All posts tagged: Religion

My Struggle With God Ended on a Plane

It was my best friend, Melinda, who introduced God and me. I was four. She was eight and lived in my grandparent’s trailer park with her mom, dad, several rabbits and a dog that scared me. To say that I worshipped her is to put it mildly. She knew everything, and, if I were lucky, she would teach it all to me. When Melinda fell in love with Shaun Cassidy, I was determined to fall harder, even though I still thought boys were sweaty and full of cooties. When she picked out cowl neck sweaters and velour V-necks from the Sears catalogue, I begged my mom for the identical style and color. And in the summer of 1977, when Melinda signed up for Bible Camp, I tagged along without hesitation. Before school started up again that fall, we were both saved. Jesus was our new crush, and we competed to be his biggest fan. We never swore, never took the Lord’s name in vain, always respected the Sabbath by going to Sunday school and always, …

My Proof God Wants Us to Keep Laughing

When I was a kid attending church with my family, the worst offense we could commit was to laugh in the middle of the service. Which is why my siblings and I regularly prodded each other into laughter so forceful that it seemed to emit from our mouths, noses and ears. My brother and sister and I were regularly reshuffled to opposite ends of the pews by parental glares set to “SALT PILLAR” until the moment Miss Smith arose and called the kids to follow her out for Sunday School. The lesson was driven home at an early age: God and humor do not mix. So I was so delighted, as an adult, to find a church in my adopted hometown in NorCal where a) our priest is an accomplished stilt walker and never misses a chance to explain a parable from ten feet overhead; b) the send-off gift to newly ordained seminarians as they head to their first big jobs is a flaming Bible (to be used ironically, of course); and c) when a …

Why I Keep the Fact That I’m a Muslim to Myself

You wouldn’t know my secret by looking at me. You wouldn’t see me walking down the street and give me that knowing nod of understanding. Because, honestly, you can’t tell that I’m a Muslim. I’m a middle-aged woman (first time I wrote that out… ouch), born and raised in the states. Blond hair, blue eyes and a totally American name. And I don’t cover. There are a few reasons I choose to be anonymous with my religion. I don’t need to talk about my religion or get people to convert to my side. I don’t need to debate the merits of my religion versus another religion or having no religion at all. I know what I believe and I’m firm in my faith. I have no desire to make sure you believe what I believe or to give you some spiel on why I needed to change religions. My husband and I are private people. We don’t share our news with the world. We keep that between us, so it’s reasonable to think that our …

I’m Not Religious, But I Believe in Pat

Had I posted a classified ad when I was searching for a nanny for my kids, the copy might’ve read something like this: Wanted: Delightful woman to impart kindness, manners and respect to my children. Infectious giggle a real plus. And wouldn’t you know it? That very person knocked on my door, arriving a few months before my second son was born. She stayed for 20 years. Pat’s few shortcomings as a nanny (she could be a dangerous laundress and a mystifying cook) were far outweighed by her loveliness. I remember calling my house from my office to hear her answer the phone with her charming Guyanese lilt and perfect enunciation: “Hello, good afternoon, may I help you?” she’d trill. It was all I could do not to hang up and call back just to hear her say it again. Pat had endless patience for rambunctious boys and a true appreciation for games. She actually enjoyed playing Chutes and Ladders, while I only pretended to do so. She declared my children both geniuses and gifted …

Finding God and Letting Him Find Me Too

I have never known a time when God was not in my life. He was a foreboding presence from my first memory. God was everywhere, critically watching everything. I never questioned his existence. Not the way I did Santa when I realized there was no chimney in my house for him to come down. There may have been no Santa, but God was absolutely real. I grew up going to Pentecostal churches with my mother and my younger brother. First in D.C., where I was born, and later in Philadelphia, where I lived from the time I was nine until I went to college. My father believed in God but saw no need to go to church. In both cities, my church was predominately black. You dressed up for service. Men in suits, women in dresses — never pants. The adult women like my mother typically wore lace coverings that looked like doilies over their hair. The differences between denominations were confusing for me at that time. I just knew Pentecostals to be a lively …

I’m Muslim. Don’t Tell Me It Will All Be Okay

The day after the election, I woke up crying. Not really sobbing — I just had a steady stream of tears rolling down my face. I was sad and incredibly disappointed. I pulled myself together, got my son his breakfast and then stopped, remembered, and the tears started again. I started working, and that’s when my phone started buzzing with texts all day: “thinking of you” or “I love you” or “are you ok?” and the tears would fall once again. I hopped on conference calls and someone would start the call innocently, “How’s your day?” And I couldn’t even lie: “Honestly, I’m not good today,” and we’d spend the first 10 minutes talking about what the eff just happened. It was a hard, sad day that left me heartbroken. I’m a Muslim, and half of this country doesn’t want me here. It doesn’t matter that I was born here or that I’m sixth-generation American. It doesn’t matter that no matter the linage we’re all AMERICAN, whether by birth or because we came here and became …

Siblings at Odds: He’s an Evangelical Preacher, I’m an Atheist

Is he a good person? Yes. Am I a good person? I try to be. Do I love him? Yes. Do I like him? What, like all the time? It’s complicated. This is us, 38 years ago. Look at those smiles. They aren’t forced. There’s love there, connection. We were born six years apart, too far to be peers or really even friends. This photo may have been snapped during our happiest time as siblings. Once I started talking, I became annoying. I’d belt out the Annie Soundtrack at the top of my lungs and he’d grit his teeth, knowing complaints wouldn’t get him anywhere. I would rat him out for the tiniest indiscretions. He’d kick me in the back seat of our VW Vanagon camper then smile innocently and shrug when my dad met his eyes in the rearview mirror. We were essentially two only children living in the same household. One handsome, athletic and wildly popular. The other chubby, musical and an abysmal social failure. I do not remember us as close. Only …

Margit’s Note: I Say a Little Prayer

I stand at the top of my cushy workout mat (it’s decidedly not a yoga mat) and stretch to the sky. A fire engine roars down Flatbush Avenue as I whisk it out of my mind. I close my eyes, breathe in, give thanks, offer prayers to my ancestors (my Zimbabwe-born neighbor hipped me to that one), the health of my family and friends, hope that the girls in Nigeria will be returned, to the people of Nepal, to the men I worked with at the Bowery Mission who deserve a second chance, a request to allow God’s breath to blow through me in whatever way the spirit deems necessary, and hope that today will be a good day. For now, this is my religion — my faith. Growing up Lutheran, with a mom we affectionately dubbed Kirche Frau, attendance was generally enforced and Sunday school was de rigueur… even if my sister and I used my confirmation necklace as a punk rock medallion when we transformed my brother into Billy Idol. I always have …