Corey knelt with his palms pressed together, head bowed to the black confessional screen. “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” Corey said. “It’s been, uhhh, seven-ish years since my last confession.”
Sitting in a wicker chair on the opposite side of the confessional booth, Father Bob replied, “My son—what sins do you wish to confess?”
Corey swallowed hard and closed his eyes. “Alright, here it goes. I’ve … I’ve listened to every single episode of The Joe Rogan Experience.” Corey patted his hair to make sure it wasn’t on fire.
Father Bob paused, pulling on his thin white beard. “Is that a radio program?” he asked.
Corey laughed quietly. “No, Father. It’s a podcast. Hosted by comedian, UFC color commentator, and psychedelic warrior, Joe Rogan.”
“Right,” Father Bob said, irritated but not sure why. “Well, listening to a show isn’t a sin against Christ or God in heaven above.”
“Are you sure I’m not being punished, Father? Lots of bad stuff’s been happening lately.”
Father Bob leaned closer to the confessional screen. “What kind of bad stuff?”
“Let’s see,” Corey said. “Last week, in the mall food court, I hosted an informational session about the well-documented incidences of human contact with extraterrestrial life. Halfway through my presentation, a woman snapped the projector over her knee and shouted, ‘This is a sin against God!’ You’re saying this woman is a liar, Father?”
As if reading a shopping list, Corey continued: “I lost my job at Batteries Plus after kickboxing a customer in the parking lot. My girlfriend ended things after I started a strict carnivore diet. I’m banned from every grocery in town, every vitamin store, every farmer’s market. Pretty much anywhere that sells turmeric.”
Father Bob felt an unfamiliar pressure building in his abdomen.
“I was asked to no longer attend family dinners,” Corey said. “Those morons don’t wanna hear about the benefits of pellet grills. Which is, forgive me, bullshit. Pellet grills are vastly superior to charcoal grills. They’re all Rogan uses.” Corey clicked his tongue, fighting to remember all of God’s punishments. “What else? I was arrested for letting the chimps at the zoo smoke my weed pen. I’m banned from the pool hall on Ocean Boulevard. But they can’t prove I was sharking, Father.”
With some authority, Father Bob said, “Perhaps we press pause.”
“Father, have you heard of Alpha Brain? How about David Goggins? Are you into archery? Father—please say you’ve shot a compound bow?”
“Oh, shut up!” Father Bob shouted, before quickly clearing his throat. “These events and references, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Father Bob was partially lying, though. Being an incredible chef, he knew all about the advantages of pellet grills.
“Your sufferings,” Father Bob continued, “they are not a result of listening to this show.”
Thinking out loud, Corey asked, “If I’m not being scolded by God or Jesus for listening to Joe Rogan, then why are all these bad things happening?”
Father Bob once again pulled at his thin white beard. “Something just occurred to me,” he said. “Listening to this show is not a sin. But it is a sin to worship false idols. This Joseph Rogan, he’s only a man.”
Silence from Corey’s side of the confessional booth.
“Only a man?” Corey said, the words not making sense. “Corey is only a man. But Joe Rogan? Joe Rogan is an institution. A lifestyle. A go…” The thought stopped Corey cold. In a flash of religious ecstasy, it all made sense.
Father Bob heard a door slam on Corey’s side of the confessional. Exiting the booth, Father Bob found Corey facing a long line of people wearing UFC shirts and tactical boots and Realtree Camo and five-toed running shoes, drinking Buffalo Trace and eating homemade elk jerky while discussing aliens and Elon Musk and Dave Chappelle and the benefits of hot yoga and where to buy the best turmeric. The line snaked outside the church’s front door. It snaked into the parking lot.
“Everyone!” Corey boomed, his voice echoing throughout the cavernous church. “This whole time, we’ve had it all backwards. Of course bad things are gonna happen to us.” He pointed at the altar, at the statue of Christ on the cross. “The non-believers punish the preachers of holy prophets because they haven’t yet seen the light. We are spreading His good word.” When Corey said His he pointed to the image of Joe Rogan on his t-shirt.
It took a moment, but when the scales finally fell from the eyes of the men and women, each turned to their neighbor with anxious understanding.
“Oh, holy Rogan!” yelled a woman at the back of the line.
“Show us the way!” yelled the man next to her.
“Come,” Corey said, spreading his arms wide. “To Austin, Texas—land of stand-up comedy, firearms, and all the smoked meats we could ever need.” Corey humbly bowed his head. “Austin is where we will find further instructions.”
As the newly baptized disciples exited St. Francis of Assisi church, a sense of purpose and direction prevailed. They knew the source of their suffering. And they knew why it was worthwhile.
Father Bob watched the crowd file out of God’s house, a strange mix of emotions flowing through him. Confusion. Fury. Pity. But more than anything, Father Bob was curious. He pulled his phone from his pocket and typed words into Google. Within seconds, a video of Joe Rogan speaking passionately about grilled venison started playing. Father Bob sat down in the last pew. He raised the volume. He loosened his collar.