Year of Sundays

Year of Sundays

Gimme that old time religion

NoPo's First A.M.E. Zion Church

I’ll be honest, I had HIGH expectations for this church. I had my mouth watered for audaciously be-feathered hats, jerry curl, purple pin-striped suits and the kind of fire and brimstone that would make my grandmother weep for my poor, deranged soul. I wanted to feel under-dressed and over-analyzed.

Of course I got none of that, but what I did get was a thousand times better.


I got an organist who belted out “That Old Time Religion” for her father, who would’ve been 100 years old that week had he still been alive.

I got a scrappy, pitchy church choir who backed her up like their very salvation depended upon it.

I got children talking and laughing and crying during the sermon, the plastic butterfly barrettes at the ends of their cornrows clinking like music boxes as they bounced on their granddaddies’ laps.

I got an awkward 14-year-old boy whose parents were no where to be found, bracing himself for a gut-wrenching solo, in spite of the fact that the 8-year old girl who followed him could play that out-of-tune piano much better than he could.

I got the feeling I could live another 100 years and never see anything so magnificently vulnerable for the rest of my life.


I got the thunder of buses going by on the street behind us.

I got the feeling that we were all alone in the pews, until that first altar-prayer ended and a good 50% of the parishioners straggled in 20 minutes late, including the preacher himself and most of the choir.

I got the idea that I’d need to gain about 100 pounds before they could find a choir robe to fit me.

I got a serious need to look on e-bay for a fan with the holy father printed on it.

I got it.

If you want to feel God in your bones and in the pit of your stomach and all the way down to the soles of your feet, THIS is the church where you belong on Sundays. Unfortunately, I can’t feel God at all, so I just got to sit there in slack-jawed awe of everyone else who could.


The beautiful simplicity with which these people handed their lives over to a greater power filled my greasy, grimy, gopher guts with envy. I didn’t grow up with faith, so I can’t grok it on even the most basic level. I could no sooner take that leap than jump across the Grand Canyon. I often explain my godlessness exactly that way, particularly when zealots are trying to convert me. “What would it take for you to STOP believing in God?” I ask. “Well that canyon is just as wide no matter which side of it you’re standing on.”

This church made me want to back up, plant my feet hard and take a running leap. It was religion from the inside out, from the bottom up. The fact that the sermon was all about saying YES and facing your fears didn’t hurt this church’s appeal. Not at all. If I had so much as a Mr. Gadget’s clue how to pronounce the word correctly, I’d have been hallelujahing right along with the rest of them.


My favorite part came at the end, when a procession of tall, proud, perfectly-groomed black men and women rose from the pews to pay their tithes. The clang of their pocket change hitting that brass collection bowl resonated with something deep and glorious inside of me.

Not God. Or religion. Or faith. Or even spirituality, but something far more enviable: LOVE.

I wanted to heed that preachers’ words:


See, I had something burning a hole in my pocket too. Three little words I’d been itching to spend for weeks.

But I was terrified to utter them because the last time I told a man I loved him, he said it back to me, came, and then… went. I never saw him again.

But FEAR NOT, the presiding prelate had reassured me, he is with you.


Emboldened by the sermon, I spent that Sunday aching to finally get the weight of those words off my tongue.

I wanted to tell him when we sat in my car after the service and hatched the idea for this blog.

I wanted to tell him again at the Little Big Burger counter after we finished our truffle fries and he was spoon-feeding me a rootbeer float.

And how perfect would it have been to say it as we kissed in the crosswalk while waiting for the street light to change in front of Powell’s City of Books?

Or when he stuck his beautiful bald head in my car window to kiss me goodbye that crisp sunny afternoon?

I didn’t work up the nerve to finally say it until almost midnight and by then we were sweaty and out of breath from using our bodies instead of our words to show each other exactly how we felt.

That preacher had said, “Fear can make an honest man crooked.”

But he had no idea how frightening it can be when love turns a crooked woman straight.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted September 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Thanks, Sam. That was a beautiful comment. Portland, Oregon might be the most liberal town on the West Coast, but it’s also the WHITEST town on the West Coast. It’s actually one of the least diverse cities in all of the United States and no matter how open-minded we try to be, it still feels somewhat hypothetical in the big scheme.

I also agree with you that Joel and I should have stopped arguing from the start. It got ugly and I’m still embarrassed about it.

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posted September 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm

As a black male who grew up in Portland and attended both a small, storefront black church as a kid and a large, upscale white church as a teenager, then moved away to a bigger city after college, I can honestly say I don’t see anything overtly racist or harmfully stereotypical at all. (And no people of Portland this does not mean that just because a black man says he’s not offended by this, it’s acceptable. I know how you people work…lol).

The reality is Portland is a cultured city in some respects, but a very backwoods city in others. Thus when it comes to race relations, I would give Portland a C. Reason being is that it’s a place where liberalism and open mindedness abounds, but actual knowledge, understanding and interactions with people of the opposite race is very limited. In Portland you have native Oregonians who grew up with their VW vans and pot smoking hippie parents or free-spirited transplants who escaped the oppressive conservative ways of the South or Midwest, but either way you have people who just lack an understanding of real black cultural experiences. And it doesn’t help that there is a majority black population in Portland that lives up to stereotypes and fails to reach across the aisle as well and get to know white culture and understand the lives and minds of white people. This is generally because anytime an educated black man ventures into “white Portland” they are often called “uncle Tom’s” or “sellouts”. But I digress.

My overall point is for all the liberal thinking, open minded beliefs, and free-spirited ways, Portland is a racially divided place. Not with overt racism or intentional hate/bigotry, but with a lack of understanding or even a willingness to try and understand. The people of Portland like the thought of cultural diversity, they just don’t like the reality of it.

So I don’t fault either Amanda or Joel for making statements that can be easily misconstrued. I don’t believe for a second it was intentional. What I do fault you guys for is trying to defend this post and arguing with people who disagree with you. If you know in your heart that no ill will was meant, then no need to apologize or discuss the matter just let the people speak their minds and move on.

And I do give you a cheers for even venturing into a predominately black church and taking the risk of being ostracized by those who think there is something “weird” or “off” about white people going to a black church and blogging about it. When I was growing up, no white people ever came inside our church (which was on the corner of Albina and Killingsworth…which I think is part of PCC now).

So hopefully all of us will take one important lesson out of this post and the heated reactions it generated, and that is this: Differences abound and regardless of how open-minded or accepting we think we are, the reality is we all base our beliefs and judgments about things on what we know and how we grew up. The key to bringing peace and avoiding hatred and discourse to acknowledge that fact, to accept that we have stereotypes and misunderstanding about other people, other cultures, other religions and other races. And there is no shame in hiding that fact. So rather than get hot and bothered over how someone else thinks or believes different than we do, try to bridge the gap by reaching out to them and showing them that just because I am a black male or white female doesn’t mean I live or act this way. We should be defined by our mind, our actions, and our beliefs. Not by our background or our skin color.

