Keith Snyder
Door always open.

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Foreword (now with intro!)

About two years ago, I went to San Antonio (with my brand-new folding bike, pictured above) and participated in this. A while later, Gordon asked me to write the foreword to his new book, Turtles All The Way Down. About halfway through a conventional foreword ("I first met Gordon Atkinson..."), the line The oy gevalts richochet down the halls of antiquity popped out. It was the first good line I'd written, so I scrapped that foreword and wrote this one instead.

The book came out late last year, and Gordon has now left Covenant and taken a job doing non-preaching stuff and trying to make writing more central. I'd already figured I'd run the foreword here once his initial sales spike had tapered, and it seems like time. If you like it, there's a link at the bottom.


by Keith Snyder
Turtles All The Way Down
by Gordon Atkinson
(Real Live Preacher)


The oy gevalts ricochet down the halls of antiquity. My great-great-great-grandfather slaps his forehead and gives me such a look.

"Hey," I respond with a shrug. "What can I say, the guy's not full of dreck."

"Not full of dreck," says the patriarch. "Not full of dreck is a good thing. It's a mitzvah. But communion?"


"Baptist communion?"


"From some gonif in Texas?"

"A gonif in Israel would have been better?"

"Don't get smart."

"Look, who cares if I eat a cookie to honor my host?"

"It's not the cookie."

"Then what?"

"It's not the cookie."

"Well what, then? Tell me what. The cookie acquires evil powers in my digestive tract and takes over my soul? I thought we didn't believe in magic."

"I think you're a self-hating Jew."

"I think I'm a you-beating-in-an-argument Jew."

"You're funny, Who's this host with the Host?"

"You're funny-ish, but a little heavy on the Borscht Belt."

"Way after my time."

"Before mine."

"So nu, we're no Henny Youngmen. This host..."

"Uh. Yeah—I started wondering if I could find things to respect about religious people, even though I don't respect religions—"

"You mean Christian religions."

"Well...Christian's what I've had the most problems with, but—"

"I was right. You're a self-hating Jew."

"I'm a dead-altercockers-interrupted-by Jew—would you shut up?"

"This is how you talk to an ancestor?"

"This is how we talk to God. I should cut you some slack?"

"Tell your goyisher rebbe story."

"Somebody said I should read the man's blog—do you know what a blog is?"

"Do I know what a blog is... the big Jew from the coast asks me what a blog is..."

"Doesn't matter. Anyway, at this man's blog—"

"This Texasher shaygets' blog—"

"—there's no praising, no hallelujahs, no saviors. Maybe a little blessing this, blessing that, but he's a preacher, he's allowed. So he's writing about homosexuality, depression...but even if it's just the mouse turd on the communion table, or showing his little daughter the stars...keyword writing. He's not proselytizing the heathens, he's not grandstanding the spirit. He's dodging the easy stuff. You know the Mark Twain? The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning?

"Mark Twain, feh, it was Maimonides."

"Of course it was. Anyway, the lightning's there, and how often does somebody who's so agnostic that even the word 'agnostic' makes too many assumptions get to see anything from this point of view—let alone decide to fly out to San Antonio for a church retreat?"

"Why would such a person care to?"

I give him his own look. "You like everything in this world the way it is, or you want to maybe change a few things?"

"Change, what do you know from change? Nothing changes."

"Really? As to His essence, the only way to describe it is negatively. For instance, He is not physical, nor bound by time, nor subject to change. Sounds to me like the only thing that doesn't change is God—and that was Maimonides."

"You're not even bar mitzvahed. That was Google."

"Whatever. I went forty years without communion. So why all of a sudden?"

"You tell me."

"It felt like a good idea."

My great-great-great grandfather purses his lips.

"A literate, profane Texas Baptist preacher who loves physics and knows how to say he doesn't know stuff." I shrug as Semitically as possible. "I dunno—maybe you already got a minyan of those. But you're in the man's foreword, so you might as well read a little."

"In the foreword, how can I be in the foreword, I don't exist."

"You're a composite."

"I'm a caricature."

"We're all caricatures. In the great cosmic doodle pad of—"

"All right!" he says. "All right! I'll read the book!"

"Thank you for your blessing," I say. "So read."




Click to read more about it
(or to order a copy)

And here's my blog entry about the 2008 retreat.

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