Why does Gretta Vosper get under my skin

Article here about  the United Church’s decision on atheist minister Gretta Vosper – https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/09/11/flock-sticks-with-atheist-united-church-minister.html

Gretta Vosper annoys the heck out of me.  I had a brief e-mail discussion with her last year.  Meh.  I was rude at times – my bad.   I found that  Vosper was dogmatic about not being dogmatic as another United Church minister said.  Our e-mailing didn’t last too long.

She was defensive all over the place.  I understand that – obviously lots of people are asking her questions or criticizing her and etc.

And yet.

Psychologically, Vosper annoys me because I intensely dislike it when someone thinks they know and they know oh so much better than anyone else knows.  Vosper is pleased that she is ‘irritating the church into the 21st century’ (as per her webpage).  Vosper is going to be outspoken and going to stay in the United Church because she knows the Bible is all a horrible fairytale and that is where the church should be heading- out of the concept of a spiritual being and into let’s all just love each other.    I am oversimplifying, something I accuse Vosper of.  Meh, tit for tat.

She also claims that many, many other United Church ministers feel the same.  She speaks for them – they are too afraid to speak out (lest they lose their jobs and pension I imagine) and she is groundbreaking, she seems to think.

I have YouTubed her quite a bit – and made my brain calm the heck down when I did so that I wasn’t merely looking to be irritated by her.  What she is saying is that church is about community and she wants to build that community.  Her congregation – other than those that left when she came out as an atheist 15 years ago – are one hundred per cent behind her.  Many folks are on her side.  And as I mentioned, I imagine more than a few United Church ministers are quaking in their boots at the thought that they too could lose their employment and their pension – I  have never been able to find the part where Jesus had a pension and his cell phone bill paid for.  Hmmm.  But I digress.

Vosper had written a few books outlining her critiques of the Bible – I read one of the books and there were interesting points in there although none of it was new or radical.  It has all be said before – just not by a United Church minister.  I sometimes attend a wee Bible study in my neighbourhood which is led by a United Church minister who is now on disability.  She studies the Bible much like Jewish rabbis do – taking it apart piece by piece – debating the points, always open to hearing people’s views.   She is a Hebrew scholar and has a great and vast knowledge of the Bible, so much so that I often feel that I am drowning a bit.  She doesn’t take it literally and has a depth of understanding of the context, the time and place, and the original Hebrew and Greek.  I imagine she is smarter than Vosper, although that would be hard to prove of course.  No matter. For reasons I don’t completely understand, she, unlike Vosper, hasn’t seen fit to throw out the Bible or the concept of God.  Be she ever so humble.

In listening to Vosper, she vastly oversimplifies what others believe about God – she seems stuck on the notion that other people believe in ‘daddy in the sky’ (per her the National interview that I couldn’t get through I admit). That simplification is to her detriment, I think.  It oddly enough shows a rather black and white thinking that she looks down upon – Christians in her view all believe in a literal father in the sky.  She has no room for nuance it would appear.

I imagine her church and congregation are quite loving and supportive – it sure seems that way.  That is what she wants to nurture which is a laudable goal.  She completely dismisses the concept of any spiritual being – of anything beyond her plane, as it were.  She talks about how she was diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer which was later found to be wrong – she turned out to have a much more treatable kind.    If she believed in the concept of god, she said, she would then have to believe that this god chose to heal her from some divine reason.  Again, she seems to assume that that is what all Christians would think.    That gets under my skin because it seem so bloody arrogant.  Life can be random and awful and many people die no matter how much people are praying for them.  Some don’t but many many do. Cruel, awful.  I don’t believe that god chooses to heal some and not others.  Etc.