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posted May 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

“it’s ugly to walk around looking for ugliness in others. You’re obviously going to find it, even it when it doesn’t exist.”

I find this to be exactly what Amanda and Joel are doing. It’s funny she defined herself so well while attempting to refute Rose. Their first and foremost mission is to find the “ugliness” in each church. Give a long list of insults and criticism- when called out on it they attack or refer to some small comment they made about love.

Having said that, I didn’t find the post particularly racist. Ignorant but not necessarily racist. Let’s face it. What kind of example are they to their kids? Remarks like “The 300lb Pastor” will only teach them to look at the outward person, not the soul inside. And I don’t give a rip if Amanda was extra large herself at one time. She of all people should understand discrimination-and the struggle to lose weight. Even more concerning is their open debauchery. glamorizing drunkenness and if not illicit then at least pornographic sex life.

Yes, I said pornographic. Near as I can tell there IS a certain class level- like it or not. If you don’t want to be labeled as low class, then don’t present yourselves as such. And certainly don’t expect your children to end up anything but. Or maybe that is your goal, it appears to be. Visiting seedy bars and swapping your latest sexcapades will be the extent of your life. You don’t seem to have high goals. This will only go so far and people will tire of your antics. Then you will go down in history as just another failed attempt to demoralize society.

For the record: A spiritual life (journey) is about your soul, your heart, about God and you. Not how you look, how you worship, what you eat. You got it all wrong from the top down.

P.S. Don’t shoot the messenger.

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posted February 25, 2011 at 10:47 am

Wow. That’s all I have to say in reference to all the racist accusations being bandied about. Until I read the comments after Amanda’s blog, I saw no racist comments, or derogatory suggestions in her blog at all. I thought it was fab!

Well done Amanda – I am new to your blogs, and playing catch up on this particular site, but I wanted to say congrats on a well-written, from the heart, entertaining piece. As for the (many) people you upset – you can’t please everyone all the time :-)

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posted February 24, 2011 at 4:19 am

you expected to see pin strip pimp suits and gheri curls??? you did realize this was a church and not a players ball??? you should have guessed better after not seeing cadillac and lincolns on 22s in the parking lot. i bet it was real dissapointing they didnt serve fried chicken and fruit punch afterwards. you are a joke. i might not call you racist but simpleton…you’ve got that in spades….,,,i bet i know what you thought of when i typed spades.

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Mary B.

posted February 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I hope it will! Sorry, I’m an emotional, pregnant buttinski. When I’m not pregnant I’m just a regular, run-of-the-mill buttinski. I was trying to think of a “bros before hos” or “sisters before misters” phrase that would fit the current situation but I’m not sure one exists when it’s a dude and a lesbian. I’ll get back to you.

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Joel Gunz

posted February 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Funnily enough, the phrase feminazi came up and Amanda decided against it. From where I sit, “militant lesbian” is no more or less inflammatory than accusations of ‘elitism’ and ‘white hetero privilege.’

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Joel Gunz

posted February 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I agree, Mary, it is a sad situation. As it happens, I have reached out to Rose and offered to sit down in person. I hope that that will lead to peace.

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Mary B.

posted February 20, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I have never commented on this blog or on Mandajuice but I just wanted to say that I think it’s really sad that a friendship is ending in such a public and insulting way, via BLOG COMMENTS. Yikes. I had a physical reaction to reading this exchange between Rose, Amanda and Joel. Maybe you should have all gone out for coffee and skipped the whole, ugly Comment Breakup. I realize that’s it’s 2011 and many people’s lives play out via social media but that is a bit much.

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posted February 20, 2011 at 3:46 am

Delurking to say I’m really enjoying the new site and this comment section has to be the very best ever. Smart enough to require attentive thought and then some. Thanks Amanda and Joel.

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posted February 19, 2011 at 5:46 pm

I was interested in reading more of your personal blog (always on the look out for interesting blogs) & this one–I find the concept interesting. I was quickly turned off by the personal fight in the comments and “militant lesbian” comment–it has the same effect on me that “feminazi” does. Once they start getting thrown around, there’s no point in sticking around for more. Too bad.

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Canadian Rachel

posted February 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm

(Something I discovered when I came to Canada is how many preconceptions about Canadians I had. For years, living here as a non-citizen, I felt comfortable making exactly one generalization about Canadians: Canadians hate it when anyone but other Canadians generalizes about Canadians. Now that I AM Canadian, I am privileged to add: if Canada likes you, Canada will claim you. I believe Michael J. Fox said something similar at the opening ceremony of the Olympics last year… ergo, it must be true!)

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Canadian Rachel

posted February 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Kay, I like you. I’m making you an honorary Canadian.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted February 19, 2011 at 10:38 am

Hee hee, Dale. I wrote this one. The left/right column thing isn’t working out like we’d hoped, but you can easily identify Joel’s columns as the ones with all the NICE comments on them.

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posted February 19, 2011 at 7:20 am

It’s weird how many commenters appear to have read this post as if trolling for instances of stereotypes to provoke their terrible, terrible outrage. Is there a firefox add-in that highlights these or something?

Whereas if you read the post in its entirety, and in the context of the blog of which it is a part, without the trolling-for-stereotypes filter, you see that dammnear every word Joel wrote was respectful. I would say his overall reaction comes across as one of awe.

Also, I’ll say it: who gives a shit if someone’s personal identity is bound up with a church? That imposes no duty on others. Nor does it make the church’s teachings right, or above criticism, or beyond the proper reach of snark. We have the right to disagree, and that comes with the obligation to expect the disagreements of others on matters large and small. We do NOT have the right to skate through life without ever being offended. We do NOT have the right to expect others to see the world as we see it or to stand back in silence if they don’t.

Great work, Joel. You truly opened my eyes a little bit here because I read your piece for meaning and for understanding, not in order to find axes to grind.

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Joel Gunz

posted February 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Malaysian! We are SO there!

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Canadian Rachel

posted February 17, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Anonymous: that’s an interesting example! You’re right, what you’ve written is very patronizing, and I hope everyone can see how. You’re basically saying: “You’re articulate — for a black man.” This is why I suggested that Amanda put more of herself into the piece, because it would be very different for you to be saying to Kay, “Your response moved me, and boy do I feel silly now.”

