The Meming of Life: on secular parenting and other natural wonders

incoming!

flaming death

I’m a tad excited. I got myself a piece of hate mail.

Okay, it’s not really that hateful — just a little irritated, perhaps. So I got myself a piece of irritated mail, then.

But can I just call it hate mail? Because it’s the first one I’ve gotten since the book release that’s even close, the very first, and I was ever-so-ready in the beginning to get a lot of them. I was so ready to be pounced on when Parenting Beyond Belief was released that I pre-wrote answers to six different types of complaints I had anticipated — four for complaining Christians and two for complaining atheists. Spent some serious time on them, I did, and they’re cracking good answers, kill-’em-with-kindness type answers that leave the victim with a goofy, pleasant grin, unsure quite why he can’t feel his extremities anymore and entirely oblivious to the rivulets of steaming scat running down his forehead into his tiny little eyes. That kind of answer.

But the complaints never came. Oh, a little here and there, some of them points well-taken, but not much static to speak of. Almost everyone’s been quite decent about the book, even when they disagree with this or that bit.

Now what kind of crap luck is that?

Then I got this:

To whom it may concern-

The book “Parenting Beyond Belief” is ridiculous. I feel sorry for any child raised by atheist parents. I only hope that you can see that raising a child is the absolute best thing for them.

God Bless —

John R______

See? That’s the worst I’ve received since PBB came out, and it’s not even that bad. Just irritated, and a bit confused in the last sentence.

The angriest letter I ever got followed the lockout debacle/media frenzy to which I alluded in an earlier post, the one at the College of St. Catherine in 2003 when, as a faculty member, I invited a nonreligious scholar to speak on the Catholic campus. That letter (one of dozens at the time) told me I was a “son-of-a-bitch,” instructed me to kiss the college president’s (wait for it!) shoes for feeding my family despite my apparent “intentions to sew [sic] confusion in the minds of students at a Catholic college,” promised me Hell — and ended with “Gods Blessings on you.”

I thought sure PBB would draw more such fire. I was even assured by Lisa Miller at Newsweek that I would be “in the crosshairs of the Religious Right” after the article came out. There’s been a bit of grumbling on websites here and there , but that’s it.

Don’t think I’m really complaining. My word, I’m quite relieved that I haven’t had to waste energy in that direction. But I’m puzzled. Relieved and puzzled. Most of my mail looks more like this, which came in less than an hour after the “God Bless” message:

Dale,

This past year:

I read your book.

Joined a Humanist Group

Told my 12 year old it is OK not to believe

And now the cycle of religion is broken and she is free to focus on life rather than afterlife

Life is good and it’s about time. I’m 50. My parents, brothers, sister and wife are believers but I’ve always had strong but quiet doubt.

Now I’m OK with not pretending anymore and I don’t sit back when I need to stand up for myself. I accept my way as what normal should be and urge family to accept my thinking as I accept theirs.

Thanks,
G___

I hope I never stop being moved by messages like that.

labels

[continued from the open shelf]

Laneytrain

“What does ‘humanist’ mean?” Delaney asked.

I swallowed. You’d think that, given my current work, I’d have sat myself down at some point and worked out guidelines for such inevitable moments:

CONTINGENCY 113.e

Requests for Definitions

    iii. Term: “humanist”
      Subset 2: Age 5-6
        Children in this demographic cohort who make a direct request for the definition of “humanist” and/or any of its etymological class members (e.g. humanism, humanistic) are to be referred to Article 6, section D of the Humanist Manifesto, except in Arkansas and Hawaii.

Lacking such a road map, I simply answered her question. In retrospect, to my surprise, I even answered it correctly.

“A humanist is somebody who thinks that people should all take care of each other, and that even if there is a heaven or a god, we should spend our time making this life and this world better.”

“Awesome!”

I should note that Laney (age 6) uses Awesome! to signify everything from “I find that rather astonishing” to “That’s something I didn’t know before, and now I know it!” The latter meaning was in play here, I think, the word Awesome! signifying a new piece of the world clattering against the bottom of the piggy bank of her receptive mind.

