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Faith and Illusion

A minister's wife shoots her husband. Her children are taken from her and given to their paternal grandparents.

All that is left is a sad-in-retrospect photo of the perfect family unit and the parishioners' questions.

All that's left of what? The parishioners' illusions and the illusion of a perfect family unit?

Having been part of that illusion at one point in my life, I can tell you no one knows who that minister truly was, and what has gone on in that perfect family unit.

Yes, she may be mentally ill. And he may have been a dynamic paragon of Christian faith.

Or the reality may have been nothing like the illusion.

America's attitude toward religion and its clergy is interesting. In my experience, a pastor -- note the nomenclature -- pastor: leader of a flock -- is often placed in a role that absolutely encourages megalomania.

Take an individual who already has an ego spacious enough to permit belief that s/he is an appropriate representative of God's intent, add the mantle of religious authority and ...

In addition, expectations of a congregation weigh in. The role of example-setter often extends to the minister's wife and family.

My mother was the perfect example; having taken the role late in life, she took to it with a vengeance. Saint Connie was as loved for her forbearance of her patently flawed husband and her antagonistically wild-assed daughter as she was for her own (many) good deeds.

From crocheting the finest afghan for the Christmas bazaar to cleaning the church kitchen until it sparkled, my mother was all over that role. In some ways it was penance for her, I think. Divorce your first husband after a well-publicized affair with the local minister and spend the rest of your life atoning.

And I was the perfect preacher's stepkid. From a hit-and-run in the church parking lot to sneaking cigarettes in the choir loft, I was determined to play my part.

Especially in today's heated environment of faith-based wars, the role of spirituality (often distinct and separate from organized religion) is more overtly with us than it has been in perhaps centuries. There is much more light shone on religion and its representatives. This can be for the good.

Illusion has a much harder time existing in the light. It's not bad to have truth revealed. But, especially in a pressure cooker of societal expectation, it is preferable that truth be revealed before a situation explodes and violence is the result.


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