Because here’s the thing: is it wrong to make that initial admission of assumptions? If Amanda had said she went to the service with no preconceptions at all, would anyone believe her? Of course not. OUR preconception of Amanda is that she’s going to have preconceptions, like everybody else in the world. Honestly, I found myself scouring Kay’s post for “black” speech patterns. I caught myself doing it, scolded myself, and then caught myself again. Is it bad to admit that? Is it bad to say Kay, darling, if you’re still reading, that’s what happened and I feel like a doofus for it?

Everybody’s prejudiced. The trick is to look it in the eye, call it what it is, apologize where appropriate, and for fuck’s sake don’t make it the basis upon which you ACT.

I was going to address the word “simplicity” in the original post, except that Kay had dwelt on it so long and didn’t seem to mind it. That word has patronizing connotations: childlike, primitive. I think what she meant is something closer to “apparent ease” — and again, this is a place where a less ambiguous word would work wonders. As is, I think it does leave the question too open: does she mean these people are primitive in some way (even in some kind of Noble Savage way, even subconsciously?). I believe she didn’t intend that, but these things can leak out in ways we don’t intend. I gently point it out; then she can choose whether to keep it or not, with full knowledge of how it may be taken.

We can’t control people’s responses to our writing; all we can really do is say what we mean as honestly and precisely as we can.

Also, confidential to Joel: if you two ever get a wild hair to travel to Vancouver BC, look me up! I know the best, uh, playgrounds and Malaysian restaurants!

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posted February 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Anonymous, you are right as rain here! That’s EXACTLY what Amanda did in this post. The thing of it is, is that Joel and Amanda are just trying to stir up controversy. Amanda does it on her other blog and now they figure they they have the perfect subject to do that here because they can piss a lot of people off by going after their religions. Heck, they even cop to that themselves. They look at success as a high comment count. They think their popularity is soaring when their blog gets numerous hits. That’s what they are after here – numbers.

For them to say they are doing this because they are searching for that one church to place membership at and worship with every week is bull. They even say so themselves. Just look at their “Why” page. They said they are doing it for fun. As a break from sex, happy hour and hangovers. Because they want to write a book. Nothing in that says that they have a heartfelt yearning to find a permanent church home or because they are on a spiritual journey to better themselves.

Someone on a true spiritual journey doesn’t say they are going to church for a break from drinking and sex or because they are looking for a good time. Or, because they look at their spiritual journey as a money making prospect. A person on a true and authentic spiritual journey doesn’t have any of that in mind right from the start. They may journal while they are doing it and get to the end to the place they have worked hard to obtain and then look back and say, “maybe this could be published to help others”. They don’t set out with the intent of doing it to write a book. That is why this is all so disingenuous.

So, these two are as transparent as cellophane. All the commenters that have apparently pledged their undying love and support to Amanda (and by default now Joel – that is until the next boy comes along) have obviously left their ability to logically reason and see what is really going on here at the curb. Of course, these same commenters and Amanda and Joel will just call me a “hater” or a “troll” or “someone who only sees the ugly” because I didn’t jump on this phony bandwagon. Because their opinions are the only thing that counts and they go on the defensive if anyone disagrees with these opinions. I find that very telling because anyone that disagrees with them gets slammed. But anyone that agrees with them gets “amen’d”. So, the only opinions that really matter to Amanda and Joel are the ones that boost their massive egos. Typical!

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posted February 17, 2011 at 12:21 pm

There’s no connection between African-American culture and food that sticks to your ribs, per se.

However, in the context, soul food, comfort food, etc., is a big part of African-American culture.

Historically, high calorie stick-to-your ribs comfort food was important to slaves to help them get through the grueling physical labor. Since it was illegal to read and write, blacks had to pass recipes down orally.


One of the big, false assumptions that I often see in conversations like this is that stereotypes only count if they are ‘negative’.

But, even when the stereotypes are considered compliments by the speaker, and even when they are motivated by admiration or affection, they still serve to limit the described person to a caricature.

Let’s put this situation into a different context, and see how we feel about it.

Let me give a hypothetical response to Kay’s post above. I mean Kay no disrespect here.


When I saw in your first line that you mentioned that you are a black man, I was excited to read the rest of your comment. I was looking forward to reading some saucy, “urban” insults, some use of ebonics. I was hoping he might even ask people who were offended by the original blog post “whachoo talkin’ about!?!”

But when I read the comment, I got none of that.

You expressed yourself in clear, simple terms. I was very impressed with you as a proud, articulate black man.”

The question I have for anyone is, do you feel uncomfortable with this reply?

I know I felt very uncomfortable writing it, because even though after my initial paragraph I used only ‘compliments’, I still felt like I was dehumanizing and patronizing Kay.

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posted February 17, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I haven’t yet read all that’s here (I’m a slow reader, so bear with me) but I was very excited about the outline of this project. I live in New York City and switched from my conservative Presbyterian background to the Episcopal Church (with a few interesting side trips along the way.)

If you’re ever in New York City, you are most welcome to visit us at St. John’s in the Village (we’re on the corner of 11th Street and Waverly Place, just one block west of 7th Ave.)

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Joel Gunz

posted February 17, 2011 at 11:51 am

Oh, Rachel, when do I get to meet you and give you a great big, rib-sticking bear hug?

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posted February 17, 2011 at 10:42 am

Kay…..very nicely stated.

I am a white woman, single mother of two beautiful mixed race girls. I have seen racism from every possible direction. I have worked very hard to raise my kids with the understanding that color has absolutely nothing to do with who or what your are dealing with. Ignorance has no color

Observation is what it is….nothing more, nothing less. You cannot take it as a personal attack or you will spend the majority of your life upset with the world. You either agree with it or you don’t. But it does not make the observer racist when you don’t share their opinion of what they observed. Focus on the issue, not what you perceive to be some underlying meaning.

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Canadian Rachel

posted February 17, 2011 at 8:17 am

(Just popping back up with the usual caveat: all unsolicited writing advice is worth exactly what you paid for it, and must be taken with many grains of salt, etc. Feel free to ignore. I’ve just been following this comment trail with interest and wanted to speculate on it a bit. I still don’t get how “sticks to your ribs” is racial in any way, when I associate the phrase with the English side of my family and endless bowls of oatmeal. Are African-Americans famous oatmeal eaters? Not stereotypically, anyway.)

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Canadian Rachel

posted February 17, 2011 at 7:25 am

I’ve been thinking about the flare-up over here, and like the tortoise I am, coming very slowly to a conclusion. There are people who are inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt, and people who are not — that will always be the case, no matter what you do. However (putting on my writing-coach hat here), there are a few things you could have done with the writing to make the beginning a little less ambiguous, and a little more open. If what you write is perfectly clear and unambiguous, people won’t have any choice but to understand what you mean.