Later that evening, after she’d been read to and sung to and tucked and kissed, I went back to my study to close up for the night. Scattered on and around the recliner she’d been sitting in were The Humanist Anthology, Tristram Shandy, The Kids’ Book of Questions, The World Almanac, The Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, The Simpsons and Philosophy, Cosmos, and Bulfinch’s Mythology. I reloaded the shelves and went to bed.

One week later, during our afterschool snack-chat, Laney informed me excitedly that there are nine different religions in her class.

“Nine, wow! How do you know there are nine?”

“We’re talking about different religions, and Mr. Monroe asked if anybody wanted to say what kind of religion their family believed.”

I was not surprised to hear of some diversity. There are lots of South Asian kids in the class. Compared to the demographic mayonnaise I had pictured North Atlanta to be, I’ve been thrilled with the diversity here. “And there were nine different ones?!”

“Yeah, nine…” She looked at the ceiling and began to rattle them off. “Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Baptiss, Jewish, Chains…” (“Chains” is probably “Jain,” one of the most benign and respectable religious traditions on Earth). She counted on her fingers. “Anyway, I can’t remember all of them.” She suddenly beamed. “And I was the only humanist!”

I paused for a week or so.

I am adamantly opposed to labeling children, or even allowing them to label themselves, with words that imply the informed selection of a complex worldview. Dawkins hits it right on the head when he refers to a long-ago caption on a photo in The Guardian. The photo was of three children in a Nativity play:

They are referred to as “Mandeep, a Sikh child; Aakifah, a Muslim child; and Sarah, a Christian child” — and no one bats an eye. Just imagine if the caption had read “Mandeep, a Monetarist; Aakifah, a Keynesian; and Sarah, a Marxist.” Ridiculous! Yet not one bit less ridiculous than the other.

That incisive analogy is Richard’s greatest contribution to secular parenting. I completely agree, as (I am increasingly convinced) do most nonreligious parents. Once a label is attached, thinking is necessarily colored and shaped by that label. I don’t want my kids to have to think their way out from under a presumptive claim placed on them by one worldview or another. So prior to age twelve, I won’t allow my children to be called “atheists” any more than I’d allow them to be called “Christians”–not even by themselves. (More on the ‘age twelve’ comment in a later post. Remind me when I forget.)

So my first impulse was to give the usual cautionary speech: Now be careful not to stop thinking. There are still too many questions to ask, too much you don’t know. Someday you’ll be able to make up your own mind on this, but it’s not time yet.

I looked at Laney, still beaming proudly through a mouthful of Nilla Wafers. At the time she had learned the meaning of humanist from me, I didn’t know she had said to herself, That’s me. She was obviously delighted to have had something to say when all the other kids were claiming their tribal identities, and clearly had no idea of the dark chain reactions set off in the fundamentalist mind by the word “humanist.”

“So what did Mr. Monroe say?”

“He said that was cool!” And I’m sure he did. He’s a great guy. No evidence of dark chain reactions in him, nor in her classmates.

“And he asked what a humanist believes,” she continues.

“What’d you say?”

“I said a humanist believes the most important thing is to take care of each other and the world.”

If she had called herself a secular humanist, I would have protested. But what is there about believing ‘the most important thing is to take care of each other and the world’ that requires more time and thought and study? Is she impeding her thought process by declaring this — or is this a value, like honesty and empathy, upon which she can build her search for an identity? There are, after all, both religious humanists and secular humanists. Erasmus and Paine, two great heroes of mine, were among the former.

Humanism has no connection to atheism for her. The definition I gave her even included the option of believing in a god and being a humanist. By calling herself a humanist in the broadest terms, she hasn’t bought into complex metaphysics; she’s simply embraced a concept that even a six-year-old can sign on to. And in the process, she introduced her classmates, and her teacher, to a new idea, and associated it with her smiling, eager, proud little face.

So Laney’s done it again — she’s taken my armchair abstractions and turned them inside out, making me realize that not all worldview labels are ridiculous or harmful for kids. Some can even serve as catalysts for the next stage in a child’s process of finding her place in the world. And the next stage, and the next.

girlspath
photo by Paula Porter

the open shelf

booksonshelf

Something, well…ambiguous…happened the other day. Actually it was ambiguous at first, but it got more biguous as I thought about it. (Step away from the dictionary.) I wasn’t at all sure what to think about it at first. In the end, I decided it was…good. Really good, in fact.

