The preliminary diagnosis is likely thyroid trouble, potential liver disease. They did some initial tests, and we should hear something by Monday (including whether more tests or needed). I was worried about the stress of the trip (she never leaves the apartment, which speaking purely from a square footage perspective, isn't exactly Xanadu -- the stately home of Charles Foster Kane or the roller disco rink, either one is huge by comparison -- and she's never been comfortable in the car), but she handled the whole thing with aplomb, including the heart stopping moment when a huge, overly friendly dog stuck his face up against her cage (she's never seen one before -- at least, not since she was a kitten living on the street). Even in moments of acute anxiety, Riley adheres to the motto, "Never Let 'Em See You Sweat, Because You're a Cat And Don't Actually Have Sweat Glands, So That Would Be Weird, Although Nothing Like That 132-lb Scrotum."
We're going to keep the Beg-A-Thon going for a few more days, since the estimate for additional tests (if necessary) and treatment are slightly beyond what we have on hand, so if you were planning to kick in a few bucks but didn't want to look like a Johnny-Come-Lately, have no fear, Operators are still standing by.
Now, on to this week's Slab O' Swank, originally published on October 11, 2005.
Yes, welcome to the new reality series "One Wish," which is a lot like "Three Wishes," except that it isn't heartwarming, it doesn't feature Amy Grant, and instead of picking the three most deserving people in some podunk town and making their wishes come true, we choose somebody who's obviously going to hell, and focus on one of his comments to give him something that he doesn't actually care that much about.
Our first contestant is Brad, a bright, young college student whose hobbies include blogging, mockery, and Marie Jon' baiting. Now, here's his wish:
I really wish Pastor Swank wrote more about his family- it's always ten times more interesting than the Gurdons or Lileks. I mean, you've got demon infestation, you've got gang wars, you've got God striking grandmothers with strokes... it's a virtual cornucopia-o-wackiness every day at the Swank household.
Brad, while we can't make Pastor Swank write more about his family, we can point out some of the stories he's already shared. Will that be good enough for you, you Gnat-hating bastard?
In any case, let's let listen as the Pastor commiserates with Jeb Bush about his criminal offspring, and tells the Dominionists at the Chalcedon Foundation about his own wayward, adopted, multi-racial son (whose name is Jay, BTW).
I am a dad. My adopted multi-racial son came into our loving family at 2 l/2 months. In his mid-teens, he let loose with the underground culture of drugs and violence.
That led to 5 years in federal prison.[...]How many days did I go about my ministerial obligations with a numb head?
Brad, the pastor asked you a question! (Here's a hint: if Y = all the days that Swank went about his ministerial obligations, then X has to be equal to or lesser than Y).
But on to the conclusion of the story:
What a dark day it was for my wife and me to sit in court while our son — tall, handsome, talented — stood there in his orange outfit and ankles in shackles, being sentenced — rightfully so — to a prison house?
And then to read about it in the two city newspapers? Hard stuff.
Unfortunately, upon his release, he went back to the underground. That's the magnet that "is out there." I have concluded that for now he has traded in his caring family for the mayhem culture.
Brad, here's another math question for you: how many mayhem cultures can you get in trade for one caring Swank family?
I understand that my son was to be sentenced after being apprehended for breaking his parole. But no detail has come through yet.
I am not all that anxious to grub about for the specifics. My nerves have been through enough hell pockets on this score. I will await the picture to come in more clearly in time.
In the meantime, my heart goes out to Jeb and all the others who try to sleep at night but have a hard time of because one of the "little ones" grown taller has been put away.
What a heart-rending story: a Christian father who did everything he could for his son (but who can't be blamed if his offspring went astray, because the kid wasn't his own blood, and was multi-racial, which inclined him towards a life of crime). And yet the father stuck by the kid (when it didn't bother his hell-pocketed nerves) even after adoptee rightfully went to prison. In fact, the Swank story is much more dramatic than the one about Jeb Bush and his druggie daughter (or any Bush family member and any of the other law-breaking members of the clan).
However, this isn't the only version Swank's story of his ungrateful adopted son. For instance, in I Believe in Miracles: The Suitcase, we learn that the kid was only bi-racial.