Your opening is clearly setting up a contrast: “here’s what I expected” vs. “here’s what I saw”. It’s the tone of the first paragraph that’s confusing. I believe you’re intending to express excitement and eagerness, but due to the wording it SOUNDS like you’re expecting to go to the circus and see a performance. I don’t think that’s what you meant, but an acknowedgment of where these expectations come from might help. Have you been to a black church before? Only seen them depicted in movies? Is there any tie-in between your excited expectation and your interest in jazz? Something personal would clarify your position better. Also, when you say you “had HIGH hopes”, the reader’s clumsy brain expects a contrast with the LOW reality later — which isn’t what happens, right? But it’s hard to switch gears. Readers have prejudices too, toward known structures; if you’re dashing our expectations, that’s great, but we need our hands held just a little bit.

This transition is the real difficulty, though, to my mind: “what I did get was a thousand times better.” “Better” is too ambiguous. The way you worded the first paragraph, you sound like you’re expecting to see a show. So “better” means what? More dramatic? More hilarious? More exotic? Can you see how this might make readers feel like you weren’t being respectful (if they weren’t inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt)? If you used a more specific word — moving, deep, interesting, human — that would go a long way toward clarifying your actual feelings toward what you saw.

The next bit, where you’re reporting what you saw, is lovely as far as it goes. I feel you’re making a very concerted effort toward showing what was actually there — which is the polar opposite of stereotyping! Right? — but I think in a way you bend too far the other direction. You make yourself into a kind of recording camera. I can see you don’t want to pass judgment, and that’s admirable, but you don’t relate anything to your own life either, and that makes it feel a little bit clinical. Does the organist’s memorializing for her music-loving father strike a chord in you, whose own father makes music? Do the squirming children remind you of your own kids? Do you wish you’d BROUGHT your kids? Were there things they would have loved? Even relating that your own, previous body size would have fit the choir robes, would have gone a long way toward making yourself a presence, and emphasizing the humanity and reality of the people around you.

The second half is a lot more successful in this regard, as you can probably tell by the fact that nobody’s talking about it. You’re perfectly unambiguous — and even vulnerable — there. If you can bring some of that vulnerability back up toward the beginning of the piece, that would help.

I’m not saying rewrite it, necessarily, but since this is a WRITING project — and not just a casual blog — I reckon there’s stuff to be learned every step of the way. I saw what you meant, quite clearly, but if other people couldn’t see it, that’s sometimes a writing issue (above and beyond their own personal issues with you).

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted February 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm


I wanted to post this to your facebook page, but you (quite understandably) unfriended me, so I hope you’ll see it here.

I overreacted yesterday. But I’ve had a night to sleep on it and I think I can finally express what I should have said yesterday instead of attacking you, for which I am truly and honestly sorry.

Here’s my explanation for my reaction – I’ve written over 1400 blog posts in the last six years and in spite of the negative reaction to this one, it’s easily in my top five all time favorites. I am unspeakably proud of it because I wrote it with a heart full of love. Even now, when I try to put on a different pair of glasses and see it in a different light, I just… can’t.

Because I can still hear the sound of those butterfly barrettes (especially beautiful to me because I’ll never get to hear that happy tinkling noise at the homogenous methodist preschool my daughter attends). I can still feel Joel’s hand cupping the back of my neck for safety while we sat in that pew together with the buses roaring by and the kids fussing and the parishioners amen-ing from the audience. I can still see the way that preacher stomped his feet and flattened his tie against his chest when he got to the end of each point.

But more importantly, I can still see the horny grin on Joel’s face as we stood on the street in front of Powell’s kissing before the traffic light changed. I can still taste that Little Big Burger and that root beer float. I can still remember exactly what it was like to finally tell him I loved him and the way he kissed me afterwards like his life depended on it.

That Sunday was one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever had the pleasure of being alive. It changed me in a very real way.

THAT’s what this post was about.

But you labeled it:

a) Racist
b) Elitist
c) Awful
d) Contributing to a white power system
e) Lacking credibility

And here’s the thing, Rose, Joel is your FRIEND. He loves you like a sister! And your reaction to my announcement of undying love and affection for him was to call it racist?

Given the last year of my blog comments, I tend to have a pretty thick skin about this stuff. I’m used to it and truth be told, I kinda love being antagonized. For a little while, I tried to temper what I wrote in an effort to stop pissing so many people off, but then I just pissed off even MORE people and finally had to realize that there is really NOTHING I can say without offending at least someone.

But I didn’t expect that from a FRIEND.

Hence my defensive reaction and angry lashing out. I basically treated you like I’d treat any other blog troll I encounter: without a drop of respect. You deserved more than that.

But so did your good friend Joel.

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posted February 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Amen! Well stated!

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posted February 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm


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posted February 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm

AMEN Kay Little Jr.!

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Joel Gunz

posted February 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Amen, Bruthah!

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted February 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Oh Kay, be still my heart!

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Joel Gunz

posted February 16, 2011 at 10:52 am

Hey Shannon – Thanks for dropping by. We should hit one of these churches together some time!

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Shannon Amburn

posted February 16, 2011 at 10:36 am

My favorite lines:

“,,,resonated with something deep and glorious inside of me.

Not God. Or religion. Or faith. Or even spirituality, but something far more enviable: LOVE.”

Well done. I am looking forward to sharing this journey. I hope you find many other communities that are defined by love – I want to believe there are faith-based communities that are healers and lovers. My experience with religion makes me think this kind of group will be the exeption.

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posted February 16, 2011 at 7:56 am

I find it interesting when people get their panties in a twist. What hooked Rose into a vehement argument? What was it that made her emotionally react? What is it that makes people take an entry so personally that they feel obligated and justified in lambasting you for it?

I picture a full grown woman stomping her feet like a child, whining. Or a self righteous bitch pretending to be a loving, reproachful mother type. Underneath both is a boat load of angry with a thimble of crazy.

I swear, I love reading the comments. It’s highly entertaining.

You have my support all the way from the Bible belt of the Midwest.

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posted February 16, 2011 at 5:50 am

I suggest you get in contact with the church’s pastor, share this piece with him, and ask his opinion on the racism charges. If you truly like this church and want to go back, it would be good to be honest with him about what you’ve written and only fair to hear his honest assessment of your assessment.

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posted February 16, 2011 at 4:53 am

This is a beautifully written piece. As a longtime blog reader, this is truly one of your best pieces of work (and your bar was already pretty high!). It’s too bad that some people missed the fact that more than a review of your experience, this post is also a love letter. And it is beautiful. I wish you the best as you take this leap, both with the project and with love.