But before I write about that, I have some setup to do. There are at least two stories embedded in this one. I’ll start with the open shelf policy and hope I remember the point in the end.

Years ago, I recall my mother-in-law describing her father’s book-lined study. He was a Baptist minister, by all accounts a very good man. His daughter was awed by the rows upon rows of spines of books along the walls of that room. I could picture it immediately, the walls of books and the little girl.

It got me wondering how my own kids would remember the books in our house. We have just over a thousand of them — as I was painfully reminded when we moved — including many old beauties. While living in the UK in 2004, I visited 63 used bookstores and acquired 93 books (I know the stats only because I was keeping a diary for an article I was writing about the antiquarian bookstores of London).

booksonshelf

The first one I found — the first one — was a beautifully rebound volume of David Hume’s History of England, a second edition from 1796, stuck in amongst murder mysteries in the open market under Waterloo Bridge. It was £10, about $18. (Scroll up to the top photo again — it’s on the top shelf near the middle, bright brown leatherette binding with gold lettering, just to the right of the little red Huxleys.) If that doesn’t addict a person to scouring the bookstores of London, nothing will.

bookstore9

I’d love nothing more than to bore you by listing the other 92 I found, but I see your cursor twitching toward the scroll bar. The point is that, largely as a result of this fetish of mine, books are all over the place in our house.

In the 1920s, newly-moneyed members of the American middle class signaled their rise out of the working class in a couple of ways. Step one was putting a piano in the parlor. A wide selection of sheet music with elaborate illustrations on their covers would sit on the music rack. Some of these pianos were even played. Most were not.

(I grew up in California next-door to a retired couple. In their living room was a highly-polished parlor grand piano. I often wondered if anyone played it. My question was answered when I realized the framed pictures that covered the piano were also lined up on the closed cover of the keyboard.)

The other way the climbers of the 20s would signal their newfound class (pronounced “cleeeass”) was by filling their bookshelves with the classics (“cleeeassics”) and keeping their tops well-dusted.

Though there are certainly books in our collection we’ll never get to — life, I’m told, ends — ours do get a workout. One message our kids are getting is that books are not for wallpaper, and not for establishing one’s cleeeass. They are invitations to walk around in someone else’s head. And I wanted to be sure my kids knew that invitation was addressed to them as well. So one day, shortly after my mother-in-law’s story, I was taking a book down from a shelf and saw Connor, then about eight, reading one of his own books nearby.

“Hey Con, come here a sec.” He did. I indicated the books on the bookshelves in our living room and asked whose books they were.

“Yours,” he said. “And Mom’s.”

I told him they were actually for our whole family, and that if he was ever curious about any of them, he could take any book off any shelf anytime he wanted and look at it. I showed him which books were old and showed him how to open those carefully, supporting the spine, never flattening the pages. For a couple of days he played along, then lost interest, which was fine. The idea was the thing: he knew that there was in principle no prohibited knowledge.

I told Erin the same thing when she reached that age, with the same result. But a few months ago, though she was only six, I had a hunch it was Delaney’s turn.

Sure enough, she leapt on it. I’ll come upstairs now and find her in the recliner in my study with a book in her lap, leafing through pages, sounding out words and looking for pictures. A few weeks ago it was Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, and she was gawking at the snake-festooned head of Medusa, dangling from the outstretched grasp of Perseus. “AWESOME!” she said. And it was.

I’ve found her looking through a leatherbound Bible in German from the 1880s, Stephen Jay Gould’s Full House, and an illustrated Decameron. But as often as not, I don’t know what she’s reading. My study is bisected by a freestanding bookcase. When I’m working at my desk, I can’t see the recliner on the other side, though I can often hear her turning pages, saying “Awesome!” under her breath or (most hilariously) reading entire sentences of Vonnegut aloud. But it’s hard to prepare yourself for the really big moments when they come. And they always do.

“Dad?” said the bookcase.

“Yeah sweetie,” I said without looking up from my desk.

