Category Archives: Fundamentalism

sectarian; Christian;

My Christmas Card List.

When Mum found out she was terminally ill, I remember her smile of resignation as she looked from one to the other of us, sitting there on the front porch, together, nearly all of us in the family. It was almost apologetic, as if somehow she’d disappointed each of us by not getting the “good” diagnosis. That was Mum, always determined to do the right thing, the acceptable thing, the thing which was expected.

But, then she set about, to plan, as plan she would whenever anything presented to be addressed. With a noticeable sense of urgency, her ability to verbally communicate rapidly deteriorating, she insisted on finding [managing to get me to find] her box of Christmas cards. In methodical if repetitive silence, she flipped through them all, searching for names and their addresses. Since organized thought was diminishing with the tumor’s encroachment, this was a trying task. She enlisted me, yet again, haltingly explaining that she needed to “let everybody know.” I would compose a letter, to copy and send out to everyone on her list. These were the people who meant the most, who would care to know; these were those whom she loved.

Most everyone I knew who still sent out Christmas cards did so dutifully; there were endless, extended family and both present and former coworkers, that end of year stock taking of those still considered part of the relevant realm. But, to Mum, the list was precious; these were her dearest friends.

In her world, actually spending time with others just for fun had to take a back seat to the needs of the family. Dad had his shop; he could never leave his haircuts. There was no time in a given year to travel – except for that one week in August, south of town to the college campus about 90 minutes away where everybody on her Christmas card list would convene for seven full days of heavenly Christian fellowship.

These were people she’d known, together with all the cousins out east, since childhood. They’d kept in touch every year, for the entirety of their lives. Most had married, raising children who would represent inter-familial connections from within the fellowship. They were all joined at the heart.

Or, at least, Mum thought they were. She carried them all in her mind, as she sat every day at the sewing machine, revisiting any number of brief encounters across the whole of her life. Her thoughts devoted to every detail of a vivid recall, so each person would materialize in her memory. It was inside her head that she would sustain her relationships with each of them, tucking her favorites into their own corners for reference as they came into the frame of her story.

I’d sat, perusing the list we’d gathered. Many of them were totally unknown to me; surely, I had never met these, at all. Some were familiar, among the few ministers who would visit yearly with their wives; still others just names I’d heard spoken over the phone, in conversation with a sister or two. Mostly, had we ever actually seen these people cross the threshold of the front stoop, our house would have been filled every week to flowing with the glow and glitter of live laughter, of real life interchange. I was certain, sitting there next to Mum in the chair beside her bed, that they’d all have felt her love just as much as she did without them present in the room.

But, they hadn’t been, and they weren’t, and now she was about to die without them. She would send my letter, and some would call. Most would send cards, and set reminders to order flowers. But, she would know them, well, as well they ever could have been known, with a kind of devotion unseen and unspoken. And, every Christmas thereafter, maybe she would occur to them, and they would finally know.

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I was the second born, the love child of a reunion marriage. Often, I’ve been known to declare myself the embodiment of both my parents’ strongest and weakest traits. Among these, I bear Mum’s willingness to love from afar, her inability to materialize relationships, her life of wistful imaginings. If you are on my Friend list, I carry you in my heart. Whether we live or whether we die, you will have been loved, if only by me.

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© 3/11/21 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting, in whole and part, the entirety of this story – by leaving its contents intact and untranslated. Sharing permitted via blog link, exclusively. Thanks, again.

THE SAVIOUR.

The Saviour.

Every time I’d stood out on the sidewalk in front of the Gospel Assembly Hall as a child, during that short break between Morning Worship and Sunday School, watching the ladies walking to Holy Rosary in their pointed high heels and lace mantillas and thinking about them all going to Hell if they didn’t accept Jesus, I’d always felt a sharp distinction between myself and everyone who hadn’t.

For those who were raising their children to be non-denominational, sectarian Protestant such distinction was essential to the tenets of a real Christian as they defined one. It wouldn’t even matter when, at the cusp of adolescence, I questioned the validity of all of it including the existence of God; what mattered was that I had, at age 6, confessed my sins in prayer before witnesses and accepted Jesus into my heart to be my Personal Saviour. This sealed my eternal security, in spite of a latent and ever increasing lack of faith, for as long as forever could be perceived by any human.

The reason, if rational thought was to be factored into any aspect of this mystical process, for specifically confessing and accepting and acknowledging Jesus as Personal Saviour was based upon one otherwise universally Christian, core belief: original sin. People were born at enmity with their Creator, inheriting Adam and Eve’s taint, and could not win the everlasting favor of God Almighty lest they repent and fall at the feet of Jesus as he hung on Calvary’s cross. And, it wasn’t even the act of His crucifixion which would ultimately redeem us, but the fact that Jesus was none other than the only begotten, Holy, Son of God. No other living being was sinless, inherently worthy to offer up His very body as the supreme sacrifice for each of us.

Now, even though Christendom has evolved to produce as many variations on this theme as there are letters in the arabic alphabet*, one fundamental feature is universally declared: Christ’s Holiness.

Infallibility. Jesus could be our Saviour only because he was sinlessly perfect, God’s Son; no other, however bloody, however wrought, could satisfy God’s requirement for atonement. Only Christ, the perfect pearl of great price, would suffice.

Throughout my life, I have never met a Christian by any moniker who didn’t honor Christ’s infallible holiness. Debate may have raged over the Trinity (separating Seventh Day Adventists from Jehovah’s Witnesses, and The Way International from all other cults); many a scholar at Bible Study may have elegantly argued the nature of Christ’s relationship to His Father; but, none disputed He Who was without sin as the only qualified Redeemer. For every Christian, Jesus was the one and only choice to save humankind from eternal condemnation.

