Saturday, February 25, 2012

Curse My Tongue!

A friend sent this video to me today, and it made me laugh so much! I love Sofia Vergara and her animated energy. She emanates fun. :)

My favorite is, "What about Mirabelle's daughter's Quinceanera?" Ha! Love her!

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Little Fun for Friday

Here, Jimmy Kimmel addresses the pope's statement that gay marriage will lead to the end of humankind. Jimmy follows a series of possible events to this logical conclusion. ;)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quote of the Week--Parks and Recreation

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."

--Ron, Parks and Recreation

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Formspring Question--My Religious History

This week, I got the most fantastic question posed to me on Formspring, and it was clearly from someone who has read the blog.  This is so refreshing, as having an account on this site opens one up to all manner of humanity with names like "sniffmymuffin" asking very specific sexual questions.  You also get pretty inane ones directly from the site; for example, "Do you like donuts?"  I've read such stimulating commentary as "Q:  What are your views on abortion?  A:  I wouldn't get one, but whatevs.  LOL."  I share this all to relay how excited I am when I occasionally get a real question from a real reader. 

I'll just point out here that if anyone wishes to ask me a question or suggest something for me to blog about, you can always do so in a comment, by emailing me from my profile, or you may ask via the Formspring widget that appears somewhere in the column on the right.  That's what someone did, so here goes!

How are you able to be as open as you are about your history with religion?

I really think that this is a great question, and I've been thinking about it a lot over the past few days.  There are several answers, and they all sort of depend on how you look at the question and if you continue it with any phrases, like "when it sounds so crazy" or "when it may highlight your current disbelief" or...well, fill in the blank.  I'll offer up a handful of answers. 

Because of my audience

When I started posting, I personally told four people--two friends and two family members--about the blog.  As these things go, those four people turned into twenty in no time flat, and then grew from there.  This is perfectly fine, and I guess I should have known that this would happen given the fact that I don't do the usual forms of social networking.  Most of this group aren't bloggers, and based on stats drop in with varying regularity from pretty frequently to only on occasion.  Everyone in this group knows my religious history including upbringing, later church activity, and about what I now term "Jesus jobs," so any story I tell is either something they've heard, experienced with me, or they can at least picture it based on other things they know about my former places of employment, etc.

Also when I first began posting, I had been a blog reader for several months, and most of the ones that I read were by authors who had been religious.  Specifically, many of them were former Mormons.  While making my way into the "Church Alumni Association," I read a lot about Mormonism (a topic I've always found interesting anyway) and about people leaving Mormonism.  It helped me examine a faith objectively and from a distance, and then apply my findings to my own religion of origin.  As a result of posting comments on these blogs, a few people found me here and there, and many of them have a similar background even if the religion of choice or birth was different.  Everyone in this group either totally gets any story I could tell, or can at least say, "Cripes, that's nuts," and sympathize in some way.

As for people I've picked up from completely non-religious blogs or the ones who find me through Google searches looking for Severus Snape pictures, Tina Fey quotes, or clips from Glee?  I don't know what they think!  I'm sure the Google searchers just move right along as I do when I'm doing the same; however, if a few stick around and read about me getting gang-healed by Pentecostals...well, so be it.

Because I had/have a unique position in several different religious circles

This probably comes more from the angle of why than how, but I'll throw it out there, anyway.  Since I grew up in a sort of middle ground brand of nondenominational Christianity, I fit (past tense) into lots of different groups.  We didn't get slain in the spirit and speak in tongues, but as time went on and fads came and went in churches, our style of worship became looser and more jeans-wearing-worship-bandy, so enthusiastic services weren't exactly foreign.  On the other end of the spectrum, our church growing up wasn't really liberal, but services in Methodist, Presbyterian or other mainline denominations didn't seem that different either...maybe just a little more formal.  We were right in the middle.

My dad sang in a gospel group for twenty-five years, and as a kid I would be taken around with the family to lots of different churches where the group performed--usually during Sunday evening services.  By the time I came of age, I understood that there were lots of different ways to be a Christian, and I was encouraged to think of us all as brothers and sisters in the same faith but with different forms of expression.  In high school and college I got involved with lots of different groups that were Christian, but ecumenical. 

