A Priest Walks Into a Starbucks...

The May 10 Rocky Mountain News features a story every bit as unusual (and dopey) as its headline: "Priest's 'Illegal Parking' Taunted." In it, sobersided Rocky religion writer Jean Torkelson writes about one of Colorado's least staid journalists, Noel Black, whose latest online project is called Newspeak!. As noted in Torkelson's piece, Black has frequently assailed Rev. Don Armstrong in the past for what he considers to be his anti-gay proselytizing -- a stance that led to the Reverend's Grace Church being highlighted in the hilarious church-kicking feature that was once a staple of Black's previous publication, The Toilet Paper. This time, however, Black and company posted several photos of Armstrong parking at an unmetered spot directly in front of the Newspeak! office prior to grabbing himself a drink at a nearby Starbucks.

Why did the Rocky devote nearly 500 words from the pen of what may be its least funny writer to an item that cried out to be handled in a humorous way? Hard to say -- but the news hook for the piece was an incident on May 6, when Armstrong was nearly smacked by a pie. Then, on May 9, Newspeak!, whose launch was touted in the second item of this November 2006 Message column, ran a series of images showing Armstrong on his aforementioned java run. Here's the text that accompanied the montage, which appeared under the headline "Crossing Don's Rubicon":

The Good Reverend Don Armstrong apparently has a deep reverence for scriptural authority and laws, as evidenced by the following comment on titusonenine:

The rumor this morning is that this fellow was hired by a gay advocacy group called Newspeak to attack me. If this is true, it is due to the inability of the press to understand that the division in the church is not about gays, but scriptural authority, counciliar decision making, and membership in a world wide Communion against which TEC is asserting its doctrine of radical individualism, while eliminating most of the core teachings of classic Christian faith.

That reverence, however, does not seem to extend to the parking authority, as evidenced by these photographs taken of Armstrong in flagrante delicto parking his shiny Jeep Rubicon (what an ironic name for Armstrong's SUV!) illegally in front of Starbuck's (right out in front of our new office, which we've dubbed "The Eye of Mordor" because, pssst, it sees all!) as he ran in to get his morning frappuccino. It's clear that Armstrong was asserting his radical individualism while eliminating most of the core parking laws.

If Torkelson saw the wit in these passages, her article doesn't reflect it -- and neither does a quote from Armstrong spokesman Alan Crippen, who was quoted as saying, "Following and stalking priests, disrupting services -- this isn't reasoned public discourse but fascist tactics."

Black's answer to that is contained in a hilarious yet pointed blog posting that followed the appearance of the Rocky's piece. Here's a look at his "Open Letter to Alan Crippen":

Should I presume that, based on your statments in Jean Torkelson's column in the Rocky Mountain News this morning, that our pictures of Rev. Don Armstrong parking illegally directly in front of our office not once, but TWICE make us fascists!?...

I'm sorry Alan, but would care to explain how Don Armstrong pulling up DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF OUR OFFICE, like the frappuccino junkie you confirm that he is, makes us stalkers?

Last time I checked, taking pictures of people doing illegal things and publishing them made people journalists! See, even though the pictures were meant to be a kind of light-hearted ribbing of your embattled rector, I think it does establish that Rev. Armstrong has a certain disregard for the law when it comes to his own personal interest. If I were a member of Grace Church, I might even be concerned that such behavior--multiple frappuccino's and recidivistic illegal parking behaviors--might suggest that Don Armstrong is gluttonous sloth with no real regard for even the simplest of laws. Not to put too fine a point on it, Alan, but if I were a member of Grace Church I might be a little concerned that my parishioners might see such self-indulgent behavior and basic disregard for the law as indicative of a general, hubristic pattern of behavior that might involve much larger indulgences (no pun intended), if you know what I mean.

I don't know about you, Alan, but putting gay people in jail in Nigeria, as your Bishop condones--that seems like fascism to me. How about you?

Sincerely, Newspeak

Will Torkelson cover this latest development? Hope not -- because she'd undoubtedly suck every last laugh out of it. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts