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Or is it the other way around?
The last I checked, my father was writing a book called What's Destroying America. Maybe he's finished with it, for all I know. He doesn't discuss his book with me, and I'm pretty sure the reason he doesn't is because he thinks I'm one of the people destroying America. To maintain peace in the family, he bites his tongue.

As a dyed-in-the-wool conservative Republican who never misses Bill O'Reilly's show on FOX News, he seems to think that if everyone in the world thought like him and Bill, things would just go a lot smoother. In the name of maintaining peace in the family, I refrain from pointing out to my father that if everyone thought like he and Bill O'Reilly, the two of them would have no one to complain about and they would both be miserable until they found a new hobby.

Everyday People )
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I often find myself thinking about how my mother used to rate other Christians as well as religious people who were something other than Christian using three broad classifications: "okay," "different than us," and "weird." A denomination or religion could fall under more than one category (for example, followers of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon were both "different than us" and "weird"), or it could come with a modifier ("a little bit weird" or only "sort-of okay.") As open-minded as I try to be in my adult life, I still find myself using her same rating system for other people of faith, and still regard many religions based on my mother's assessment of them when I was growing up, in part because it is so easy and convenient.

As a child when I first noticed Pentecostal women walking around with their long hair and long skirts, I asked my mother why.

"Because they are Pentecostal," she said, "and they're weird."

God Loves You, But I Think You're a Weirdo. )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about how most of the sickly sweet "forward this if you love God or God will smite you" emails that I get are from a former co-worker of mine who smokes more pot, drinks more booze, says more swear words, and has more casual sex than anyone else I know. This makes the emails less annoying than getting them from a truly pious person, because the fact that they came from her makes me giggle.

This young woman, who I call Vee, does not attend any sort of religious services. In fact, she is what I call a "spiritual refugee," in that she was raised in one of those religions that leave people twitchy once they distance themselves from it. Her sole nod to theology is filling my inbox with emails filled with cherubs and flowers and praying hands that tell me that the more people I forward them to, the faster my prayers will be answered, and if I delete them I'm probably going to hell.

No Fun in Paradise )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about my encounter with a pair of Mormon missionaries at my mailbox this last Saturday. It should go without stating that they were in a pair; Mormon missionaries always travel in twos. And of course they were on bicycles, clad in black dress pants, white shirts, and black ties. You can't mistake them for anything else. A Mormon on a mission looks like a Mormon on a mission, and no one else looks quite like one.

I learned as a young girl watching my mother answer the door how to deal with selling religion door to door. You harden your face and your voice just a little, and politely but firmly tell them that you aren't interested. One thing that I kind of like about the Mormon missionaries is that once you do this, they generally go away and don't make pests of themselves. They are in no way near as annoying as Jehovah's Witnesses, who will try to talk you into at least accepting a complimentary issue of The Watchtower, even after you make it clear that if they keep shoving it in your face you are going to cram it down their throats. Mormons may be annoying, but they are generally kind of sweet, too.

What made Saturday's encounter stand out was that these Mormons weren't just on a mission to spread their faith this weekend; they were also practicing damage control.

An Uncomfortable Missionary Position To Be In )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about the letter I wrote and sent to Heaven yesterday, since I happened to be close to where it needed to be mailed from. The funeral home I did my educational observation at just happened to be the one adjacent to the cemetery where the wife of my childhood friend, Mark, was buried last May.

When I wrote about Kellie's passing last spring, and later about my mixed feelings toward her because of what became of a mutual friend of ours I'll call Tara, I realized and obvious fact that never occurred to me before: Tara is an alcoholic. Kellie made a convenient scapegoat for me, but my anger at her was misplaced. It was easier to hate Kellie than to mourn Tara, so that's what I did. Now that Kellie is dead, I felt a need to make peace with her that I never felt when she was alive. Since a face to face conversation is not possible, I wrote her a letter.

Making Peace with the Departed )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about the live nativity scene my church youth group used to stage when I was a teenager, and how when we weren't standing still trying to look holy and pious, we were talking trash. This isn't news to anyone who remembers being a teenager, and one of the people who stopped to admire our little living still life in front of our church remember it very well, but underestimated how depraved we really all were.

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I think the only way I could have handled the news yesterday about Leslie with grace and humor would have been if she could have called me and delivered it herself. With almost every phone call, she had a way of making me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. Leslie, I think, would have appreciated her own death in a way that none of us left behind will ever be able to.

I can hear her voice with its slow Texas drawl, gravely from years of cigarettes and yelling at her son's doctors and nurses who needed to be taken down a peg.

"Hey girl, it's your cousin Leslie Carol! Listen, you are never going to believe what I did on Sunday. Never in a million years. I can't even believe it myself. Are you ready? I died!"

One last phone call )
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Today on my drive into work, I was thinking about how the people you love are often the same people you want to strangle with your bare hands.* Because you care about them, they have the power to drive you over the edge the way a person you are indifferent to just can't.

I suppose this is an open letter to someone I care about, but I advise her to skip it. I advise the rest of you to skip it, too, because I'm going to talk about a touchy issue I usually avoid here - religion. I am religious, for the record. I was raised in a Christian denomination that falls under the category of "moderate," meaning we are not literalists, and believe that the Christian Bible was written by men about God and that it is open for to interpretation and debate. There is a large misconception among non-Christians that the word Christian also implies right-wing and conservative, in large part because right-wing, conservative Christians like to say this and everyone just takes them at their word. A lot of us who worship under the umbrella of Christianity know this isn't true, but since we aren't shouting and waiving signs and voting Republican en mass, no one pays attention to us.

Dialing For Dollars )


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April 2017



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