Archive for April, 2017

STOP: If you haven’t read “Sentenced to Church, Part I,” do that now.

My Puerto Rican mother-in-law was the first to offer up her church for inspection. I’m sure she thought it was the perfect way to rehabilitate me, the White Devil. It is not that I’m not religious in my own way, I just don’t attend church services. I am suspicious of organized religion and mostly see it as a way for people to have an excuse to be intolerant of others’ beliefs. Like there is only one right path to spirituality, and it is theirs. (Remember in Part I that I said this series was guaranteed to offend someone.)

According to Biblical lore, Jesus sat on a stump and talked to people. If that’s true, why should I go to a place where humans have torn into nature to build a massive structure where they ask for more money to build more structures? (This is, after all, the Bible Belt, where the size of the church equals standing in the community.)

Anyway, I decide to attend a Friday night church service with my Spanish-speaking mother-in-law. The congregation is building a new church, so they were borrowing a sanctuary from a different church in the meantime and had to wait for key assistance each time. So, at 8 p.m., when the service was supposed to begin, everyone was still loitering outside. My mother-in-law saw her opportunity and seized it, introducing me to her fellow parishioners en masse.  I tried to think happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.

Once inside, the first thing I noticed was the band. It was a six-piece ensemble with a singer and his two back-ups. One of the members of the congregation brought her own tambourine. Others formed a sort of mosh pit in front of the first row of pews. After 30-45 minutes of vocal warm-up, including inspiring songs such as “Señor Jesus, muévame!” (which means, essentially, “Mister Jesus, move me!”), the pastor took the spotlight, but there was still plenty of audience participation. One man yelled “Hable papa!” (“Speak, Father!,” a phrase kind of like “You go, Girl” for the iglesia set) every two minutes.

I thought I was the only one of my kind, but then I noticed two very white old people in the front row. I thought they must have been confused and were looking for the services for other church, but then the man got up and approached the pastor. Apparently, this guy was a visiting pastor and – holy crap! – his Spanish was good! So good, in fact, that he was able to deliver an hour-long sermon, during which many members of the congregation “caught the spirit” and flung themselves crying into the aisles. My mother-in-law kept stealing glances at me to see if the spirit was making an appearance yet in my heathen soul. Or maybe she was just making sure I was awake.

The evening culminated in a group therapy session at the front, with the guest pastor laying his hands on the heads and faces of the assembled in a healing sort of way. Meanwhile, my prayers were answered when he stayed at the front and didn’t roam throughout the sanctuary finding people to save.

On the way home, any good will I built up with my mother-in-law for attending her church was lost when I refused to take her preferred route. Let’s just say I didn’t want to take the long way home after two hours of spirit possession on a Friday night.

Up next: Causing family problems


Read Full Post »

Dear Readers:

Writer’s block is a nasty beast. It periodically leaves me incapacitated, as is the case lately.

As I’d like to retain the few of you I have left, I present to you a personal essay from the past that has never seen publication. It’s a seven-part series, so I’m set for a while. (Me = drunk on content!)

Warning: The series is likely to offend anyone and everyone.


City Hall, Garden City, Georgia

Sentenced to Church, Part I

Police laser guns are not infallible and neither are their operators. This is what I tell the Garden City, Georgia, judge when I dispute my ticket for going 41 in a 35-mile-per-hour school zone. It is possible the officer tracked another car, but blamed me, I said. Plus, the school zone ended at 8:30, which is the time I was pulled over.

My argument sounded lame, even to me, but it was all I had. The judge took pity and dismissed the ticket on the condition that I complete a certain task: I must attend six church services over the next six weeks and bring proof of my attendance in the form of bulletins.*

Um. What? Isn’t there supposed to be a separation of church and state? And what does speeding have to do with religion anyway? In a small town in Georgia, I guess anything goes.

Though friends and relatives advised me to contact the American Civil Liberties Union, I was just happy to have avoided the $114 fine and the blot on my perfect driving record.

I decided to look at the sentence as an anthropological assignment. I chose to attend six different churches to contrast and compare.


Up next: “Señor Jesus, muévame!”


* True story. I promise.

Read Full Post »

How healthy are you? How willing are you to do the things you need to do to be healthy? Let’s find out!

You are diabetic. It’s time for lunch. What do you eat?
a. A healthy meal featuring protein, fruits and vegetables.
b. Ice cream, baby!

But wait, you have a sore on your toe that won’t heal. The diabetes is obviously affecting your circulation. Now what do you eat for lunch?
a. A healthy meal featuring protein, fruits and vegetables, and then go for a brisk walk around the block.
b. Still ice cream. And also onion rings. (Get off your back!)

You go to the doctor for a routine visit, and he tells you that you are now permanently blind in your left eye. You are:
a. Dismayed. You just thought it was a side effect of one of your many medications.
b. Surprised. You had no idea you couldn’t see out of your left eye.

You have to go to the bathroom. You just had a mini stroke, so you need a little help. What do you do?
a. Wait until someone brings the pee jug to you.
b. Open up your gown and let it go like you are Manneken-Pis.

You are (clearly) having issues with your bladder. The doctor installs a catheter. When do you ask for it to be removed?
a. As soon as possible because CATHETER!
b. Never. It just makes peeing easier.

Your leg is wet. Your catheter tube has come unattached. Do you notice?
a. Yes. Um … pee!
b. No.

Despite physical therapy at the nursing home after your mini stroke, you can’t walk without assistance. To be honest, you have trouble doing anything without help. When do you ask to be released from the nursing home?
a. Not until you can walk and manage tasks on your own.
b. Immediately. Watching TV all day is better from the lift chair. Who cares about the risk of falling?

Once home, your physical therapist tells you not to use the lift chair to help sit and stand. You need to build strength in your legs. What do you do?
a. Listen to her. She knows what she is doing.
b. Tell everyone that she changed her mind. The lift chair is totally fine.

Mostly or all As: Congratulations! You are doing what you need to do to be as healthy as possible. Your family must be so happy!
Mostly Bs: You need to take better care of yourself. Think about how your health issues are affecting your family.
All Bs: Dad?



Read Full Post »