Tyler Huckabee, Crown Prince of the Chicago Drag Queens, Runaways, Hookers, and Junkies

The Chicago homeless shelter I worked for was not technically a homeless shelter – it only felt like one. It was actually a church. It was “planted” (when churches are “started” they are said to be “planted” for some odd reason) some years ago,and was scraping by off a congregation that rarely topped twenty members on a Sunday morning. Even the ones who came had a difficult time expressing why they kept showing. As individuals, they seemed much like the church itself: tired.

 Years before I ever stepped foot in the church,one church-goer had started making meals on Saturday night for the area homeless,as a gesture of goodwill, a peace offering. The idea was immediately popular (the neighborhood was as tired as the church itself, and teeming with homeless) and Safe Haven was born. The job of running the thing passed hands rapidly and fell to me some three years after its inception. I ran Safe Haven and, in return,was allowed to sleep in the laundry room. It was hardly payment for what amounted to a twenty-four a day job, but it was for the Lord, and in him I lived and moved and had my being.


The Valley of the Shadow of Bible Verse Memorization

When I was young, memorizing Bible verses was to me what different knots and coin tricks were to other boys: a rite of passage. I would have preferred cards or comics or anything really to memorizing the Bible, but my little Midwestern church was convinced that the path to competent adulthood went through committing various swatches of Scripture to memory. And, to ensure that our maturation was unencumbered by the many rebellions of youth, we were started on this practice very young. I could recite snippets of John’s Gospel before I could say the Pledge of Allegiance.

The seemingly impossible feat of sitting dozens of crooked-toothed, freckle-faced, mud-flecked boys down around Bibles was accomplished through one of the church’s favorite tricks: reappropriation; take something fun, add something Christian, and see if the fun sticks.

In this case, the hijacked activity was Boy Scouts. Our church started a boy’s club in which boys received vests, and then recitation of different verses earned a variety of badges and pins for that vest. You started out as a “Skipper,” and when you memorized enough of the Bible you became a “Hiker.” And a few particularly gifted memorizers graduated onto become “Climbers” and after that, one assumes, “Pastors.” What memorizing the Bible had to do with skipping or hiking was never rightly explained, but it took me some years before I started to suspect that I’d been duped.


%d bloggers like this: