HELL AT 3 AM

Mary Strachan Scriver
4 min readAug 3, 2021
The Reverend Annie Foerster

At 3AM this morning I woke and lay there muttering about the frustrations. The expected cooling rain had not come. The prison in Shelby had run out of water which also shut down my laundromat. So many, so very many, people have died. Two more of the brave officers who have been vilified after risking their lives to save the legislators, even Jim Jordan, have stepped out of the world.

So I did the only thing I could do — got up. The lesser tomcats who had been sleeping on my feet ran ahead of me — barely fast enough to keep from tripping me — and we were met by the four now-long-legged kittens with round eyes: “I See You,” “I Smell You,” “I Taste You,” and “What Is There to Eat.” I opened a can of cat food.

Then I went to my Constant Companion, a machine named for a fruit, hoping that neither the lightning nor the Russians had shut off the electricity. I’m a Classisist with a desktop set-up, though after a day with it my feet are fat and wooden, a sign of congestive heart failure. I have to start using the laptop which has a battery but it’s not online and I find myself constantly checking to see what new destruction the Trumpies have imposed on us, on top of the damage we do to ourselves.

My strategy for calming down is to search for people I once knew — some well and some only slightly. It’s risky. Many are dead; some have removed themselves from any contact; most are irrelevant by now. I left Chicago after my last Glorious Seeking at university in 1982. That’s 49 years ago.

The French philosophers were barely being heard of — in fact, Kenner Swain, a younger classmate, was the only one who knew them well enough to joke about Derrida’s “deconstruction.” Kenner never claimed to want to be a minister, but for a while posted a blog called “Realistic Benedictions”. The last I heard he was running a wine shop in Boston and writing philosophical essays. I myself am stumbling through Foucault.

Many of the PNWD UUA ministers I knew in the days when they were all male (1975) are dead of old age. But the women have persisted a bit longer. I thought of Annie Foerster, and — quick as that — was attending her Sunday Service, all about the History of Hell, or at least the history of the concept. It was the most composed, educated, and calm discussion of any video services I’ve seen so far.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcpn8O0D5go

We’re about the same age and used to room together at ministerial retreats when we in the same chapter of the UUMA (Minister’s Association) retreats. When Annie was installed at one of the PNWD churches, she asked me to preach the centerpiece of the ceremony. I was flattered and marked my calendar, but on the day I pulled up to the church I immediately knew something had happened: the parking lot was full. I was late.

The Rev. Peter Raible, thinking I might be dying under a wreck on the bridge between Kirkland and Seattle, reconstructed the ceremony so that all the readings, songs, and prayers came first. When I went up the aisle, two women rose from the pews, one taking my coat and the other my bag just as I pulled out my manuscript. Without apology I delivered my homily about “cleaving” which means both separating and adhering. Peter is gone now, but here on YouTube was Annie, a slightly better preacher anyway.

https://www.rawstory.com/trumps-well-armed-shock-troops/ Thom Hartman writes:

“Societies that believe one gets to heaven by doing good works define the baseline for today’s “civilized” cultures. But the one characteristic of barbarous cultures, consistent across the ages, is the belief that the surest path to forgiveness of sins and instant entry into heaven is to die while killing others in a “righteous” cause.”

Many people are pointing out things like this. It’s a little late but a welcome cleaving from the Apocalypse and cleaving to Democracy. As Annie Foerster often points out, history at its most accurate is often revelatory.

So I went back to bed, not quite smiling but relieved. The lesser tomcats were already sprawled there asleep again. The kittens had found their “burrow” behind the kitchen desk. The fact of a good past is assurance of a good future.

As well, Hartman’s article plainly notes history that marks the descent into destruction. I’m glad I didn’t read it until this morning when I was up, coffeed and braced. But in the middle of the night, the calm history of Hell let me remember that all things pass. I just hope I don’t live long enough to see this possibility.

Hartman: “In a more modern incarnation, those who “give their lives” for the cause would become martyrs, venerated and even one day prayed to. We’re already seeing an attempt to get us there, as NBC News notes with the headline: Trump makes Ashli Babbitt, killed in the Capitol riot, into a martyr. Why that’s so dangerous.

“Some argue the “mass killings” that are so unique to America — young white men wanting to die and take others with them just to produce a “legend” about themselves — are an early warning of the kind of cultural collapse this ideology could produce in its early stages.

“And Business Insider notes how violence as a solution to political problems is now embraced by about half of America’s Republicans.”

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Mary Strachan Scriver

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.