I have been following some discussions about all of this on Facebook.  United Church ministers getting all commenty on this article of faith and that article of faith – it all seems to me as a clergy outsider to be office politics on a large scale, jargon included.  It all seems so so far away from any kind of spirituality and rather a closed club of clergy (ccc?) a. fearing for their own jobs b. trying to reconcile whether the atheist minister should be kicked out of their denomination.  That gets under my skin too.  Perhaps the United Church should be dismantled – if it becomes more about who gets to keep a job or this article of faith and that one – what is there really.  But then again, I don’t really believe this to be the case.  I have had tremendous support at various times from a United Church or two – and their liturgy is not to be scoffed at.

Hmmm.  It is hard for me to write more coherently about this – my emotions get in the way.

Deep breath.

Ooops, need another deep breath.

For Vosper to dismiss the role of a spiritual being in the lives of others strikes me as arrogant.  Her position on the bible is no different than what millions of others think and what many others have expressed more intelligently.  I don’t find that there is anything new to be learned intellectually from what she is on about.  Emotionally, it seems she has taken her journey and come out the other side not believing what she used to believe.  She has found others (followers?) who believe the same as she does, who are relieved that their minister can guide them in this new belief.

Her folly is in deciding that her belief is new, radical, and needs to be incorporated into the United Church of Canada.  Rather than wrestle with the bible – which I find exhausting at best I must admit – she has taken what seems to be an easier route – dumping it completely.  She vastly (arrogantly?) oversimplifies the beliefs of other Christians in order to support her narrative.  Christians can indeed be darned self-righteous but ironically so is she.

Vosper has been invited by Unitarians to join them – and for sure their ideas align much more closely to her own.  Yet she won’t because she believes it is her mission to bring the United Church into the 21st century.  I suspect she will stubbornly hang on like a dog with a bone.  She is all ready booking up speaking engagements.  The American daytime talk show The View wants to have her on.  She wants her voice to be the voice of the United Church of Canada.

Were she to humble walk away of her own accord – maybe continue ministering (hmmm, wrong word) to those in her congregation in some way – that would seem to be divine intervention, yes?








Dad, tutoring, downtown school and the like. Maybe mice.

I have mice in my apartment.  Meece.  Mices.  Mouses.  More than one – so far I have seen a light brown one wiz by me and last night from my bedroom! (is nothing sacred ever) a little baby black one.

Finally connect with the owner of the building (no landlady.  Well there was but she was in her 80s and is now in a nursing home.  She had lived in the building since 1965, with her husband until he died) who tells me she will bring in a couple of traps on Thursday.

“Save the traps, okay,” she says.

“So, like, remove the dead meece and save the trap?”

“Or wait until I am next in and I’ll do it.”

No, I think the traps will be removed in their entirety.


I do not in any way want to do this but the mouse is becoming meeces so . . .

She regaled me with the story of the rats in the basement and the poison and oh that is why there was a huge dead rat in the bike room last year.  Oy.

I believe I prefer colonoscopy prep. to looking in the traps every day. You’ll hear them snap shut, she says.  God almighty, I said.

She is going to use cheese which isn’t the current thought on this but no matter.  Yuck.  Yuck.  YUCK.

No other apartment has mice or at least no one has seen them.  She gets confused the owner does and keeps telling me she will put the trap in the bathroom.  No the kitchen, I remind her.  One will go between the stove and wall and the other under the window.  Maybe I can then just hurl the lot out the window.  Probably best not to as I am on the second floor but my reactions may be such.  And I realize the mouse may actually not die right away and oy vay.

I think I could handle a dead cow more easily.  Not sure why.

I’m all dead mouse worked up.  I’m a light sleeper.  Snap!  Ugh.  Or I’ll wake up and there they will be all trapped up.


Weak and old dad is having minor surgery tomorrow.  This could be major.  He lives in Ottawa in assisted living near my sister.  Since my mom died he has gone so much more downhill poor old guy. My sister is going to spend the day at the hospital while he is in surgery.  Wait for the doctor’s report.  Make sure his wheelchair gets to his room.  The last time he was in hospital he needed to be in for quite awhile and he was a bit nervous about going back to the (lovely) manor.  His life has become infections and weakness – hopefully the surgery will help to alleviate a bit of the infection problem.