“What does ‘humanist’ mean?”

booksonshelf

good questions answered

I received two emails asking about the PBB Online Book Clubs, which begin in six days. Here are the answers:

1. NO, you don’t have to have read the book to be a part of the book clubs!

2. YES, you can register (FREE) and just listen in! You don’t have to participate in the actual Q&A unless you want to.

No more excuses, then! Join us! It’ll be fun and/or interesting. Here’s how it works:

You go to a given web address at the designated time, then call a provided phone number for the audio. The meeting starts with a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation on your computer screen about nonreligious parenting in the U.S., the genesis (sorry) of the book Parenting Beyond Belief, and a quick rundown of the consensus of its contributing writers on best practices for nonreligious parents. Then I’ll open it up for questions. Click on the date of your choice to register:

Sunday, January 27 at noon Eastern
Monday, January 28 at 9:00 pm Eastern [REGISTRATION CLOSED]
Tuesday, January 29 at 9:00 pm Eastern [REGISTRATION CLOSED]
Wednesday, January 30 at 9:00 pm Eastern [REGISTRATION CLOSED]

Thursday, January 31 at 9:00 pm Eastern
Friday, February 1 at 9:00 pm Eastern
Saturday, February 2 at 3:00 pm Eastern [REGISTRATION CLOSED]

endings

An animated video of a kiwi with a dream nabbed “Most Adorable” last year in the YouTube Awards, along with 14 million views to date. As you’ll see, there’s quite a bit more profound going on here than mere adorability:

My kids all loved it. Connor watched it again and again, sorting out the implications of and emotions around the kiwi’s decision.

This morning, Erin asked to see it again, and I got her on the appropriate YouTube page. She watched it once, then clicked on one of the video responses that popped up. Suddenly she was clapping and woohooing.

“What happened?” I asked.

“THE KIWI LIVES!” she exulted. “He doesn’t die at the end! He LIVES!!”

I walked to the computer, puzzled. She replayed what she had just watched. Somebody had done a 15-second remake of the ending:

Most interesting of all are the YouTube comments on that one — mostly irate, convinced (as I am) that this revised ending robs the original of its poignancy and power. I agree, of course, but I LOVE what is revealed in that revision about the human inability to accept, or even think about, death.

In addition to death itself, the original raises issues about the right to die, the consequences of free will, the power of the creative spirit, the dangerous beauty of singleminded dreams, and much more. It’s incredibly rich and provocative. If instead you prefer a dose of denial with your entertainments, the revision’s for you. Or, if you prefer no remaining remnant of redeeming features, there’s this even more vapid rewrite:

lick, flush, reverse

snowflakes

Snow in Georgia, and once again I’m introduced to a neat and weird kid-legend I never heard before.

The prediction was for ice, and unlike Minnesota, which closes schools only for asteroid strikes and plague — and even then only in combination — Atlanta, we’ve been told, shuts down completely for an inch of snow or a hint of ice. Sure enough, the stores were wiped clean of milk and bread yesterday as the threat of “ice pellets” and even snow loomed in the forecast.

Our kids were elated, of course — not only at the prospect of tangible, frolic-worthy winter, but the apparent likelihood that school would be closed today. And they came home with a deal-sealer they’d learned from the Atlantans: to guarantee snow, all the kids must lick a spoon and put it under their respective pillows, flush an ice cube down the toilet, and sleep with their PJs reversed. In case you wondered at the title.

lick the spoon
Child licking wooden spoon
(a highly suspect interpretation
of the Spoon Doctrine)

Around 5 pm it began — first with tiny, intermittent flakes, then with big beauties. Over an inch fell and stuck, plenty enough to give the school bus companies the vapors and close things down. My Minnesota-bred brood was spinning and howling on the deck, open mouths to the sky.

At bedtime, spoons were licked, ice flushed, PJs reversed. The fix was in.

Our alarm went off at 6 to the sound of the news announcer’s voice. The temperature had edged above freezing just long enough to melt the roads. Only three districts were closed, all rural, none of them ours.