And so, it is from this moment in my memory that I come careening up to the present. The world spins, nations rise against nation, and America faces the singular choice which determines its redemptive future. According to God’s Holy ordinance, much about life meets with these dispensations in time; for Americans, all religion aside, the state calls every citizen to its own altar. As free as every person created by God is to choose acceptance or rejection, every member of America’s democracy holds the inalienable right to place its vote for a worthy leader. Holiness ever elusive among mere mortals each one is nevertheless free to determine which, among candidates deemed qualified to stand up to the call, is the better choice.

Given the ravages of the infectious disease which has slain hundreds of thousands in a matter of months, to me this election feels urgent. But, I appeal to everyone who has ever identified with being Christian: would you put your soul’s eternal security in the hands of a deceptive, corrupt mortal? Then, how can you hold up a man who has committed multiple documented transactional acts of usury against men and women of every persuasion? How can you in devout conscience elect one whom Christ Himself would, as he did with the money changers, throw out of the Temple?

As Christ was brought before Pontius Pilate to be tried, the people were given a choice between two who had been held. Barabbas was a known criminal; Jesus had committed no legal offense. Yet, the mob demanded that Jesus be crucified, clamoring that Barabbas be released. They, in effect, cast their public vote — choosing a known criminal.

Are you a part of this mob?

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* https://littlebarefeetblog.com/2016/11/07/evolution-and-christians-of-the-alphabetical-order/

© 9/8/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The American Girl.

This is my story. I was, from birth, an American girl. Only in America can a girl tell such a story, and only here will her story be acceptably distinct from the next.

Initially published in the 1950’s, “AMERICAN GIRL” was a magazine intended to help lead the nubile female through adolescence – her self image soundly indoctrinated and properly refined. But, that was the 1950’s. I was born too soon.

Raised by a strict subculture, its roots in sectarian Fundamentalism, I was never a subscriber to “AMERICAN GIRL” or any magazine intended solely for female teens. And, that is only the beginning.

Though born in 1957, post – 911 profiling in the United States and abroad was no news to me. I had effectively known it my entire life. Rather than systemic racism or any of its tangents (prejudice, bias), what I knew was that the way I looked consistently misled nearly everyone.

As a child, all I needed do was enter a room to be visually assessed. At maternal family gatherings, I didn’t look like any of the other cousins. While bearing inherently many of their traits – talkativeness, musical aptitude, a bit of clamoring – I would never have been named as among them by most outsiders unless one looked past the obvious.

The obvious was that my skin was a degree of brown. In those days, the term was “olive”. Neither the warm tones of the American southwest nor the African cafe au lait, it was a cooler hue given to darkening quickly under the sun’s rays and sallowing in winter.

The reason for my immediately distinct appearance was, at that time, simple; my mother’s side populated the extended gatherings, and hers was a mix of paternal Anglo-Saxon and maternal Danish/German. My father not having been raised by either parents or relations, his Napolitan/Sicilian people were never represented in my sphere. We visited them once, when I was five.

When I was just a toddler, mum would braid my long, nearly black hair. Having already borne a brilliant male child and birthed another soon after me, she might have argued too busy to dote upon her daughter with the expected buttons and bows; rather, corduroy overalls and sunsuits were the order of my apparel, mixing into the boys laundry with practical propriety given one, single exception: Sunday dress. Here, Mum’s premiere dressmaking skill shone, every even seam topstitched with rick-rack, every smock uniformly tooled, each elastic, cap sleeve unbearably scratchy with only occasional, stiffly starched lace. Perhaps for this reason alone I would grow to dread going to Meeting, what for the sheer lack of physical comfort being costumed afforded.

Once grown, I would carry a structure of frame and face that distinguished me from all who knew me well. But, those who did might have missed its significance.

Our northwestern Pennsylvania community having been founded first by Irish port fishermen and, a bit later, German machinists, its ultimately large Italian population would take claim on the city’s west side; however, my father having hailed from Boston, none of the Italians on that side of town resembled him or, more importantly, called him family. They were mostly Sicilian or Calabrese, hair black, faces round, skin not as dark, many with blue eyes. To every Italian who lived either there or on our east side, dad was “swarthy” – bearing the aquiline nose and angular jawline less familiar to their ilk.

I would inherit these features. Interestingly, Mum’s father’s nose was also regally aquiline – but, his parents being from the Cornwall coast of England, their heritage was Roman influenced. None the matter; strangers increasingly thought me a pure Italian, even first generation Rome, and nearly every one of them was sure I had been raised Catholic on the west side.

Nobody ever saw the W.A.S.P, though the revelation would sting many with surprise. My behavior never fit the image I bore. Only expressing the occasional Italianate gesticulation, my Puritanical, closed off social limits left many scratching their heads. I carried a Bible. I shunned dances, and parties, and anything likely to tempt the average teen. Mine was a life of Godly fear, and compliance was the order of my carriage.

Of natural course, college education at a nearby New York institution offered me welcome respite; there, blending remarkably well with those from “the city” or “the island” I no longer appeared odd, resembling many. And, higher learning on one of the country’s most liberal, secular campuses meant that none were judged by appearance alone. I flexed my stunted wings, learning far more than the arts and sciences, and grew to both relish and celebrate every aspect of my heretofore anomalous self.

In my case, childhood may have been one of mistaken identity; in adulthood, I now proudly represent the culmination of nature and nurture informed by as random a set of features as the melting pot will bear.

And, for that, no magazine is required.

Who is the American Girl? Allow me to introduce you. Properly.

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© 8/25/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part or whole or by translation, permitted without written permission of the author. Thank you for your respect.

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