Homeless Pastor: Vanity is my Favorite Sin

Is a homeless pastor who lives in a van in southwest Florida an uncommon sight? Unfortunately the preponderance of suburban sprawl has become an iconic staple of middle class America, effectively breeding social and cultural factors that are a direct result of a peculiar mix of social isolation, limited education, conformity and segregation. Those who exist outside the box as non-indigenous transplants or infrequent visitors will find it rather shocking if not downright unnerving, depending on your disposition. Truth be told, once the initial shock and awe period has passed, you will quickly rationalize this occurrence as another social norm, established as a direct response to the overall depravity and inequality that exists in semi-rural Southwest Florida.

I am of course referring the the fact that everyone one in SWFL and their mother is a pastor!

Homeless Pastor

Case in point, the individual who owns and lives in this vehicle is indeed a pastor. He is a middle aged white male, displaced by life’s circumstance, homeless, yet hopeful and ever vigilant of the dubious nature of man’s evil and greed which has so easily manifested in current day American politics.

I first met this man at a local Dunkin Donuts in which he often spends his days face down, glued to the laptop screen seemingly self absorbed while ever dependent like so many, on the free WiFi service. Surface observation reveals he is a quiet man with a semi-jovial and gentle disposition. However, once engaged, an easy conversationalist who is eager to indulge in verbal discourse on serious topics ranging from the historical to aesthetic with anyone in earshot, and willing to listen. Like most of the devout, religious fervor and blind faith manifest a proverbial need for spreading the good word. Hence, at the behest of us non-believers, heathens and heretics, proselytizing unfortunately follows, cleverly masked behind this non-nonchalant nonthreatening facade.

Homeless Pastor
In the three years I have seen this individual, the evolution of this dilapidated van has remained unchanged, save for the recent addition of the following back window directive.

Please do not take
Name in Vain

Perhaps this was meant to be suggestive? Inviting further inquiry from random motorists or invoking ridicule and contempt.

Embracing esoteric subjects may do wonders for introspective spiritual well being, but the often belittling social stigma often makes one appear fanatical, unreasonable and functioning on the fringes of society. One would think being in such a position in life would enable reason to manifest itself. After all, living in a van, homeless and being overtly religious in SWFL is already a blue print for societal stratification with little room for upward mobility.

In contrast to this individual, another pastor I personally met owned a local construction company and had a retirement portfolio of several rental properties he personally rehabbed, flipped or maintained as investment properties. As he proudly proclaimed to me, this was to be his retirement income – as civil liberties declined, while the abysmal disparity increased proportionally, separating the newly growing masses of poor from the small minority rich. This was his assurance, his nest egg and his monetary savior – in spite of a second coming of Christ.

Given a choice, I would safely assume the latter was a more appropriate and appealing lot in life. I can only assume when one has lost all worldly possessions, save the mobile roof over one’s head, faith in something more then the tangible can have very real self-redeeming qualities. However, in the latter position, having one’s secular affairs in order would enable one to achieve a proper balance while maintaining some semblance of sanity, irrespective of the overall spiritual dependence that manifests itself through organized religion.

Journalist Tom Wolfe once said, The surest cure for vanity is loneliness. Suffice it to say that a homeless existence almost guarantees a bitter life abound with days and nights of abject loneliness. Perhaps the man in the van was actually inspired by this often physical and real human emotion associated with the utter despair of long term isolation. No need for fire and brimstone rhetoric or theocratic laced eulogies when the heart is heavy with the simplest of human suffering.

When faced with this kind of emotional biblical fanaticism, I always think of this quote from Bakunin:

“The people, unfortunately, are still very ignorant, and are kept in ignorance by the systematic efforts of all the governments, who consider this ignorance, not without good reason, as one of the essential conditions of their own power. Weighted down by their daily labor, deprived of leisure, of intellectual intercourse, of reading, in short of all the means and a good portion of the stimulants that develop thought in men, the people generally accept religious traditions without criticism and in a lump. These traditions surround them from infancy in all the situations of life, and artificially sustained in their minds by a multitude of official poisoners of all sorts, priests and laymen, are transformed therein into a sort of mental and moral habit, too often more powerful even than their natural good sense.”