My Sister the Twitter Zealot
It had been a long time since we talked, so last night I called my sister J. who just moved with her family to the Tampa area and now lives across the street from my other sister S. and her family. S. is the oldest of the four siblings in my family and has recently become a religious fanatic of all things. I talked a little about that with J.
Now, to give you a little backstory, our parents raised us Catholic, but long ago, all of us – including my parents – came to realize what a corrupt and bass-ackwards institution that was, and abandoned it, along with all the foolish and antiquated beliefs it had indoctrinated us with. Or so I thought. My sister J. still hasn’t washed all of it off, but what remains seems reasonable enough. My sister S., on the other hand, takes all the stories in the Bible literally, and spends most of her time playing the role of Twitter-zealot, doing battle over there with Atheists and spreading the word of God, which she believes is her calling. My parents, my brother, my sister J. and I – we scratch our heads. But we love S., and since it seems to make her happy, we try not to say much. We know from experience that to broach the subject is to open Pandora’s box.
It happened the last time I was in Florida. We’d all just eaten dinner, and were sitting around on the sofas in my parents’ family room drinking wine when the subject came up. S. brought it up I think, and S., I should add, can’t handle her booze. After just a few drinks, her eyelids become sticky and her shoulders succumb to the force of gravity and her tongue gains several ounces. Slurring happens. Points that may have been easy to get over in sobriety become labored. But she wasn’t taking any of that into account when she grabbed the reins and sailed off in her luminous chariot, hemming and hawing about the righteousness of her faith, fire and perdition. We tried to bring her back down to the ground with some simple and rational arguments, and even some good-natured Irish humor, but she wasn’t having any of it. God had spoken to her, she said. The Virgin Mary had crept through her room one night and sat on her bed. And another time, she saw Jesus’ face in the clouds.
Now, before you think that S. is completely out of her mind, I should add that she is very successful in her chosen profession, and if you were to speak to her about any other subject besides God or religion, she’s totally clear, intelligent, rational....read more (2/2)
But that night, as she sailed about the room in her glamorous chariot, what with its gilded sides, its fiery golden wheels and deep plush leather seats, she became emotional. The point was we didn’t believe what she did so we were going to hell. And that was terribly worrying for her. She groped for words, babbled, fluttered about and bandied hither and thither in the air. My dad then felt sorry for her and, realizing we could no longer question or joke about the matter, composed himself and got serious. He asked to hear more about her claim that she’d see Jesus in the clouds.
“What’d he look like?” he asked. It was all he could think of.
S. didn’t answer.
“I wish I could’ve seen him,” my brother said.
“I mean… did he have a beard?” my dad went on.
My mom burst out laughing. It wasn’t supposed to be funny. But then everyone started laughing, and S.’s chariot shrieked and hurdled and came wobbling to the floor. It would stay parked there for the evening. It would be forgotten about and S. would have another drink or two and cheer up. But in the morning, she would throw on her glimmering veils and take it up again, sailing it off into the Twittersphere. Somehow it worked better over there. We – all of us – were determined to go to hell.