A letter to the shortwave radio preacher Brother Stair.

When all you know of someone is their shortwave radio broadcasts, it’s easy to forget that they’re a person and not just a disembodied voice. That’s a dangerous attitude in this case, because Brother Stair, Ralph Gordon Stair, you are a human subject to the same treatment and same punishment as the rest of us, despite your attitude that you’re untouchable because you’re on the other end of a microphone in an undisclosed, protected location, despite your status as an unadorned beacon of hate, the face of which most people have never seen.

You’ve achieved a status of notoriety in the shortwave radio community. On web forums, me and other enthusiasts both crack jokes about your insane broadcasts, but also express a deep frustration, as you bought out so many radio stations that a cursory scan of shortwave frequencies will shake loose your frantic shrieking about total universe annihilation, giving yourself to God and growing your own vegetables. Being that there is a meditative nature to the hobby — scanning soft static for numbers stations, mysterious music and pirate broadcasts — the interruption caused by your broadcasts is highly disruptive.

And on top of that, as a guide to salvation, you are highly unreliable. Your behavior is erratic. In reference to the apocalypse you had predicted to occur at the dawn of the third millennium, you said, “If the Lord God Almighty does not make a major move before the year 2000,” he said, “I’ll tell God to go to Hell.” Two years later, in an unrelated incident, you were put in prison for assault and battery. Your disciples, working out of the abandoned motel you purchased to serve as a commune, continued to broadcast your prerecorded sermons while you were on the inside. Upon your release, you proceeded to rent out five satellites that broadcast your material 24 hours a day.

But even behind the anonymity of the internet, there is something that goes unspoken on the web forums. While I would never tell you this to your face, you keep us fascinated, and keep us listening, because you are an oddity. Your awful, demented passion makes you that way. Your insistence that a nuclear holocaust is upon us. Your extreme avoidance of medical intervention of any kind even in the case of emergencies, leading to the mysterious death of three individuals living at your compound. Your sexism and racism that is so complex and expansive in its scope that it’s like a rat maze from hell, all spoken with such unbridled burning hate that it’s practically incomprehensible, written in a frantic and bloody cipher.

Like the most violent things we can’t fathom, we stare hard in the direction we think they’re in, and create a narrative with our imagination. Therein lies my secret. I sat with my radio in a folding chair near a window, surrounded with copper wires and antenna of my own painstaking design, and I listened fanatically to your appalling broadcasts. Harebrained is the mind that thought them, callous were the lips that spoke them, but careful were the hands that caught them, and rapt were the ears that heard them, so perhaps I too am to blame.