birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Golden Crosses

Deep South here. Dixie. Flags a’flying, chicken a’frying, preachers a’crying about salvation and redemption. Grown folks with grown kids buying season tickets to football games, just to sit up in the metal bleachers and talk about what folks are wearing. They’ll see the same folks on Sunday and talk about what they’re wearing again. Behind those sweet gossipy grins, we pray. Thoughts and prayers are our arsenal against all that is indecent, that and our real arsenal of guns that yes, we’re clinging to, guns and religion. Barack was RIGHT.

When we moved here I quickly joined a church so I wouldn’t have to join a church, or attend a church. I had my own. The Episcopal Church, thank you very much, with our homosexual priests and high mass and stone walls and echoes and real wine and home-baked bread. All of the ritual and none of the guilt, they say. Catholic Lite. So when all those sin-centered Baptists try to get me to join them, or those do-gooder see-and-be-seen Methodists need someone to help with their big-ass fundraisers, I don’t have to. I’m busy with my own Episcopalian duties.

When I went through confirmation as an adult, I told Father Gid that I was having trouble with those Creeds because I had to say them and I didn’t believe them. “That’s okay,” he reassured me, “that’s why we say them together. As a BODY. Between us, we believe them.” So I boldly said my creeds and did my kneeling and crossing and genuflecting and drinking the blood and eating the body without shame. Brought my children to Sunday School and everything. Hell I even taught Sunday School. We made beautiful angels out of paper plates.

Then one day I looked out the window at all the giant expensive vehicles, at the time they were running $40,000 and surely are at $55,000 today. And I looked around at all these people and it seemed like they were all worshiping money and football, and that was my last day. We’ve been fine without it.

Sometimes I want to retire from my government job just so I can tell the world I hate their churches and their God and that simpering Jesus they’ve watered down with their white people problems. I hate what they’ve done to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Sharpened their gods up like bayonets to spear beautiful people through the heart. Immigrants, gays, artists, intellectuals, the poor, the meek, the ones who will inherit the Earth. You couldn’t pay me money to worship a God who has tantrums when he’s not worshiped. Grow up and do your job, heal folks. You shouldn’t need all this adoration if you’re real, if your ego is intact. (Damn, maybe Trump is a godly man!)

So my big confession is I don’t believe in their God. Or their Jesus. And right now there are a thousand children in Pennsylvania who may or may not agree with me, but they add evidence to my case. Priests marking them as easy territory by golden crosses on delicate chains. And children held in detention camps at the hands of this, AHEM, “Christian” country we live in. No thanks.

There is so much beauty, wonder, awe in the world. I stood outside tonight and watched a tiny breeze in the trees, watched it move across the tree line, and felt the beauty of a thousand gods and a connection to all that is holy in this world. I am moved every day by simple things like sunsets, and complex things like the DNA in my body, making proteins all day long, whirring at the speed of a jet airplane. And jet airplanes! More beauty and wonder! And Aretha Franklin, who just died, she’s a wonder and miracle.

There is no plan for me, there is no plan for the beautiful garden spider I saw in the park tonight. How could I take up that much space in the vastness of the universe, how dare I imagine that there is a plan for ME when my poor home planet is shaking and shrugging under the weight of we have done to her? What a terrible thought, what a burden to imagine I take up that much cosmic space. I’m just here hanging out here in my molecules, living life and trying to make it a little better for those here now and for those yet to come. And not going to church, which here in the south is as mortally dreadful as not owning a truck and voting for a liberal. Lord have mercy on my heathen soul.

The Cosmic No