes, I bleeped my resulting expletive — there are ministers listening!]

Originally posted 1 February 2018

5 thoughts on “Podcast 029: I Thought You Were a Christian Organization!

  1. Thanks for the laughs this week Randy. Loved the, er, “Private Body Parts” story. I had no idea that shapes were so popular! Just a thought a lower case letter r is not all that hard. Just trying to help you out there with Kit.

    I don’t think there’s any safe reply to that…. -rc

  2. How, I wonder, could Jeff in Washington have thought This Is True was specifically Christian? Seriously, religious publications are like religious buildings — they tend to have a certain set of traits in the decor which are hard to overlook.

    So, did Jeff actually unsubscribe?

    Not to mention the wide variety of stories I covered, as the original post notes. Indeed he was thoughtless. I never did hear from him again, and so don’t know when he left TRUE’s distribution (no one at the church’s domain is on distribution now) — or the church. (I just now went to the church’s web site and searched for his surname, and found no hits.) -rc

  3. No mention of him on the church website? The amature author in me wants to weave an elaborate conspiricy story around that little mystery.

    The realist in me guesses that he just moved on to some other church.

    Or my guess: he realized he had no clue and got out of the business. (Well, I can hope, anyway!) -rc

  4. Excellent podcast, Randy.

    I must agree that the hypocrisy of so many who profess to be all about “truth” and “righteousness” while they hide the evils committed in the name of their faith because it might be embarrassing or hurtful is appalling.

    One question, though…wouldn’t being “behind someone’s back” actually be in front of them? If you’re standing behind someone, you’re actually in front of their back. Confusing! 😉

    Keep up the great work!

    After reading your question, my head hurts — especially in the front. -rc

  5. Do you have a policy of correcting (or not correcting) errors in peoples’ letters? There are a couple of errors in the “Leni in California” quote. I’m only too well aware that typing out an email (like this) typos can get left in.

    Helping a friend put up the contents of old sf fanzines on a web site — he has the policy of correcting errors (except when made deliberately) as he thinks (and I agree with him) that’s what the original author would want.

    I can see people boggling at “errors (except when made deliberately)”. If it’s deliberate it can’t be an error… but such words as “smoooooth” (of bourbon) would be an example, whereas “made” (should be “may”) are “real” errors!

    When I see an obvious “auto-correct” error or fumble-fingering, I’ll usually fix that. But I try not to “fix the way someone talks” — their manner of speech, if you will. I’m a little unclear about what “errors (except when made deliberately)” refers to. -rc

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