As I left college and moved to a bigger city, I had a job at a Presbyterian church as their Director of Christian Education.  I mostly ran youth and children's programs.  I did this as someone without a Presbyterian background, but they knew this when they hired me and were fine with it.  I did really utilize a lot of ecumenical materials and we attended big events regularly with youth groups from churches of all denominations.  Doing this put me in connection with lots of different groups, some ok and some a little crazy.  Connections led me to other workplaces, such as the radio station of which I wrote a few posts ago.

From college through my mid-twenties, I perpetually ended up in situations that seemed normal at the time, but now seem a little funny especially to people outside of the story.  My friend Jack is continually surprised at random things I will say.  For example, he was talking about some shenanigans he read in the news about a particular Baptist group.  Quothe I: "Did I ever tell you how I became president of the Baptist Student Union in college?"  He looks at me like I'm nuts, "But you're not a Baptist!?" "None of us were. Well, two Baptist girls started the club then graduated, and the membership that they'd built was all of the non-Baptist variety."  It really did sort of piss off Baptist churches when we would go to present some sort of program or run a youth night for them, and they would find out that we were a bunch of pinko-Methodist-Catholic-Lutheran-nondenominational commies.

Another time...Jack: "Ugh...that place over there has an ultrasound machine, and they convince young girls not to have abortions."  Me: "I know. Did I ever tell you how I ended up on their Board of Directors?" Jack: "Jesus, Mary and Joseph."  Early in our friendship, he asked me if I'd ever been to a Catholic church, and I said, "Well, I've never been to mass, but I had to give a talk in front of three hundred or so teenagers in a Catholic church once."  "WHAT?"

I taught him a few things about lingo, too. As a devout Roman Catholic, Jack has a hightened sensitivity to anti-Catholic rhetoric, and he is quick to assume that criticism is always in that direction. For example, in the film Jesus Camp, a girl talks about "dead churches" and on various religious television stations you'll hear people talk about churches that are "not on fire." Jack always took this as code for "The Catholic Church." When he brought this up one day, I told him that he was partially correct, but that charismatic people view any church that does not speak in tongues or have healing and miracles as dead and not on fire. He was a little surprised, but I knew this from being around lots of charismatic and Pentecostal people.  Jack: "So to be on fire, you have to speak in tongues and have a drum kit?"  Me: "Yes."

All of this meandering is to say that since I found myself involved in lots of different Christian groups of different varieties, I have a somewhat unique view of the Christian experience.  I didn't realize this until Jack started to point it out.  After that I began to notice things about people who only have a view of Christianity from their own specific denomination.  For example, I was talking to someone and for some reason I used the word Protestant and he said, "Oh, I'm not a Protestant...I'm a Baptist."  Huh?  Another time, I noticed that someone spelled Pentecostal "Pennacostle."  Upon digging further, I found that he didn't know that Pentecostal came from the word Pentecost, and furthermore didn't know what the latter was.  This also was a life-long Christian.  It just wasn't something his denomination emphasized, so he hadn't made the connection.

Sorry for the length of this answer, but the end of it all is that since I have a different view of things, I figure I should share it and maybe it will be helpful to someone.

Because I was duped but not crazy or deceitful

This sounds terrible, but I don't think I would have as easy a time telling my stories if I'd been the person who really thought they were being knocked out by the holy spirit, and not some guy in a suit. 

Also, if I had been a part of some kind of religious deceit, I think I'd be hesitant to tell the story.  Last weekend, I saw the fantastic 1972 Acadamy Award-winning documentary Marjoe (thanks again for the recommendation, Ahab), about a man whose childhood was spent preaching the revival curcuit, and as an adult he hires a film crew to document his last tour.  Behind the scenes, his interviews reveal that he is performing a con, and he is telling his secret in order to show people the schemes they are falling for on a regular basis.  I think that would be a hard story to tell.