Interestingly enough, in a July 2005 column, the adopted son is black, and therefore evidence that the Pastor "has no bias" when he claims that it's time for "the moral blacks to back a moral US President George W. Bush." And in an August 2005 piece, Swank cites an adopted black son who is now in his mid-20's as proof that some of his best friends are black, and so we should listen to him when he says that, "A black cannot be a Bible-carrying, Sunday school attending, worshiping Christian and at the same time undercut the Oval Office that stands for what that black says he believes on the Lord’s Day."
While all this doesn't clarify the racial heritage of this child who was unfortunate enough to be adopted by the Pastor, it does help to explain why the kid would want to rebel against his adoptive father and all he stood for.
But in any case, let's examine the part of the Suitcase Miracle story which tells how Pastor Swank learned of his son's affiliation with the Maine faction of the Crips, and how the Pastor fought against this menace to his home:
I first came to know that he belonged to The Crips when I noted burn marks on his bedroom door frame. He took matches, lighted them, and then burnt gang symbols into the woodwork.
I was not at all pleased, naturally. Yet it was not only the damage to the woodwork but the fact that he had joined up with a killing gang that prodded me to wonder what my life had been yanked into.
But the damage to the woodwork was the main concern. (And If you're like me, you probably don't feel that the kid's bona fides as a gangbanger have been proven by his door frame etchings).
But on to the way this Godly parent fought back:
One day when he walked through the family room door with a young low-life from the city, I heard them whispering in his bedroom. That room was way down the hall. I couldn’t make out what they were saying. He always whispered. That made me very angry. I did not like this stranger living in my house.
So I sat in the rocker in the living room. I read aloud the entire Book of Revelation — from first to last. I read it aloud. I read it so loud that it embarrassed the two of them at the end of the hall. But it was my house and I could read the Bible at a high pitch if I wanted to. I could even read it for two hours straight if I wanted to. So that day I wanted to. And I did.
And yet, strangely enough, that didn't make the kid see the error of his ways -- and you'd think that his kind of thing would make him see that religion is a lot more fun than hanging out with kids his own age.
So, where does the Miracle of the Suitcase come in?
Well, I knew that I was not ready to die at his hands. His head, after all, was nuts. His soul was blackened by the devil. He was out of control with drugs and mayhem, alliances with criminals in the city, hooked on violent videos and movies, and liaisons at one house or another night after night in his runaways.I was not going to walk into his crazed path if he decided to snuff out my life. So I packed a suitcase. It was there just in case. I put only the basics in it. If I ever had to flee in a second’s notice, I could grab it. I hid it so that it would be near the escape.
I then planned the route to get to the bus station. And after that, I had several choices, none of which was convenient. But at least it would keep me alive. I had to stay alive. This adolescent who had lost it was not going to do me in. If his mother would stand in his bloody way, that was her choice. But my choice was to stay alive.
So, Swank has an adolescent son who uses drugs, whispers with his friends, and uses matches to make marks (which the Pastor can't interpret, but knows that they are proof of his son's gang involvement) on the door frame, watches violent videos, and has a soul which has been blackened by Satan. And this boy may kill his father. But the Pastor has a righteous plan to deal with all of this: he will skip town if things actually get dangerous, leaving his wife to be murdered by this bad seed.
See, those are the kind of family values that the Bush administration is all about.
Suffice it to say that through many more dark chapters than there is space here to relate, he turned 18. "This is the happiest birthday of my life," I told him. I knew that henceforth he would talk to the cops straight on. I no longer had to be his legal intermediary.
Yes, the day when one can wash one's hand of one's disappointing offspring IS the happiest day of one's life.
Then it was that he committed the crime that sentenced him to years in several federal prisons — Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan. I wrote him a letter every day. I visited him several times a year — though hundreds of miles separated us.
When he went to prison, I then lifted my suitcase and unpacked it. I thanked God that I never had to use it. To me, that was a miracle.
Yes, the miracle is that the kid got sent to prison before he could murder his Dad. What a touching and inspiring story!