Enough said.  Well, other than it puts a giant lump in my throat.

Work.  Not much, as per usual.  The downtown school fills me with between 7-12 hours a week these days, sometimes at 1.5 hours a day which one would think is illegal as I’ve said before.  Apparently not.  Those hours will decrease pretty soon as well.  Newer teachers get more work because they get better evaluations, that kind of craziness.

I am getting D. back on Sunday as I have mentioned and I will be having a new 15 year old Chinese tutee, M, starting tomorrow evening.  It is about a 40 minute bike ride uphill or two buses or some such.  I’ll figure it out.  I wouldn’t go that far if it weren’t $40/hour.

Former student S. is back in town from China and I texted her but she doesn’t want further tutoring – too busy in her grade 11 year in the IB program in a private school.  Too bad.  She was lovely.

After a year of no classes because no students, I am hoping my two evening Langara classes run this year starting at the end of the month.  I am doing the intake interviewing next week in the evening so that is good.  Doesn’t seem promising though.

Oy.  So, as always, too much time on my hands.  I can’t go away because I can’t afford it and because I have to work around my 1.5 hour shifts.  Madness all around.

The Chinese cram school sent along an e-mail saying that if I don’t get my weekly/monthly reports in on time this year they will not pay me.  Well, they said if I am not on time, they are not on time.

Fair enough.  I shall report away.

The new student and I will feel each other out tomorrow evening and she will decide if she likes me.  Who knows.  Two hours is a long time with one student, especially since she won’t have any homework yet.  The cram school also keeps advising tutors of a four year old student who needs daily tutoring.  That must be really fun for the four year old.  Topics include social skills and manners, critical thinking, math and science.  The child is four.  What would one do?  Please say please and thank you.  Don’t eat spaghetti with your hands all of the time.  Tell me, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?  What is your take on the American election coverage?  Too much?

That would be tricky there with the four year old.  I would let her nap.  The mother would be like, hmmm, and I’d be like, we napped.  It was joyful.  Out the door I’d go.

Tiger mothers.

So same old same old – odd work situation (and the demoralizing downtown school that still pays more than the other downtown schools), under-ness and the like.

This morning I intook (not a word) a student at the downtown school – a young Brazilian woman who is a Bayer pharmaceutical rep.  Apparently Bayer owns Coppertone now.  Did she have any samples, I asked.  She did not.  The job pays very well.  She kind of knows it is a bit evil.  No matter.

I need to get out more.  I intook (not a word) a young handsome Italian student and felt myself staring into his eyes a bit.  And they are nervous because it is their first day and some middle aged woman with fabulous hair has taken them to a room by themselves to talk about themselves.

One young woman is from Belgium and her parents have paid for her to spend 39 weeks at the downtown school, as long as she gets a few diplomas – so IELTS, Cambridge, and general English.  She is just out of high school.

We have a couple of middle-aged students at the school, including a 52 year old Brazilian man (I haven’t met him) who apparently looks 82.  His wife had been at the school and complained hourly so we figure this may have aged him, this marriage.  No one really knows.  On Friday the school has me tutor (they like my tutoring because those don’t get evaluated by the students) a lovely Korean woman in her 30s.  She has travelled around the world and is really on the ball.  I feel badly she is stuck in classes with a bunch of naive 19 year olds.  She seems okay with it – her company is footing the bill.  We read from the Guardian online and chat about world events.

I went to the PNE yesterday for the first time in years – there were beef cows, piglets, dinosaurs that made dinosaur noises, and these really surreal dancing young people.  Had bad Mexican food.  Bonded with a new friend.  That kind of thing.

So that’s about it really.  Is that the mice I hear?!?!?!?  No, that was someone upstairs.  Where are the mice hiding?

You are all lovely – each and every one of my loyal fan base of two.



Whatever you do

Don’t let the sun go down on it.