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Joel Gunz

posted February 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm

That is a very good reminder, Dan, and I thank you for it. How come I haven’t seen you in, like, forever?

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted February 15, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Love it, Bethany!

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted February 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Did you read my UU post? I think it’s right up your alley, JJ.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 10:02 pm

You have no idea how glad I am that it is you folks sitting in the pews.

I confess to an anti-religious bias going back a long way.

I enjoyed the read. Thanks!

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bethany actually

posted February 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Hey, you never know, visiting all these churches you might actually find the courage to take that leap of faith. :-) It sounds to me like you’re doing this in an open-minded, open-hearted way. I wish you the best.

Also, this post made me think of something I read once that is probably a famous quote but I can’t remember it exactly, so I’ll paraphrase: You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps. So what the hell, leap.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Hmmm…What do you get when cross religious experience with a heterogeneous audience?
Lions’ dens, crusades, jihads, and the occasional crucifixion.
The only surprise to me here is how quickly and divisively the conversation about your experiences escalated.

AsMight I suggest that compassion and understanding (core tenants of most religious traditions) be your primary response to those offended by your experiences, after all as the proverb says, “a kind word turns away wrath.” Missing the opportunity to give a kind word is often how misunderstandings and hurt feelings spiral into dividing longtime friendships, families, and communities. That would be a sad outcome of this venture that you have undertaken.

You have such an opportunity enlighten and challenge your readers. I want to see that for you.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Here’s the thing Rose. Joel and Amanda’s thought process is this “oooh, I’m so cool. Look at me everyone! I’m so smart and witty. Oh, I’m so funny with my snarky humor and massive intellect.” That’s who they are and they get their kicks on pissing people off. Of course, Joel is going to defend his little girlfriend that he has only known for 3 months because he is having sex with her. So, his penis is doing his thinking for him so you can’t argue with them. Joel has massive religious issues after all his JW stuff and Amanda is just jumping on board his anti-religion bandwagon. They are too cool for school in their own minds.

In reality, these are a couple of sick people who, when it comes right down to it, only care about themselves and offending others to get their jollies. I, for one, can’t wait to see them implode all over each other. Selfish and repugnant people like this never win in the end.

Thank you for your well thought out and correct comments Rose. I am glad that you see who Joel really is. People like Amanda and Joel deserve each other. Everyone else deserves something better. So, run for the hills from this dude Rose. You will be glad you did! :)

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posted February 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm

You did mention “tall, proud, perfectly-groomed black men and women rose from the pews to pay their tithes.”
Own what you say and what you are. You are being super defensive. I’d spend some time examining that reaction rather than yelling at Rose. You really are being unnecessarily hostile.

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Joel Gunz

posted February 15, 2011 at 6:08 pm

For the record, by my guesstimation, the choir was about 30% white, as was the rest of the congregation. While it is true we expected to be the only white people at the service, we were surprised to see the diversity when we entered the church.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm

When I said that half the parishioners were late, that I’d need to gain 100 pounds to fit into a choir robe, and that that kid’s parents weren’t in the audience, did you assume I was talking about BLACK people?
Check yourself, Rose because that right there? THAT’s racism. This was a mixed race church! The choir wasn’t all black! The parishioners weren’t all black! I purposely didn’t mention anyone by color because that’s not what this piece was about – it was about LOVE.

That’s a pretty disingenous comment, given that you’re talking about a historically black denomination. The fact that some members of this particular church are of other races doesn’t matter. The overwhelming majority of AME Zion parishioners are black, and without some evidence to the contrary, it’s absolutely reasonable for your audience to assume that you were referring to black people.

Rephrase your comments to be about NAACP members or inner-city residents or Howard University students, and I think it’s perfectly clear why people found the rhetoric offensive. When you’re talking about a group that is 90% black, and you are touching directly on some pretty obvious racial stereotypes about black people, it’s not at all racist to assume that your comments were directed toward black people. If I start ranting about Brownsville, TX residents who can’t speak English, it’s not racist to assume that I’m talking about Hispanics rather than the Swiss family who just moved in down the street. You’re smart enough to know that, too.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Really? That is your response? That I should stop “Playing the Victim Card?” Wow. Just, wow.

Amanda, context is everything. Maybe you didn’t provide enough in this piece. Maybe I don’t know “where your coming from” and that is why I feel the way that I do. Maybe I am too sensitive, this could be true. If being too sensitive means that you and Joel can both attack me personally, calling my own personal experiences into question then go ahead.

You and Joel have both traded publicity for friendship, and I hope that works out well for you both.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted February 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Whoo-boy. I think I just figured out why we can’t see eye-to-eye on this one, Rose. I thought your responses were in reference to my first paragraph, which contains the only racial stereotypes in this entire piece.

When I said that half the parishioners were late, that I’d need to gain 100 pounds to fit into a choir robe, and that that kid’s parents weren’t in the audience, did you assume I was talking about BLACK people?

Check yourself, Rose because that right there? THAT’s racism. This was a mixed race church! The choir wasn’t all black! The parishioners weren’t all black! I purposely didn’t mention anyone by color because that’s not what this piece was about – it was about LOVE.

As for me being smugly superior by identifying these churchgoers as “other”?

I used to weigh over 300 pounds. I WAS that fat girl in the choir robe. That ain’t OTHER, that’s ME. Haven’t you heard the expression – the opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings?

Since you take issue with a MAN telling you this, let this white, bisexual, single-mother say it too: STOP PLAYING THE VICTIM CARD. The only person who can make you a victim is yourself.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 3:31 pm

So, as they say, opinions are like….. And so here’s mine.

I was born and raised in a strict southern baptist home. Not only were we raised in that fashion, we (me and my two brothers) attended a very strict, small church in the backwoods of Texas. I spent my entire childhood being told movies were wrong. Dancing was wrong. Sex was a horrible, horrible thing. I could go on and on. The things and situations and sermons and talk I was exposed to was nothing short of abuse in my opinion. I remember as a young child being told how horrible sex was, but then watching a deacon (high standing elder in the church) have an affair with another married woman with my own child eyes. After every church service I watched my mother and the other “perfect” ladies of the church gather and “discuss” allllll the other church members and their problems and kids and husbands. How they were sinners and we needed to “pray” for them. But, you know, gossip was a sin. And what’s the problem? They were just sharing their “concern”. I could go on and on. And on. And on some more. The stories are endless.