I imagine the scene all over Atlanta was much the same as in the bedroom of my girls, and not too different from what I imagine would be the case when a volcano erupts despite the virgin tossed in. Talk turned to recriminations and the search for unorthodoxies. Somebody somewhere didn’t lick the spoon first, or enough, or didn’t put it under the pillow, or put it face up instead of face down, or slept with their PJs heretically oriented. Or maybe she wasn’t a virgin, someone in the village grumbles.

Thirty minutes after the bus took the girls and their grumbling colleagues to school, the boy came downstairs. His PJs. Look at his PJs!

“Con,” I said, soberly.

“What.”

“You’ve heard, I guess.”

“Yes. It’s robbery.”

“I see your PJs are on right. I won’t even ask about the spoon.”

“Pfft.”

Anybody reading this in Atlanta, especially anyone with disappointed schoolkids: I’d appreciate it if you kept this between us. He’s a good boy, really he is. Just a bit wrongheaded.

snowflakes

the pbb freebeebee

Yes, I’m aware that I’m posting like mad, right after warning that I’d be posting like sane from now on. But there’s news!

I’ve worked out a new plan with the company that is hosting the web seminars — one that will reduce my costs by a good bit. So we here at PBB International are passing the savings on to you!

The PBB Book Club meetings (Jan 27-Feb 2) will now be free of charge. I just finished refunding the fees to those of you who were already registered. The topical webinars (beginning Feb 17) will still include the $18 fee, so feel free to transfer your refund over to one of those. Or send out for pizza! The choice is yours. But the pizza, of course, is less enlightening and more fattening.

Registration for the book clubs is still limited to fifteen each, and one has already closed, so if you want to join us, hurry up and put your name in the goblet!

EXODUS (bookin’ through the bible 8): guest column by Vast Left


[Back to JOHN]

[Editor’s note: I’m not the first to come up with the idea of bible study for nonbelievers. In order to give y’all a taste of the many different ways this can be approached, I’ve invited a couple of guest bloggers to each take the book of their choice and run with it. Our guest today is Vast Left, the brain behind the blog “Bible Study for Atheists,” who has prepared a comprehensive look at Exodus especially for Meming of Life readers. The introduction is below, followed by a link to the entire text. Many thanks to Vast for taking on this task!]
______________________________________________________________


The Exodus Is Here

ten commandments
The ongoing influence of Exodus

Hello, Vast Left from Bible Study for Atheists here, taking you on a speed-dating tour through Exodus. King James Version, of course. I may be a heathen, but I’m a traditionalist heathen.

For an explanation of BS4A’s scope and philosophy, please click here. In a nutshell, the approach is to read the Bible through modern eyes, exploring the literal and metaphorical meaning of each chapter. In every sense, it’s a thoroughly irreverent look at the Good Book.

Ready to take a walk on the wilderness side? Then, let’s via con Dios, and read a summary of all 40 chapters of Exodus, specially prepared for readers of Parenting Beyond Belief / The Meming of Life.

[onward to ECCLESIASTES and SONG OF SONGS]

deeep breath

Ohhhhh-kay. A quick look back at an interesting year:

January 20, 2007

    ParentingBeyondBelief.com is launched.
    • Phrase “Parenting Beyond Belief” gets 7 Google hits at start of month, 350 at end of month.

February 14

    PBB Discussion Forum opens for business with four members.
    • Phrase “Parenting Beyond Belief” gets over 9,000 Google hits.

March 25

    • The Meming of Life blog goes online.

April 9

    Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion is released.
    • PBB.com logs 7991 visitors in April.

May

    • PBB is #4 Parenting Reference on Amazon.com
    • Phrase “Parenting Beyond Belief” Googles at 24,000. (See current.)

June

    • PBB reaches highest rank yet on Amazon (#721 out of 4.5 million) after a single feature story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
    • PBB selected for Harvard course.
    • PBB.com logs 16,500 visitors in June.

July

    • McGowan family moves from beloved Minnesota home of 13 years to Atlanta.
    • Newsweek story shoots Amazon rank to #365 overall and to #1 in all subcategories.
    • Ten days later, Amazon is cleaned out. Book vanishes from face of Earth. Ill-fated blog satire.
    • PBB.com logs 18,029 visitors in July.

