Tag Archive: religion


It’s about 2:2o in the morning.  I got into bed 90 minutes ago and in that time, I’m not sure how many times I’ve fallen asleep and woken up.  All I know is that every time I open my eyes, I look over at the clock glowing in the darkness and I wonder how it’s possible that so little time has passed. 

I’ve resorted to turning on the TV.  Late at night, Channel 27 stops showing old episodes of Cops and starts showing infomercials.  Sometimes, if I’m lucky, it’ll be a good infomercial like the one for the shakeweight or one of those Songs By People You’ve Never Heard Of music collections.  Tonight, however, our infomercial is for Peter Popoff, a loud and shrill preacher who apparently can heal the sick by touching them.  Even more importantly, if you call him, you can get “free miracle spring water” along with what is described as being a “faith tool.”  I’m not sure what the tool is but apparently, if you get it, you can supernaturally cancel your financial debts.  That’s what the man claims.

Much of what Popoff says makes no sense, on either a logical or a theological level.  Popoff screams, “God wants you to be rich!” in between footage of some old woman jumping out of a wheelchair and dancing.  “Oh!  OH!”  Popoff screams, “she’s dancing!  SHE’S DANCING!  SHE’S GOING TO DO A LITTLE DANCE!”

Peter Popoff -- HEALER!

I hit mute because Popoff’s shrill voice is starting to give me a headache.  I watch as Popoff now silently yells and more people jump out of wheelchairs and toss crutches to the ground.  I notice that almost everyone in the audience is black yet Popoff is very, very white and I wonder why I feel guilty about spotting this.

Graphics flash on the screen.  “Cancel your debt!”  they announce.  Men and women — almost all of them black, almost all of them old — are now silently giving testimonials on the TV.  The closed captioning kicks in and I watch their words flash across the screen.  “I had lost everything…” scrolls across the bottom of the screen.

Suddenly, Peter Popoff and a woman I assume to be his wife are both on-screen.  Popoff is waving around a piece of paper.  I have to look away because I feel like I’m staring at the devil.

From what I’ve seen, Peter Popoff’s claim is that God wants you to be rich.  And who am I to say he’s wrong?  I’m a fallen sinner, after all.  I was raised Catholic.  I grew up wondering if I would ever be strong enough to take vows of silence, chastity, or poverty.  (And the answer turned out to be no for all three.)  Who am I to judge this ranting, scary-looking, lumbering creature who clams he can heal and who claims he can magically erase all of my problems?  Who am I to disagree with a man who buys airtime just so he can claim to be God?

Peter Popoff and friend

I’m nothing but a doubter and late night television infomercials have no use for the doubter or the skeptic.  No, infomercials are all about celebrating the fact that people will believe anything as long as it’s on TV.

It’s hard for me to believe that there was a time before I become a doubter.  This was when I could still look at a priest without wondering if he was going to be arrested on sex abuse charges.  This was when I still believed that men and women were capable of doing things out of their kindness of their heart and nothing more.  This was back when I still believed that mom and dad would be married forever and that neither of them would ever leave me behind.  This was back when I believed that happiness was something more than just an interval between pain.  In my heart, this feels like it was a very long time ago.

And back then, I so admired the men and women who chose to devote their lives to serving God.  I admired them because, unlike Peter Popoff, they served God with the knowledge that it would mean being poor and  that it would mean sacrificing everything that spoiled little girls like me took for granted.  I looked at them and I wondered how can they be so strong

And, today, I just look at them and I wonder if they were all just Peter Popoff in disguise. 

I look back up at Peter Popoff.  The closed captioning informs me that Peter is telling us that God wants us to be rich.  You cannot serve God and money, I think, that’s from the Gospel of Saint Luke.  Chapter 16, verse 13.

Enough of this.  Searching for my last faith isn’t going to help my insomnia.  I pick up the remote and lift it towards the TV, just in time to see that Peter Popoff is finished. 

