Hank Busche is a pastor, just like Pastor Young. However, unlike Pastor Young, who lives in the vilest marshes on the outskirts of town, Hank lives in a low-rent one-bedroom house with beveled siding and a mossy roof. But that’s not all that’s different about Hank.
Hank eats milk-sodden Wheaties for breakfast like a good All-American pastor, while Pastor Young eats Abort-Os Cereal drenched in the tears of widows. While Pastor Young hates women and all they stand for, Hank is happily married to his wife, Mary; Mary’s laugh is melodic, while Young’s women always cackle like she-fiends. Hank prayed the night before, while Young was out debasing himself and having conversations with Brummel. Hank, you see, is our mystery prayer, the one the Angels came to comfort.
And he needs their help more than ever. You see, the board – what board, you ask? Why, THE board, of course – is going against the Bible and against the Ten Commandments. Lou, one of the members of the church, committed adultery of some kind in some fashion; Hank brought his sins before the body of the church – thank God he’s not a Catholic and has no expectation of privacy during Confession – and “we, well, removed him from the fellowship”, doing “just what the Bible says” in Leveticus 20:10: “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.” So obviously Hank here has put out a hit on Lou. Alf Brummel, on the other hand, is doing….. something. Something sinister! Something involving the incredibly un-Biblical “judge not lest [you] be judged”.
In response to all this righteousness, someone has painted nasty slogans on Hank’s house, making his dear wife cry. They wrote the incredibly offensive “YOU’RE DEAD MEAT, ———–“. We are assured, dear reader, that “———-” is a terrible obscenity – but obviously a Good Christian won’t even write the word or admit it exists, let alone use it.
In all seriousness, in this section we’re given a firm taste of Peretti’s brand of Christianity. A good pastor, he indicates, knows from a young age there is no other life he could live; the life of a good pastor is “exciting”, resembling the “exhilaration […] felt at the Alamo”, “exciting”, “full of fire”, “exciting” ,”steadfast”, and “exciting”. But something is Wrong in this town: Hank is full of fire, but the kindling is sopping wet. Nobody seems to feel passionately about Jesus here in this pretty how town. Apparently there’s not much call for Southern Baptists in [Insert State Here] – probably just as well, given the incredibly nondenominational Ashton United Christian Church. No wonder the town is full of demons: it’s nondenominational, full of tolerance and forgiveness. Obviously Jesus must detest the place. It’s like the next Sodom.