Pastor Ted gets an unexpected competitor 

Ranger Rich

I don't consider myself an evangelist or even particularly religious. But sometimes I'm overcome by such passion that I drop to my knees and cry out, "Jesus Christ," and I don't care who hears me.

It happened just the other day. Then I leaped to my feet and twirled around and around, my hands high over my head toward the clouds, summoning a voice from deep in my soul and bellowing not only the name of our savior but also giving him the middle initial H. Then I beseeched Mary and Joseph, too — doing it all in a loud, piercing shriek, as if I wanted all of the apostles and saints in all the heavens to hear me.

On a less positive note, I've now been banned from that golf course for the rest of my life.

(It was my own fault. A lot of guys take 16 swings at the $%^&* ball in a sand trap and handle it better than I did. All I'm saying is that if a golf course is going to host the Nuns of St. Bernardine Tournament, it might not hurt to put up a sign to let the rest of us know.)

Here's my point: I don't think I'm qualified to be a pastor or spiritual leader. But I do believe I'm qualified to help people. And so today I announce that I'm forming a new church.

If that sounds like Ted Haggard's proclamation from a week ago, well, it is. He said that same "I'm not qualified to be a pastor or spiritual leader" thing to reporter Bill Forman for the Indy's story, about how a dramatic return to the pulpit awaits the former New Life Church wizard.

And by wizard, I mean Ted can make things disappear. An example would be his own hand under another guy's shower towel.

Some background: Haggard built himself a terrific nonprofit tax shelter — uh, I mean church — on the "north end" or "religious wing-nut section" of our village. By 2005 the non-denominational, step-right-up-and-see-the-elephants New Life Church, with its flashing stage lights and booming speakers, claimed some 14,000 members, people who couldn't seem to find anything they liked in any of the dozens of recognized major world religions.

(Personal note: I once dabbled in the actual religion of Juche, a North Korean form of Marxist Communism that claims 19 million followers. Ultimately, though, I was unable to choose between Orange Juche and Apple Juche.)

But then 2006 came. And, according to a gay masseur in Denver, so did Ted.

Masseur Mike Jones said Ted had been a regular customer and the two frequently shook hands, although only one hand was involved ... uh, that instead of another hand they held onto ... ummmm, it was like holding a big candle. Except it wasn't a candle. You know?

The point here is that from what I understand, Ted and Mike could have started a handyman business.

Ted at first denied everything, then admitted many of the allegations were true, including his purchase of crystal meth, although he said he threw the drug out of his car window. Which explains all the desperate-looking deer in our village standing by the sides of our roadways, waiting for Ted to come by again and "feed them."

Ted was banished to Arizona by the all-forgiving Christian folks at New Life Church. There, Ted was routinely strip-searched by Arizona law enforcement officials under terms of that state's immigration law. Earlier this year, Ted was sentenced to life in an Arizona prison after admitting that as a child he enjoyed the TV cartoon series Speedy Gonzales ("The fastest mouse in all of Mexico").

OK, I made that part up. Actually, Ted is back in town and has started, in his barn, the St. James Church, which is — and this comes as quite a shock — a nonprofit. (Historical note: St. James was the brother of John the Evangelist. They were called by Jesus as they worked in a fishing boat, cleaning pelicans of the oil spilled into the Sea of Galilee by those bastards at British Petroleum.)

Ted's church will even have a religious lottery in which all the suckers, I mean followers, give a percentage of their earnings to his church. Each week one follower will be chosen at random to receive 10 percent of the total weekly offerings. For more information, go to Godhasapyramidscheme.com.

My new church, by the way, is also a nonprofit and will be called the Church of St. Joseph the Worker — named for Mary's husband, who taught his son, Jesus, to work as a carpenter. My followers will meet each Saturday morning at my place until my new deck is finished. Each week, one lucky follower will be chosen at random to wash my car.

And just so there's no conflict with Ted's new church, we've agreed to split up some of the big days. I get Easter, in which the body of the crucified Jesus was placed in a cave and three days later people rolled back the giant rock and Jesus emerged, saw his shadow and pronounced six more weeks of winter.

Ted, of course, gets Palm Sunday.


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