I’m an adult now. I believed as I had been taught to believe for many years, almost until I was 30 years old. Then something clicked and stopped going to church. It’s been a few years and I remain in a state of confusion. I’ve visited random churches. I’ve talked it over with family members (my brothers do not go and will not go to church and we all tend to feel the same way..), I’ve read books, I’ve been to therapists, I’ve watched documentaries. I’ve thought long and hard about the whole religion deal. I still do not have answers. Sometimes I wonder if it will always bother me. If I will die without a firm grip on what I truly feel vs. untangling the guilt, shame and duty of the beliefs that were instilled in me as a child.

I said that to say this — I look forward to reading this blog. I’m choosing to not take anything personal, even though I have my own thoughts about some things. I don’t really care about your own beliefs. Sometimes I read and feel the same way, sometimes I cringe, and then other times I disagree. I believe that’s what we call….life?

A while back I thought about going off and visiting a number of churches just to see what suited me. If there was one I could identify with more so and ease my mind and heart. I never started that journey. I’m glad you two have. I commend you. I’m looking forward to sitting back and enjoying the ride with you guys. I’m not saying It’ll change me or make me believe more or less or change my viewpoints in any way. But, as someone who struggles with religion and my own belief system, I’m interested in reading about the journey. Personal relationships, sex, drugs, and rock and roll aside — I’m in it for the entertainment value. And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that the intention here? Take care.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I am really disappointed that you have chosen to make this personal, and have decided to say things that are disingenuous and hurtful in an attempt for publicity. I think it is really easy for a man to tell a woman to “stop playing the victim” and shut up. Nicely done!

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Joel Gunz

posted February 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Oh, Rose. Stop acting like a victim. Go lecture someone else. You’re better than this. And I’m way beyond it. So let’s be friends who can passionately disagree without taking it personally.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Intellectual dishonesty? Taking a dictionary definition of “racism” and trying to apply it to Amanda’s post that says religion that “sticks to their ribs” and that “I got the idea that I’d need to gain about 100 pounds before they could find a choir robe to fit me” makes me think that neither of you have any clue what racism actually is. These statements show an ignorance of their connotation and history. I am not being intellectually dishonest, nor is what I think ideological hubris, it is MY OPINION and I have a right to think that what Amanda is writing is offensive to people of color. Shame on you that you still want to criticize me personally, and not what I am saying, and go so far as to stoop to calling me prejudiced because I choose to intelligently criticize Amanda for writing a piece that I don’t agree with. Not everything that is over your head or that you don’t understand because you haven’t taken the time to educate yourself on it is “intellectual hubris.”
Yes we do all stereotype people – and sometimes stereotyping people isn’t funny – it is oppressive. Didn’t you think when I said that your white hetero privilege was showing that it was FUNNY? I mean we are supposed to think that Amanda being brave about her racial stereotyping is amusing – maybe she should write about that in the piece then, and not just assume that “where she is coming from” is a place of tolerance and purity: she is intentionally trying to be controversial to gain readership. Racial stereotyping is an old trope and has been used to take power away from people of color for centuries. Stereotyping in the way that she is using it is dangerous because she does not even recognize that she is doing it! American culture and media only allows black people to fit into certain categories that can be broken out into five racial stereotypes (please see Bogle, Arnold. Toms, Coons, Mulattos, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. Continuum: New York 1994.) To say that stereotyping in and of itself is not racist is a statement that is debatable, at best. Your definitive dictionary definition of racism does not cover context, nor does it speak to the history of racial stereotyping and how it has been used against black Americans to marginalize them.
“Audaciously be-feathered hats, jerry curl, purple pin-striped suits” are not racial slurs, nor was I referring to them as such. You say, “Nowhere did Amanda show hatred or intolerance or superiority” and I agree, she was not showing hatred or intolerance in any of her writing. She was however smugly superior. Stereotyping race isn’t just about hatred, it is also about narrowing someone’s life down into a comprehensible category that creates an “other” that you don’t identify with so that you can compare yourself to it. Therefore, I take issue with the language that she uses that does imply that she is superior and that the black people she is around are incomprehensible, “The beautiful simplicity with which these people handed their lives over to a greater power…” Using “these people” and then also saying that their faith is simple shows that she is envious that she cannot understand their simplistic ability to just have faith: she is not like them, she is too complex and even though she envies this, clearly they are beyond her comprehension so she must make them understandable by placing them a context that makes sense to her: Simple. Does she know if it was simple for them? Did she ask them about their experience with faith? Also, “I got the idea that I’d need to gain about 100 pounds before they could find a choir robe to fit me.” I am not sure how she meant this – maybe she should clarify? She feels small and they seem big, once again creating an “other” that she cannot understand, that is too out of the realm of comprehension. Whether you intended your “other” to be churchgoers in general, or black churchgoers is at issue because you are specifically writing a piece about black churchgoers, not a mixed racial crowd, therefore your stereotyping becomes racial and these are not merely rhetorical churchgoers.
Amanda can write about her experiences all she wants, and say whatever she wants. And I am free to think what I want about it, Joel. However, yes I am tired of walking around Portland and hearing racial and heterosexist slurs where my partner and I go. I am tired of not being able to kiss my partner in certain neighborhoods without fear of having someone threaten us. I am tired of being asked if we are together, being stared at, witnessing patterns of poor service or receiving a “mistaken” wrong or lost order time after time wherever we go. What you witness in abstract, I face every day, and so yes I am sensitive to it because writing that promotes creating an “other” that we can pick apart and criticize for the sake of being “funny” is not entertaining, it is not funny, and it does threaten everything I am spending my life to work against.
Calling me prejudice is a ridiculous thing to do when you know for a fact that I am an anti-oppression advocate, and spend all of my free time working to fight systemic oppression. You say, “Anybody can write in the patois of political correctness, but she put herself out there, exposing less attractive sides of herself, knowing she would probably offend some who prefer to see the world play nice and fake, rather than to engage in honest discourse.” You write yourself that this is a less-attractive side of what she has written, and it is. She does not need to apologize for what she has written, she needs to own it. And part of owning it would not be to criminalize everyone on her blog for calling her work what it is: racist. As for seeing the “world play nice and fake,” I live in that world with my partner, and there is nothing about this piece’s “honest discourse” that helps fight what we have to deal with every day.
And don’t worry, you won’t have to be bothered by my opinions any more since I will not be reading any more of your blog. I see what it is that you really think of me, and that is what is truly ugly about this whole thing.

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Joel Gunz

posted February 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for the ideas, Katherine! You checked out the What page, no?

