I will never forget Patty Allen (a year older than I, and thus worldly wise) informing me that I would not be going to heaven. "You're not a Christian," she said. "I'm Catholic," I protested. "That's not Christian. My mom said," she replied. ("Nonsense," my mother later snorted in derision, when I related the dire news of my impending doom.)

Later, Patty's mom, Ruth, volunteered to take my sister and I to a children's "workshop" at her church. This thinly veiled attempt at conversion went on a couple times a week for several weeks. It ultimately failed when Ruth grew sick and tired of my intractable awfulness: On the trip home after each indoctrination, I would start crying in the "way-back" section of their station wagon. Let me clarify: I was not yet five, and Ruth's teenage daughter (another Barbara) spent the entire time pinching me, a fact Ruth was blissfully unaware of. In point of fact, Patty and Barbara Allen were horrible little girls, bullies of the first degree.

Which just goes to show: If you want to convert someone, don't pinch. It seems self-explanatory, until you really listen to some of the talking heads on TV and elsewhere. Muslims are evil! Anyone who believes in more than one God is a freak! Christians are infidels and must be eradicated — the Qu'ran says so!

Wrong. All wrong. Why can't we just accept the world's multiplicity, and agree that no one knows the exact nature of the Divine? Any God who is a loving God would never condone forced conversion. And any God who is not a loving God ought to be reconsidered. Take that, Mrs. Allen.

Falling: A Prayer for September

Autumn is
falling leaves
are falling
things are
falling into place
Gone is summer's
siren call;
September is about
a return to purpose.
Here is mine:
To serve You
well and always,
in every way
and weather.

-Lori Strawn



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