August

    • A quiet month in Lake Wobegon. Scratched self in itchy place.

September

    • PBB secular parenting panel at Atheist Alliance Convention in Washington DC.

October

    • Cover story in L’actualite shoots PBB to top of Amazon Canada. Catholic Quebecois go ballistic.
    • PBB.com logs 22,300 visitors in October.

November

    • Contract signed for second book in PBB series.

December

    • PBB is Book of the Month on Secular Web
    • Interviews with Positive Parenting, Associated Press, Religion News Service, and Air America’s State of Belief.
    • gVisit installed. Blog visitors in three weeks from 49 states (damn you, Delaware!) and 23 countries on six continents (bite me, Antarctica!)
    • PBB.com records 150,000th visitor for the year.

January 2008
• As of this morning (14 Jan), after nine months, PBB is still the #1 Parenting Reference, #1 in Parenting Education, and #2 in Morals & Responsibility on Amazon, and still ranks in the top one-tenth of one percent of all books.
• Preparations underway for the PBB Online Book Club (starting Jan 27), PBB Webinars (starting Feb 17) and the PBB traveling seminars. Current plans include Washington DC (Feb 9-11) Minneapolis (March 1), Raleigh (March 15), St. Louis, Amherst NY (May 9), Palo Alto CA, and Atlanta, with more to come.
____________________

Things are getting exceedingly busy now as I test out the possibility of making secular parenting education my full time day job. And there’s the rub. Between the webinars, the seminars, working on the second book, and the raising of the family, I’m going to have to slow down a bit on the Meming of Life. Just a bit. The blogging pace to this point has been extremely useful to me. Scattered among the 132 posts are dozens of ideas that will be in the second book, and one post has actually given me an idea for another book, for which I’m now writing a proposal. I hope you can see why I need to free up some hours.

We’ll be stretching out both the Bookin’ through the Bible series and Laughing Matters, and the overall posting rate will drop to about twice a week, usually Mondays and Thursdays. Thank you both for continuing to read and comment. I really do appreciate it.

(Watch for the next installment of Bookin’ through the Bible shortly — a special guest blogger on Exodus.)

laughing matters 5: the last crusade

[back to laughing matters 4: Saint Sorta]

priestfingers
Official Vatican position on the existence of St. Catherine

____________________________________

It was a bit of serendipity if ever there was. My mind was still humming with gratitude the morning after the critical thinking class in which my students had been so articulately pissed off that the namesake of their college, Saint Catherine, never existed—and that the Catholic church knew damn well she never did, but never bothered too hard to share.

I was wondering what on Earth I could do with my happily tingling neurons when an announcement popped up in my inbox. It was from Professor Floyd Gardner (not his real name) who was once again heading up the committee to award the college’s highest individual honor to a graduating senior: the Helga B. Landers Memorial Award. Floyd was seeking faculty nominations of deserving seniors.

I knew immediately who I had to nominate. There was only one choice: Katie Alexander.

I sat down and wrote an impassioned nomination of Katie, whose accomplishments really did leave her fellow students in the dust. At the end of the letter, I slipped in a fact that I thought would clinch the award. Katie, you see, shared one important feature with St. Catherine of Alexandria: she doesn’t exist.

Never did hear back from old Floyd, for some reason. But when the list of nominated students was distributed the next week, sure enough, Katie’s name wasn’t on it.

The Lord had delivered them into mine hands.

I had just three installments left in my Bible Gal column in the faculty e-newsletter. And now I knew just what to do with them.

GENTLE READERS!
A Call to Action from the Bible Gal

Please join me expressing outrage against an injustice currently brewing at the College of St. Catherine! A student by the name of Katie Alexander has been denied the right of consideration for the Helga B. Landers Memorial Award – excluded on the basis of a characteristic not even mentioned by the committee as grounds for exclusion!

In addition to stellar academics, Katie has exhibited extraordinary leadership skills and a heart of gold. In 2002, she founded Hey Hunger – Bite Me!, a foundation that to date has served over 150,000 hot meals to the homeless. In early 2003, Katie launched a student antiwar movement called Hey War – Fight Me!, successfully ending the Iraq war in May 2003, just in time for the President’s carrier landing.

