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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Don't Talk About That

Jeanette Saddler Taylor
The Holy Spirit dive-bombing with ideas for us.

For pretty nearly all of my life, I’ve been advised not to speak of religion, politics, money or sex in general conversation. Since “sex sells” that taboo mostly has disappeared, but the other three topics seem to remain unsafe/treacherous. Occasionally, it’s OK to discuss them when you know that you are with an agreeable group; then it’s perfectly fine to bring up these topics in order to rip the opposition.

Lately though, the religion door has opened just a crack, and I’ve been thinking to speak a bit about it in an unknown group. Long training has made me squeamish about this though, plus I’m a Lutheran and a few years ago, research showed that a Lutheran only invites someone to church once every seven years. We’re not exactly a group standing on the corner on a soapbox with a tambourine. “God’s frozen people” isn’t a phrase applied just due to the Scandinavian roots of many of us.

Someone who made me think about stepping through this formerly-closed door was Pete Buttigieg as he ran for President. Occasionally he would speak of his faith. To me it seemed rather like the standing in-front-of-the-crowd-naked nightmare. After I got over my initial horrified thought of “Oh, Pete, don’t go there,” I began to think, “Why not? Just because people say not to?” Usually, people saying not to is a green flag for me, so I seriously began to wonder why I ever embraced this restriction.

As I examined my reluctance to go there, I thought of all of the writers who I admire who waded out into this water and wondered why I was such a slow-adopter. Long-habit was one reason. My own irreverence was a reason, and not being a theologian was another of my excuses. Mine is a rather simple faith (more on that later) and I thought that if I opened the faith-door, I might not be able to justify my beliefs. Then I thought about writers like Kathleen Norris, Anne Lamott and Rachel Held Evans who all have written things which I admire and who weren’t theologically trained. Dorothy L. Sayers was somewhat theologically trained, but her popular writings, the Lord Peter Wimsey stories, aren’t overtly about religion. They’re mysteries about, to my mind the perfect man, who does deal with guilt and justice, but then that’s often the format of mystery writing.

When I say “religion,” what I’m really thinking is “faith” I suppose. Another popular word is “spirituality,” but I think that that is a bit different than what is generally termed “organized religion.” However, having a strong spiritual life, in whatever guise, has been shown to make your brain healthier and more robust as well as making you 60% less likely to have deep recurrent major depression. Helpful, BUT, organized religion gives you a bonus: belief in miracles.

Here are two simple-faith miracles from my life.

When I awaken in the night with a useful thought, I believe that that’s the Holy Spirit inspiring me. My older sister was notoriously difficult to please with presents. So when I had one of those nighttime ideas of a gift for her, I would tell her, “The Holy Spirit made me select this for you.” Being more religious than I, she wasn’t going to argue with the Holy Spirit, so she accepted the gift with pleasure. Now, there’s a simple-faith miracle.

My other little story is a David Sedaris miracle. When he last came to South Bend to speak, having had seats near the front of the auditorium, we came out to the book-signing queue late in the game. As we were standing there at the end, David came along and plucked us from the back of the line and took us to the front just because it is a habit of his, he said. That was miracle enough to give one religion AND to talk about it. But, as Thomas Aquinas said, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” Perhaps there really is no need to talk about it.

Music: "Wade in the Water" by Sweet Honey In The Rock