Your anger.

The Bible, for example, a book that perhaps with some irony makes me angry, is often on about anger being a sin.

Don’t let the sun go down on it.

My mind for a minute there went to a sexually explicit place.  Go figure.  “Whatever you do, don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  Well, yes, that would hurt – all of that burning down below.


I have always – probably not always, probably not when I was five – struggled with anger.  So it is chronic certainly and it always feels acute.  With age, it seems to be getting worse but who really knows.

It sometimes goes hand in hand with my anxiety – often with boredom, frustration, perceived helplessness.

Anger feels so powerful.  It is a double edged sword – toward myself more than anyone but also toward others.  Because I am so used to it, I don’t seem to realize the effect it can have on others.

I do know that other people’s anger scares the heck out of me or frustrates me or feels like it takes up too much space.

My father, now elderly and somewhat withered and having yet another surgery next week on the nether regions, had anger as big as a mountain I always thought.  He didn’t know what to do with it either I don’t think so it flew everywhere, often at me.  I felt helpless and hysterical during his rages.  By the time I was a teenager I was trying to clamp down my own rage and frustrated that he wouldn’t stop his own.

I am half a century old now and while he no longer rages – and his  physical helplessness and widowed-status make me sob from afar (yes, from afar far, a country apart) – I still do.

Gah.  I hate it and I hate myself for it.

He is the last person I wanted to be like.  And yet, there you go.  My boredom, loneliness and frustration over what seems to be my lack of control over my (non) work life and life life certainly flames it but is not the only cause.  It seems in my very marrow.

I’ve been raging of late at my 50 minute hour ‘fix me now!  Take away my anger!  Stop sitting in silence!’  She seemed worn out at the end of our 50 minutes today.  Not sure what her point was but I ended up feeling even more guilty.  I’ll bring it up next time.

Sometimes anything can trigger it – someone walking too slowly in front of me, feeling left out as the apartmentees in my building get to know each other better, Donald Trump, general death and destruction, despair, someone ahead of me in line who isn’t ready to pay and roots around for a quarter, happy families cavorting, dark dreary fall days and nights, aging, bad writing, too much diarrhea, hopelessness, little work, the downtown school hiring others over me, bad TV, fear of being left out, and on like that.  I don’t like being hair trigger and I shame myself for it.

So much toxic shame.

I read a blog of a whip smart woman whose daughter has had intractable seizures since she was three months old and now the girl is 21 and severely disabled.  The woman is a great writer and she has anger rising up through her so strongly that she says some in her family won’t talk to her.  She intimidates me (although I have never met her).    She doesn’t seem to hate herself for her anger – kind of flows with it as she cares for her daughter and goes through a divorce.

On my birthday I shouted at a homeless fellow on the street because he insisted I give him money.

Interestingly, my 15 year old (almost 16!) year old tutee, D., loves me.  I don’t express my rage with her obviously but my crankiness shines through.

“You are like a cranky old woman bitter at life,” she told me one day.  She was amused.  So was I quite frankly.  We shall be reuniting on September 11th for another season of twice weekly (I think) tutoring sessions.  Good for both of us. At the downtown library here in Vancouver you can book a room for two hours for free – glasses in rooms on each floor – see through I guess so you can’t be doing nefarious things in your two hours – and often you have to kick out the people before you.

“Oh, gosh, D,” I’ve often said, “Oh geez I have to kick these people out and they won’t want to go and I will have to get angry.”

She becomes positively gleeful at this.  Her own mother (‘she is your age but you look much older’) got out of her car once to kick the tires of another car that cut her off.

“This is awesome,” she tells me.

Treating anger like a sin should perhaps not be a thing.  I don’t think we treat depression or anxiety that way.  Although, yeah, people have to be responsible with where they throw their angry voices.

It’s difficult.  Anger.

Don’t let the sun go down on it wrote the ancients who also wrote of a god who constantly smote people with his own.