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Joel Gunz

posted February 15, 2011 at 11:54 am

Yes, Rose, you did strike a nerve. With me, it was the one that triggers my gag reflex. I love you deeply, like a sister: I couldn’t stop loving you if I tried. But I have to speak up and say that your comments reflect ideological hubris, rendering the arguments you make no more compelling than their intellectual dishonesty allows. I think commenter David, below, put it very succinctly: “All I see is someone saying “I just had this big stereotype destroyed.” Who is more racially blind, the people who write openly and honestly about their stereotypes, or those who see “racism” wherever they look?”

I had to wonder about your reading comprehension as well. For instance, did you even make it past the first paragraph?

I vigorously defend Amanda’s post precisely BECAUSE of the courage it took to for her expose her stereotypes. Anybody can write in the patois of political correctness, but she put herself out there, exposing less attractive sides of herself, knowing she would probably offend some who prefer to see the world play nice and fake, rather than to engage in honest discourse.

We ALL stereotype people. Even you. (Case in point: “Your white-hetero privilege is showing!”) If pretending otherwise gets you through the day, go for it. But please understand that this blog–won’t join you in that belief. For that reason, you may not want to continue reading it. I can assure you it will not fit into your opinion of the way the world ought to be– which disregards the way the world actually is.

You are indeed a very sensitive and kind person. I would add generous to that list. But perhaps you are being too sensitive. To characterize Amanda’s words as an ‘attack’ and a ‘threat to your family’ is disingenuous in the extreme. It is illogical–and hypocritical–characterize yourself as a victim in this exchange. You said some rather hostile, critical, condescending things yourself.

I would also suggest that you not confuse your subjective opinion with objective reality. For instance, let’s take a closer look at your final words: “you are still reducing them to a racial stereotype and that is what racism is.” Oh, the tautology! Oh, the dogmatism! First off, let’s clear up the meaning of the word “racism.” According to

   /ˈreɪsɪzəm/ Show Spelled[rey-siz-uhm]
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Nowhere did Amanda show hatred or intolerance or superiority. The warp and woof of her post was about love, respect and acceptance! In other words, I have to call bullshit. Stereotyping is not racist. To be sure, it can be ignorant (but not always) and it can lead to racist acts (but not always). Stereotyping isn’t racism in and of itself. Secondly, only in your opinion did she ‘*reduce* them to racial stereotypes.’ In her mind–and in mine–she shed her preconceptions, elevated the people about whom she wrote and extolled the deep, spiritual humanity of that church experience.

That kind of egocentrism dehumanizes both you and the object of your criticism. I would suggest that you take a good look at yourself and your own prejudices before criticizing another’s.

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Katherine Gray

posted February 15, 2011 at 11:34 am

Um, racist? Wha..? To me this reads more like you went to a foreign country and did what artists do: You wrote what you saw, with respect and acknowledgement that it was new to you, and what it meant to you in the context of your life. I love this piece.

I don’t know where you guys are going with this project, and I doubt you do, either. Maybe a broader mission statement is in order to give this context for people who know the narrative of your life so they know how this fits in.

In the meantime, how about you stop feeding the trolls? They’ll go away soon enough.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 10:44 am

I find this appalling.

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Joel Gunz

posted February 15, 2011 at 10:34 am

Lol – yep, we have been attracting a few trolls. Which I find highly entertaining.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 10:27 am

Well, apparently I struck a nerve since you are so angry about what I had to say. You can attack me personally all you want, I am used to facing hatred everywhere I go, Amanda. When you step into that world of black churchgoers to review their place of worship and dehumanize them by pulling out every sorry old stereotype I have an obligation, not to laugh and have a sense of humor, but to say something about it because the ideas you are espousing are threatening MY family. Besides, I am not a “militant lesbian,” that is another stereotype you are foisting on me to defend a piece of writing that I disagree with. I am actually a very sensitive and kind person that is pointing out that maybe your piece came off in a way that you did not intend, since my reading comprehension is just fine.

I don’t know you, like I said before, and I don’t think that YOU are racist. I said the piece was racist, and I stand by that opinion because regardless of you envying them, adoring them, or feeling like an outsider in this situation, you are still reducing them to a racial stereotype and that is what racism is.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted February 15, 2011 at 9:53 am


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posted February 15, 2011 at 9:49 am

Is it just me, or do you seem to attract trolls on your blogs? Racism? really? All I see is someone saying “I just had this big stereotype destroyed.” Who is more racially blind, the people who write openly and honestly about their stereotypes, or those who see “racism” wherever they look?

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posted February 15, 2011 at 9:23 am

Solid Rock’s website is

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posted February 15, 2011 at 9:22 am

You should check out Solid Rock. Location in Tigard and downtown Portland. Great church. You might just find what you are looking for :)

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posted February 15, 2011 at 8:46 am

I’m sure you won’t post that, but at least you read it.

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posted February 15, 2011 at 8:45 am

I was directed over here from a website and holy cow were they right. This piece is filled with a bunch of racist rhetoric and stereotypes. It doesn’t matter that you “adore” those church goers. ( I’m sure they wouldn’t find that condescending in the least) You painted a picture that screams ignorance. Just because you don’t think your racists doesn’t mean you don’t have discriminatory ideas of Black Americans. If I wrote something like this and the majority of the commenters were telling me my piece was racist, I would take a good hard look at myself and the piece again.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted February 15, 2011 at 6:54 am

Wow, Rose. Trust me when I say: the disappointment is mutual. I mean, here I was hoping you could buck a stereotype yourself and actually be a militant lesbian with a sense of humor. Or a heart.

For a Lit major, your reading comprehension could still use some work. If you read this post with an open mind and saw its author coming from a place filled with anything other than admiration, affection and pure, unbridled LOVE, I don’t want to live in the world you see through your glasses. Because no matter how “educated” or “well researched” that world might be, it’s ugly to walk around looking for ugliness in others. You’re obviously going to find it, even it when it doesn’t exist. Some of us go around looking for beauty instead and we aren’t ashamed to admit that we find beauty in our differences.

Give this thought a moment to percolate: would Joel Gunz date a racist?

So what you’re doing here is finding racism where none actually exists. Stereotypes? Sure. But when I go into a black ZION church with stereotypes in my head, it doesn’t make me any more racist than when a black person walks into a Witness Hall expecting to see white people in ugly sweaters. Acknowledging cultural differences does NOT make me racist. It makes me human and frankly unafraid of what self-righteous white liberals might think of my brand of humanity. Intentions MATTER, Rose. If I was to hate those parishioners because of the way I stereotyped them, I would give you your racism. I’d hand it to you on a silver platter surrounded with butter-goldened scallops.

But I took these cultural stereotypes and I said: I ADORE THESE CHURCHGOERS. Exactly the way they are. I ENVY THEM. I want to BE like them.

If you find ugliness in that, it’s your own ugliness. Not mine.