Because I'm single with no children

Whether through PostSecret (I'm a Baptist preacher's wife and an atheist, and no one knows) or post-religious bloggers, I've come across some really heart-breaking stories about people whose beliefs have changed, and as a result their marriage and status as an involved parent are at risk.  Because of this, they have to be closeted about their religious past and present, really.  I'm not in this position as someone who is single and with no children, so in a very practical way, that is partially how I can be so open about my religious past and non-religious present.

Because I know I'm not alone

I know people who have come out of religion, and as we all tell our stories, we are helped and become a community.

Because it's my story, and it's true!

You know, I could have been born in Europe to a family of intellectuals under the govern of a kindly lesbian agnostic president, in a town where people ride bikes and don't think much about religion. I could've been born in the Northeast U.S. to Episcopalians who listen to NPR and continue to attend church because of the high end brand of coffee served after the early service, but sometimes skip to go to the movies.

But I wasn't. I was born in Indiana, and we went to church. I wasn't one of the smart ones who turned fourteen and cried, "Bunk!" to the whole religion thing. All of that sent me on a certain trajectory, and that's ok. It's my story. I own it, because it's the only one I have to tell. Other people appear in it, so I try to be respectful and not name names (though it wouldn't take a math whiz to put together two and two and figure out some of the places).

So, asker, that's my very long and complicated answer to your simple and great question. I hope I hit on something that makes sense toward what you were looking for, but if not, feel free to ask a follow-up.

Whatevs, LOL.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When It's Right, You Just Know

Happy Valentine's day to all, no matter what your situation might be.  :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ellen Addresses Her Haters

...and comes out to those who mayn't have known.  :)  The comments that she reads at the end really warm my heart.

Hurray for Ellen and JCP!

Yesterday marked one year of Vain Minutia.  I had set up a template ages previously, but didn't start posting until a year ago.  I have kept up with it for approximately eleven and a half months longer than I thought I would.  Thanks to all who stop by!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Knocked Out by the Holy Ghost II: Holy Ghost Protocol

Before I pick up where I left off in the story that I began here, I'll give just a touch more background on the church and pastor of which and of whom I write.  Again, this church owned the radio station where I worked, and for the most part I didn't have to deal with their antics.  I will say here also that a handful of my co-workers attended this church, and most were really delightful people.  The rest of the staff was comprised of conservative Christians of various brands, and we even had the odd Methodist and Catholic here and there.  For awhile, we had a culturally Catholic but practically agnostic fill-in receptionist, and I loved how she described her boyfriend, "He's a Christian, but he's not sick with it." 

When I saw this CNN article (and I only saw it because of the link at Republic of Gilead--thanks, Ahab), I thought of the church in my story.  This is exactly the kind of shameful theatrics that this church would play host to, and their congregation would go nutty about it (nutty, as in gleeful nutty).  I really recommend watching the video at the above link of Pastor Eddie Long being wrapped in a supposedly 300+ year-old Torah (it looks like they soaked it in tea to make it look aged), which also supposedly was harbored successfully through the holocaust.  Around the five minute mark is where it really gets going if you want to toggle forward.  If you've never witnessed this kind of thing, it may be surprising to you, but I promise that these types of churches pull stuff like this on a regular basis.  I've seen some healing services and such, and it's all a combination of community theater/magic show/used car salesmanship, etc.

I bring up the Eddie Long incident in order to help paint a picture of the church in my story.  Besides style of worship, I see two things here which they have in common.  A.) Many churches like this seem to be fascinated with the Jewish roots of Christianity, but they end up celebrating that connection in a really tacky way that is horribly offensive to Jews.  I just watched a documentary about Hasidic Jews in America called A Life Apart, and I can't imagine how deeply revolted they would be to see a charismatic preacher being wrapped in a Torah and lifted up in a chair while verses are being chanted in Hebrew.  If Hasidic people had no other reason for their abstinence from television and other media, this one event justifiably would do the trick.  B.)  Churches like this seem to deify pastors even more when they have been accused of some grievous sin (crime).  The CNN article linked above mentions the fact that Long settled out of court with four young men who said that they were coerced into sexual activity with him.  The bigger the atrocity, the bigger the show when a Man of God is being lifted up (usually figuratively) by his people and in their eyes dedicated to God and initiated into a new era of ministry. 