But wait, there's more to the tale! It seems that the kid was innocent of the crime which sent him to federal prison (which makes his Dad's rejoicing about the kid's incarceration, and the claim that the punishment was "rightful," seem kind of odd).
From another Chalcedon Foundation column, we learn that as of Dec, 2002, Pastor Swank was claiming the following:
He was being sentenced for a crime he did not commit. He would end up in a federal prison for several years. Two other youths framed him, naming him in order to let a third youth go free.
But the Pastor stuck by him, visiting him often and writing him daily letters, and the story had a happy ending after all.
Our prayers were eventually rewarded by Jay, in prison, giving his life to Jesus. That, of course, made all the sorrowing worth it.
I hate to interject some skepticism into such a faith-promoting story of a wayward (but innocent) son who finds Jesus in prison, but as we learned from the first Chalcedon column (dated Oct. 2002), after Jay was released, he broke parole,"went back to the underground," and was facing re-arrest. So, maybe the sorrowing wasn't worth it after all.
A 1999 column ("A Father's Love") which the Pastor wrote for the 7th Day Adventist magazine also claims that Jay was incarcerated "for a crime he did not commit," and also concludes with an inspiring message about how being behind bars taught the young man to appreciate his family, and learn to love God with all his heart. It's a lot better story than the February 2005 " I Believe in Miracles (4)" column about Jay, which indicates that Jay was a horrible son, but includes no mention of him being a gangbanger -- nor of doing any decorating with matches.
I never dreamt that life could be so bleak. Hardly a day went by that Jay did not plunge us into confusion and pain. He would knock holes in walls, throw furniture across the room, and bash in a door, scowl and curse.
While the scowling is incriminating, without the match marks and the Pastor's fear for his life, this Miracle story is just not as compelling as the Miracle of the Suitcase. But it does include a passage where the Pastor blames Jay's imprisonment on his own sin(which, once again, seems odd, since we have it on good authority that the kid is innocent), and it gives us a coda to the whole Jay saga:
“Your sin put you in jail,” I wrote him. “The devil paid you with his salary check of death.”
Jay served his time, married, and now has a daughter and son.
So, I guess that whole parole violation thing worked itself out -- and we see that the Pastor was smart not to put his mind through hell pockets worrying about it.
But after reading all about Jay, I still have some questions: such as, does Jay really exist, or did Pastor Swank just make him up, like many of the events and stories in Meghan Gurdon's columns?
Next Time: Why can't the pastor hold a job?
Is it because his supervisors hate him because he's a man of God?
Nevertheless, having a Masters of Divinity degree plus decades of pastoral experience was written on my application. She read it. She did not like it. Therefore, she worked to get rid of me.
Is it because he shows up everyone else by doing his job so well?
Now what follows is the old injustice of a person doing the job so well that he gets fired.
Is it because he bravely stands up for unfairly accused "heroine" addicts?
I was dazed, walked out of the office to the next counseling room where Sue sat. "Sue, I’ve just been fired. I don’t know why. I didn’t do anything wrong except say that I could not be party to what was going on. I felt Jack mistreated Sarah. He should not have said the things to her that he said. She’s an addict in recovery. She’s under enough stress as it is."
Is it because he's a principled whistle blower?
I phoned the state health department about horrific food conditions. They promised to make their surprise visit to the building to check things out.So, in short, the review was made and I left that employ.
Is it because of treacherous colleagues and power-hungry superiors?
This is the man who in 1991 was told by another pastor that I had said concerning the superintendent, "We’ve got to get rid of him." I had never said that. That was a lie manufactured by another minister. But the superintendent believed the lie, never finding out the truth by asking me about that statement. From the lie-moment onward, the superintendent sought how to get rid of me.[...]That city pastor told them they would have to pay $400 rental. He then told me I had to support him in that figure. ... That man never let me forget the fact that I would not bow down to his dictate. When he came into the superintendency, he followed through with my ousting.
Or is it because of demons?
The demons crawled our church walls. Then I knew what the missionaries were talking about. They said they were attacked by devils on the mission field. Sometimes it was a witchdoctor. Other times it was the invisible spirits. But devils they were. And those agents were after blood.
YOU make the call!