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Date archive for: February 2012

After-School Gospel

I have a severe allergy to evangelism. Shiver-me-creepies, the very word sends me into spasms of fretful swatting punctuated by explosive shrieks of “Get ’em off me! Get ’em off!” I dislike religions that dole out piety points for saving souls, or make it their mission to convince me that I’ll wind up Satan’s scullery maid without their handy pamphlets.

Imagine my anxiety when I learned that a Christian evangelism group was recruiting young souls in our public schools. Thanks to a 2001 Supreme Court ruling, the Good News Club is allowed to operate after-school Bible study classes on tax-supported campuses in order to carry out its self-stated mission of reaching “unchurched kids” and “establishing them in Bible-believing churches.” The club operates at more than 3,500 public schools across America, including 10 in Santa Barbara.

I first learned of them in 2009 when my journalist friend Katherine Stewart noticed the club at her child’s school and wrote a cover story for The Santa Barbara Independent about the infighting its presence caused among students, parents, and school administrators. “I started getting email from parents across the country saying, ‘This came to our community, and it blew us apart,'” she told me.

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The muffling of 'I love you'

If I could begin again, I would change the setting. But not the sentiment. The sentiment was perfect.

We were in line at Jack in the Box when I first said “I love you.” Young, broke, and decades from cholesterol issues, we had diddled away the morning in bed and were hunting for affordable, at-the-ready gut-fill. I stood behind you with my arms around your waist, deliriously inhaling the scent of your shirt, when the words tumbled clumsily from my mouth.

I love … you.

The sound of it was electric; it shocked me. It crackled and buzzed with the gravity of the future. I wanted to retract it, to bang the oral “delete” key like a maniac. I also wanted to shout it until I was hoarse, and to tattoo it across my chest in ornate purple letters.

The phrase was so leaden with significance that I thought it might fall crashing to the ground before it rose to your ears. In just three stunted syllables, it quashed my protective cool, exposed my secret notions of what’s worth loving, and declared my reasonless allegiance to all that you stood for, and did, and said.

And then it was time to order. Two sourdough burgers, a side of fries, one marriage, a mortgage, and two kids. To go …

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