Just briefly, as an example of specific shenanigans, I'll tell you that one of the things the church in my story did regularly was selling prayer cloths.  The pastor and his wife would take white cloth, pour annointing oil (also known as...oil) onto it and pray over and touch the cloth.  They would do this on local TV.  Then, the big piece of cloth would be cut into little pieces, and you could buy a piece by calling in and giving your credit card number.  In exchange you would be blessed and stuff.  Let me remind you here that I am not making any of this up.

Anyway, back at the ranch...

I walked up the drive to the church where the revival was going on in order to fix a problem with the sound.  The radio station was airing the revival, and I had to make a trip over to the church to talk to the sound guy over there.

Well, it turns out that things were on autopilot, because the sound guy was up front in a mosh pit of congregants who were getting slain in the spirit.  The sermon portion was over, and the handsome young revivalist was calling people forward to get the spirit, and whatnot.  People flooded down there, of course.  Elders from the church were helping him talk to people, heal them, pray, and the big shebang which gives the most visual impact for these things, they were touching people on the forehead or blowing on them, and this had the effect of people falling back due to being filled with the holy spirit (holy ghost, as they say).  People would then lie on the floor speaking in tongues, or crying, or just lying there as if asleep.  The women wearing skirts or shorts, after they went down on the floor, would be covered from the waist down in little modesty blankets.  No legs should be exposed, or even worse, the stray panty-clad cooter here and there if a skirt flipped up too much.  We women, even when in a spirit-filled coma, shouldn't make our brothers, or a certain percentage of our sisters, stumble into lust.  That was truly the reason for the modesty blankets.

I don't even really have to continue--you've guessed the ending by now.  This story isn't exactly The Sixth Sense.  I went up to see if I could chat with the sound guy, as he at least wasn't on the floor, and in trying to make my way through the crowd at the front, an elder cornered me.  There was no, "can I pray for you," or "do you need healing," or "howdy!"  This stranger in a suit who was about twice my age walked up to me, looked me in the eye, and said in a strong tone, "TAKE IT" and shoved me in the forehead with the heel of his hand.  Another suit behind me did the junior high hallway trick of kneeing me in the upper calf so I immediately folded back and went down on the floor--the combination of those two things will do that to you.  As I mentioned in part one of this tale, I was wearing shorts, so I got the little blanket flung onto my legs, as well. 

Later, I would think, "Wow...being told to take it, and then being knocked down to the ground by two men.  Isn't that a little rape-y?" 

But after a stunned few seconds on the carpet, I did what I had done two decades previously when I had been mistaken for satan.  I lay there on the floor of a church and laughed my ass off.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Movie of My Life Blogathon

Everyone should check out Rich's blog, Wide Screen World.  His movie blog is so unique, because he not only gives his thoughts on films (mainstream to cult, to classic, to arthouse), but he also shares his experience with the film...where he saw it, what were the circumstances, any special event that might have been happening at the screening, memories associated with the film's theme, etc.  I love his approach, and he has great stories.  One that leaps to mind is the one about his virgin experience at Rocky Horror.  I would hunt down that link, but I think that if you are so inclined you should just take a look at his blog and see what interests you.

He's playing host to a blogathon entitled Movie of My Life!  I'm to cast myself and other figures in my life, and I'm going to do so based on celeb look-alikes and also just in general based on how they've performed in past roles.

Here's the cast...

Janeane Garofalo as...Me

Eric Stoltz as...My bff Chris
Just looking at these actors and imagining them as me and Chris just makes me laugh so much!  We two would be the focus of this (incredibly boring, 28% on Rotten Tomatoes) movie.  The casting is a bit of a cheat, because these two are about a decade older than we, and this movie would cover an 8-day whirlwind trip that Chris and I took when we were in our early twenties.  The casting below is off due to dodgey ages, too, but this is my film!  My life!  I'm the decider!!!

