May Day

For a few years my son and I lived with his stepfather at the confluence of New Jersey’s freshwater Toms River and brackish Barnegat Bay. The east-west river begins in the swamps of the Pine Barrens, widens and swells as it picks up smaller estuaries on its way east. Just ten degrees north of the subtropical Horse Latitudes, the Toms River is beloved by sailors, especially during summer’s prevailing southerlies.  

Our sandy backyard bulkheaded the rich brine nourshing vibrant sea creatures that, in turn, fed the migratory bird colonies.

We lived for the water.

The used Sunfish we purchased for fifty dollars came with a booklet on ‘how to sail’. With a crab claw sail and simple two line rigging, the thirty pound polystyrene Sunfish distinguished itself as a perfect learner’s boat. A 1971 ad in Boating magazine called the Sunfish the “Volkswagen of sailboats.” I called it a styrofoam bathtub.

1973 Budweiser ad

I practiced my new book-learned sailing skills, 100 feet offshore, moored to the bulkhead with a double braided dockline. On our first untethered day at sea, six-year old Joe, who’d studied the how-to manual, rigged the sails. We lulled away the dead calm until Joe spotted our German Shepherd swimming our way. As she approached the boat, I pointed toward shore and asserted “go home”. Which of course she did. She was, after all, a German Shepherd.

The next time Joe and I unmoored, we made it to the middle of the wide river before the dog got to us. We were too far out for her to swim back so we hauled her aboard and headed to shore. The only solution was to tuck the faithful dog away in a bedroom before heading out to sail. 

One breezy afternoon, we took turns at the tiller, successfully jibing and tacking as the wind took us west. But then we tacked to come back east. The sweet southerlies that had funneled us upriver suddenly turned on us like a mad dog turning on its master. The rogue wind bared its teeth. We were trapped. Thunderclouds whipped up the tide. The sail luffed out of control.

The boat, too light for wind-churned waters, threw us around like a sea monster. I reassured Joe we were safe since we were both good swimmers. 

“We can’t leave the boat,” pleaded Joe.

“We won’t!” I assured him. But truth is, he’d seen the thought to abandon the boat cross my worried brow. I could swim with one arm around Joe’s chest but I couldn’t pull the Sunfish with the other.

Private docks, woods and marinas dotted the riverfront. No beaches. I spotted a sliver of sand and rowed furiously. We pulled the boat up, tied it to a tree and ran to the door of a stranger who drove us home. The next day the Coast Guard towed our Sunfish home. 

“No markings on this thing,” the officer said. “You should name her ‘May Day’.”

And we would have.

If we’d ever sailed again.

Are We Getting Dragged Into Their Holy War?

Hal Lindsey’s end-times prophecies in The Late, Great Planet Earth, permeated the born-again, religious cult I joined in the early 1970’s in Toms River, New Jersey. There were about fifty of us—disparate spiritual seekers who accepted Jesus Christ as our personal the_late_great_planet_earth_coversavior, a requirement for inclusion in the exclusive Fellowship. One of the elders had broken away from a local Plymouth Brethren Church and opened the basement of his family’s large, wooded, colonial home for Bible study and Sunday services for us blue-jeaned recovering addicts and alcoholics. As a newly sobered-up ex-hippie, full of self-loathing, all I wanted was to be accepted in that Fellowship.

Based on his interpretations of the Book of Revelations, Lindsey’s book sensationalized end-of-the-world Biblical prophecies connecting them to current events as proof of the coming Rapture where Christians would be taken up to heaven and avoid Armageddon. Satan’s plans to form a one-world government and religion, as prophesied, were triggered by the establishment of the state of Israel and the World Council of Churches—both in 1948. Everywhere I looked in those days I saw Lindsey’s signs of the end times: increase in the divorce rate, recreational drugs, new technology, the gasoline shortage, religious ecumenism, and the birth of the European Union.

Church elders directed every aspect of our lives. Men were the head of the household, women submitted to them and didn’t work. We lived in separate homes but were discouraged from socializing outside the Fellowship, lest we be influenced by secular humanist ideas, like having credit cards, one of Satan’s tools to create a global economy. We didn’t put our money in The Bank of America because the bank was seeking to legalize interstate branch banking, thereby centralizing all the country’s money into a single entity, another Satanic plan.

When my son joined Little League in the first grade, I sat away from the other parents in the bleachers fearing the wrath of God if I talked to anyone outside of the Fellowship. Church members scorned me for volunteering for Jimmy Carter for President in 1976, even though he was born-again.

After four years, I extricated myself from the Fellowship, left my abusive husband in New Jersey and drove my nine-year-old son 800 miles west to Chicago for a new life. A group of Christians at LaSalle Street Church who had experienced similar religious cults nursed me back to spiritual and emotional health. The ideas of Hal Lindsey dissipated into the ether of bad dreams and gradually I no longer looked for signs of the end times.

Until now.

President Trump in his first speech to the Joint Congress announced he was not the President of the world, rather the President of us Americans.

These words, and words of White House strategist Steve Bannon announcing a nationalistic government free from links to other countries remind me of Hal Lindsey’s warning to resist Satan’s plans for a global economy and one-world government.

Are they fighting a holy war?


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