And when you stereotype me for being hetero, it makes you a hypocrit. Especially since mama ain’t exactly hetero.

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posted February 14, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Ugh. Racist.

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posted February 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Your white-hetero privilege is showing! I find this post racist, elitist and down right awful. I know Joel in real life, and consider him a dear friend, and I have yet to meet you, but I am really disappointed by the racial stereotypes in this piece. I have no problem with the fact that the two of you are awesomely attempting to review churches for the next year, and more power to the both of you, however I am really disturbed at the clear and blatant racist overtone that this first entry has. I fully understand that this is coming from your personal perspective and is your opinion, however you may consider a little research into oppressed communities so that you have more credibility before posting these racial slurs. I guess what I am saying is that if this is really what you think about black communities, and your very real “anticipation” of those racial stereotypes, then I just hope that you take the time to do some research to educate yourself on what type of power system your writing is contributing to. Seriously disappointed.

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Jill (mrschaos)

posted February 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I’m always so curious when people get so angry in comments. If I don’t like what I read, I STOP READING. I don’t understand the bad-mouthing or hurtful comments.

I’m a long-time reader and I’ve been enjoying your journey because I happen to realize it is not my life. You are living your life, making choices that only you can make.

I honestly don’t know how I will react/feel to this new journey you are taking. But I’m totally open to taking a chance. I just might enjoy your year of Sundays.

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Jenn Brewster

posted February 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Wow. Way to try to sell blatant racism through bad attempts at humor and sociology. Those were people in the church, not fascinating, zoo animals.

You people are assholes.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted February 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Thanks, Cuz! Can you help direct us to a good wiccan meeting? It’s definitely on the list.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted February 14, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Oh, Lola, he didn’t say a thing at all. He didn’t need to.

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posted February 14, 2011 at 8:57 am

Love that last line. Love it. I am quite enjoying Joel’s style of writing as well. I, for one, am not concerned with the rights or wrongs of this holy (or unholy?) adventure. I don’t see judging, I see experiencing, and that can only be good.

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posted February 14, 2011 at 8:54 am

I have been reading you for years. Years I tell you. 😮 And I heart you very much. And I’m going to occassionally pop in here and read, maybe. Because see, I’m one of “those” that were brought up very religious. And though I may say and do crazy things, because I was brought up to believe in God, I don’t have to question — I just believe. I know that maybe its super naive to think this way, but I just cannot help it. So I want to read here, because I want to read about you. And I think it will be very interesting to see other religions and see other customs, etc.

I just hope it will remain respectful. Religion is very personal to a lot of people (like me). I don’t even like watching movies that make fun of it in the slightest. I’m not interested in having a cynical approach to it. But, I am interested in learning about different people, different beliefs. I hope that’s the point of view you bring. But if its not, I’ll just have to read about your crazy wild adventure on your other blog.


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posted February 14, 2011 at 7:07 am

I, for one, am elated that you are writing this blog. I would love the courage to attend different churches. I believe what I believe deep in my heart. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sit well with any religion I have experienced yet. So, I say, my beautiful blonde friend, keep searching and keep us up to date with the details.

Again, no one is forcing anyone to read this. If its not your cup of tea, move along and make way for the rest of us who actually WANT to hear what Amanda and Joel have to say.

OH, SO, did you finally tell him. When I finally found the balls to tell my (now husband) that I loved him, I said it and quickly walked away. I didnt want him to feel like I was waiting for him to say it back. I told him that I knew he was a pussy and didnt have the balls to tell me that just yet, but I was sick and tired of holding my tongue and wanted him to know exactly how I felt!!

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posted February 13, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I saw the comments on your blog last night about you and your boyfriend’s new website and didn’t want to comment about it till this morning after sleeping on it last night.

I see the comments others have added have since been deleted, so I suspect mine will be too. Maybe I shouldn’t even waste my time then…

But, here’s my take on it. I normally think the stuff you do is kind of humorous and cooky. Not this new venture though. I think it’s actually just kind of mean. People’s religion is a very personal thing. So, to poke fun or pretend to be the Siskel and Ebert of the church world is just not right.

It’s also VERY disingenuous. You have said many, many times that you don’t believe in God and that you have absolutely zero interest in knowing anything about God. So, I am not sure what you think is being taught at church? Church is about worshiping God, so for someone who has no interest in God to be going every Sunday for the purpose of blogging about it shows what’s in your heart.

I liken what you are doing to this: It’s like showing up at a stranger’s house, UNINVITED. But, they open the door to you, welcome you in, let you be a part of their family life for the evening. You act nicey, nice like you are genuinely interested in them and looking to be a part of their family and knowing more about them and their beliefs. But, then you actually have this ulterior motive because you and your boyfriend have this blog that you’re righting, so you are really there to review and judge them. If your uninvited dinner and time with them isn’t to your liking, then they better look out because you are going to publicly slam them and say that they’ve never had an orgasm. Or if, they don’t agree with your politics, you are going to let them have it. Or, if it’s an African-American family, you’re going to say nice things about them but throw in every racial stereotype you can before you do – with your stuff about big hats and “sticking to your ribs” like it’s all soul food because they’re African-American. Heck, you don’t even spell your racist slurs correctly. It’s Jheri Curl, not “jerry curl”.

It isn’t funny. It’s cruel. Plain and simple.

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posted 8:38:43am Jul. 10, 2012 | read full post »

Gnock Gnock Gnocking on the Gnostics' Door
When Amanda and I started our church tour, I'd had it up to here with vanilla religion. I wanted to take a walk on the wild side (read: nothing Christian), but it turns out that, for a city that prides itself on "keeping weird," Portland doesn't ...

posted 1:39:14am Feb. 14, 2012 | read full post »

Home PDX: A Church By Any Other Name
Yesterday, we went downtown to check out Home PDX. If you want to make head honcho Bruce Arnold, squirm, call their community a church.  The word has so many negative connotations, they'd just as soon not use it. Then again, the PDX Homeys ...

posted 6:54:51pm Feb. 06, 2012 | read full post »

Full-On Faith
It's been almost a year since the inspiration for this blog began with a trip to the First A.M.E. Zion Church in North Portland. It was a predominantly black church in a predominantly black neighborhood and what I wrote about it ended up being ...

posted 7:25:08pm Jan. 26, 2012 | read full post »

Happy Anniversary from Emmanuel Temple Church
One year ago, Amanda and I embarked on our Year of Sundays tour of the Portland church scene. To celebrate, we decided to head back to my roots in North Portland and visit a full gospel church, just like we did in our first week of blogging. ...

posted 12:40:57am Jan. 23, 2012 | read full post »


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