The trip we took found us in the following cities:  Phoenix, Tuscon, Las Vegas, San Diego, Tijuana, LA, and back around to Phoenix to fly back (I can't remember if we flew out of Louisville or Indianapolis--I think the latter).  It was filled with a lot of hilarity, including a fun visit with our friend Liz at Fuller Seminary.  We pretended that he wasn't gay and that we were a couple and that we weren't staying in Liz's room, as this was verboten.  Of course, the pretending that we were a couple and that he wasn't gay wasn't necessary, but we were young, and this seemed funny.  We were expecting the seminarians to be torch-wielding villagers, though many were quite liberal.  We wore rings even, and much like Richard Chamberlain's clergy vestments in The Thorn Birds, Chris's ring chafed him, so he took it off.

The main event of this trip was a wedding, and this one had two grooms.  They were friends of Chris, and he was singing at their ceremony--Grow old along with me/the best is yet to be....  It was on Halloween, and it was awesome.  Of course, those who attended the wedding were asked to please wear costumes.  I was a red shirt from Star Trek, who had clearly walked the path that all red shirts must walk...dirt, bruise and abrasion make-up, etc.  Chris was a crazy character from some soap opera, except when he sang, at which point he dressed up.  The grooms were very handsome in tuxedos and top hats, and were carrying canes.  They presented each other with gifts during the ceremony, and one of them was wrapped a little too well.  The groom was struggling to open it, and a female attendant shouted, "OK, where's a lesbian with a pocket knife?"  Everyone laughed.  It was the best wedding I've ever been to before or since.  The Unitarian Universalist pastor who presided over the affair should be played by Meryl Streep.

We had lots of adventures along the way, and we have taken many trips since.  I think this film would cheat a bit beyond the age issues, in that I would put in some of our stories from other vacations.  Like the time when we went back to Vegas, ran into Celine Dion's husband as he came out of her auditorium at Caesar's Palace and chatted him up.  That was one of those surreal moments that is just funny because of how random it is.  This film would definitely have the scene where Chris had to run out into the desert to pee, and I suppose it would have to have the scene where he accidentally saw my boobs (gay guys and their hags--it happens). 

This would be a road trip movie--episodic, loose, and wandering around some illusive point.  In order to include others, I think I would have other people in my life as voices in my head, some from the future, even, because I didn't even know some of these people yet.  But here they are, because they are in my life, and they have obvious (at least to me) actor look alikes.  Here they are...

Tom Hanks as...My awesome brother, Gary

Amanda Seyfried as...My L'ville friend, Heidi
The pictures are giving me fits, so here is a list.  Anyone reading this who is included in the film:  If you have beef with this casting, I will send you the specific pictures which prove that these are, in fact, your celebrity dopplegangers!

John Krasinski as...My friend, Jeff
Nicole Kidman as...My Northeast friend, Heidi
Willie Garson (Stanford from Sex and the City) as...My friend Jack
Sarah Silverman as...My friend, Sarah
Audrey Wasilewski (Pam from Big Love) as...My friend, Amanda
Ashley Tisdale as...My friend, Jackie 
Vera Farmiga as...My friend, Helen
Ellen DeGeneres as...The lady on the airplane who looked like Ellen DeGeneres

The list could go on, but there you go.  That's my road trip movie.  Just doing this sketchy description makes me want to write a story about it, and really I did.  When I got back from this trip, I typed out a several page mini-memoir of what happened, and I'm so glad.  When I go back and read it, there are so many things there that I would have forgotten, and Chris would have, too.  Perhaps I'll post that as a series someday.

I don't know what the ending of the movie would be, but I know something about the end of my life. 

I'll still be friends with Chris.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

But How Seriously Did You Take it, Michelle?

Pretty Seriously.


The gripping (ha) conclusion to my last post will be coming within the next few days, but next I'll put up a post that is a response to a movie blogathon. Stay tuned...