Closer to home, Katie has twice served as governor of North Dakota. Granted, it’s just North Dakota, but it still counts as leadership in my book. She also won the Pillsbury Bake-Off and cured Restless Legs Syndrome. Apparently it just isn’t enough for the committee.

Katie shares an astonishing number of characteristics with the namesake of our beloved College: she is intelligent, ethical, courageous, virginal, and fictional. It would be strange indeed if the qualities that inspired the naming of the college after St. Catherine of Alexandria would not also merit recognition of Katie F. Alexander for this award.

Strike a blow for those among us who happen to be allegorical, a blow against blatant actualism! Let committee chair Floyd Gardner and the rest of these fictophobes know what you think: fgardner@stkate.edu. JUSTICE FOR KATIE!

The next week, a somber turn of events:

ASK THE BIBLE GAL
A Lighthouse in the Wilderness

Gentle Readers –

There will be no BG column this week, my friends. As you may have guessed from the somber darkness of my font, I bring you terrible, terrible news. Our beloved Katie Alexander has been struck down in the prime of her non-existence, martyred by a seething mob of actualists who could not share the world with one so beautiful. The rabble fell upon her as she sat in prayer to her greatest imaginary friend, Saint Catherine of Alexandria. They dragged Katie off and bound her to a wheel, which, though admittedly making her quite dizzy, did not break her. So they smooshed her.

Whenever a human soul is torn prematurely from this realm of suffering and tears and condemned to an eternity in Paradise, my heart weeps. If only Katie’s cruel fate had been delayed for even an hour! Alas…it was not to be.

Will there ever be another as brave, as accomplished, as virginal and selfless and thrifty as our Katie? You know the answer. Yet still she lives – in our hearts, in our memories, and on our DWKD bracelets (Do What Katydid, available for just $16.95 plus shipping at www.dwkd.com. All proceeds go to the beatification campaign). – BG

And finally, my last hurrah:

ASK THE BIBLE GAL
A Lighthouse in the Wilderness

Gentle Readers!!!

As you can tell by the cheerful whiteness behind my font, I bring you great good news!! In my previous column I cried out from the depths, mourning the martyrdom of our precious Katie Alexander. But the LORD has banished grief, as he is wont to do, sending down a torrent of signs and wonders such as our suffering world has not seen since the 1980 Miracle on Ice!

My inbox is filled with figuratively thousands of testimonials, all telling of miracles that have come to pass after praying to the departed Katie. Mrs. Frieda Groot of Bemidji, Minnesota found the rosary she lost seven months ago, tucked beneath the passenger seat of her Buick Riviera. The Lundgren twins of Kingdom City, Missouri simultaneously got over the nasty sore throats they’d been trying to shake for four days. Just ten minutes after beseeching Katie for financial help, one Gertie Holtz of Pine Bluff, Arkansas opened her mailbox to find that she may very well have already won ten million dollars! And the topper: the very day after Katie’s ascension, the air temperature in Saint Paul hit seventy-two degrees, five degrees higher than the prediction – five, the number of letters in Katie’s name! Take that, ye skeptics!

But – according to the critically rigorous Vatican procedures for sainthood, these many miracles can only be considered preludes to, not reasons for, Katie’s canonization. Though the required period between a person’s death and sainthood was reduced by Pope John Paul II from fifty years to seventy-two hours, all of the above miracles occurred, alas, within two days of Katie’s smooshing.

At last the clock ticked away those interminable three days – and bingo, a French nun was miraculously cured of restless legs syndrome after praying to Katie for something very similar! Doctors around the world are baffled, noting that diseases never go into remission on their own. Pope Benedict XVI immediately beatified our precious Katie, waiting until later that afternoon to canonize her as Saint Catherine, Jr.

I’m sure you’ll all join me as I sing her praises: Dear Saint Catherine, guard our college, bless us all where e’er we roam; saint seraphic, hear our pleading, watch our weight and guide us home!

This is the Bible Gal, signing off! – BG

I don’t really know if the Bible Gal accomplished anything for others at the college. But she did a helluva lot for me.