Instead, Peter Popoff has been replaced with a new infomercial, this one for the Strap Perfect.  The closed captioning tell me that “Strap Perfect is the perfect solution for your bra strap problems.  Stop wrestling with stubborn bra straps…”

I point the remote at the TV and quickly turn the volume back up.

As Seen On TV

France Bans The Veil

The French Senate has passed a new law that will ban the wearing of the full Islamic facial veil in public.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, the burqa and all the various burqa accessories has always struck me as being the perfect symbol of repression, oppression, and sexism.  For me, there would be no greater nightmare than to know that every day would have to be spent bundled up and hidden away.  Maybe I’d feel differently if I came from an Islamic background but, quite frankly, I hope not.

Last week, I was, quite frankly, disgusted by an obscure pastor who announced that he was planning on publicly burning the Koran on the anniversary of 9-11.  To be honest, I probably would have been a little bit more supportive if he had been burning a burqa.

On the other hand, I can’t help but read this story and think about my St. Vitus medal.  The medal was a gift from my mom on my 15th birthday.  She gave it to me because St. Vitus is the patron saint of dancers and when I was 15, that was my life.  Nine years later, I only dance for fun and I’m no longer a practicing Catholic.  But I still wear my medal nearly every day and I still feel far more confident when it’s around my neck than when it isn’t.  Whenever I wear it, I just feel more confident and happy.  When I wear it, I feel as if my mom’s spirit is with me.

When I first read about the possibility that France might ban the full veil, I found myself wondering how I’d react if France had banned the wearing of religious medals.  Consider that the one of the arguments for banning the veil was that France is a “secular” society.  The same argument could be used to support banning anything that could be considered to be an expression of religious faith regardless of whether the wearer shared that faith or not.  While I — and many others — view the facial veil as a symbol of oppression, there are just as many people who would make the same argument about the crucifix that I have hanging beside my bed.

I’ve often wondered about why I continue to put that crucifix on the wall.  Why do I still occasionally go to mass?  Why do I wear my Vitus medal?  As I said before, I’m no longer a practicing Catholic or, to be honest, a believer in any sort of higher power.  However, it’s unthinkable to me to throw out all the symbols of my former beliefs.  Beyond any theological belief, it’s the culture I was raised in and when I look at that crucifix, it reminds me of who I am and where I came from.  Regardless of whether I still consider myself to be a part of that culture, it still played a large role — both good and bad — in shaping who I am today.

However, many people would say that Catholicism is oppressive and evil.  Many people would say that by wearing that medal, I’m supporting child molesters and homophobia.  They would say that the fact that I’m an unbeliever doesn’t matter.  They would say that as long as I wear that medal with those words — Pray For Us — I am supporting the Vatican and everything that the Vatican has ever done and will ever do.  Those people would applaud my losing the right to wear it as enthusiastically as others would applaud the banning of the facial veil.

I guess my ultimate feeling about this is that women, regardless of their religious beliefs, should have the right to wear whatever they want.  I would be a lot more enthusiastic about a law that said women could not be forced to wear the veil as opposed to a law that states that women are not allowed to wear them.

This story is actually a few days old but, being an American, I’m occasionally a little late in learning what’s going on in the rest of the world.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas has ordered a crack down on lingerie.

The police have apparently been out in force, telling store owners to remove not only any posters displaying images of lingerie but also any mannequins that are clad in lingerie.

To quote from the story: “Hamas’s modesty moves were widely seen by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as attempts to mollify more conservative Islamic factions that have accused the movement of failing to uphold Islamic Sharia.”

Now, I’m going to be honest and I’m going to admit that I don’t know much about the “Islamic Sharia, ” beyond the fact that it’s what adherents of Islam consider to be “God’s law.”  While I’m not a theologist, it’s hard to deny that — throughout history — society has used terms like “God’s Law”  have as a convenient way to justify a pervasive fear and loathing of anything that might allow a woman to feel special or unique (let alone suggest that she might actually be special or unique).

As Ellen Lewis once said, “Lingerie is the poetry in a woman’s wardrobe.”

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