Archive for the ‘Charm School Breaks’ Category

Finally! The board game guide to escaping fundamentalism

March 9, 2015

map onlyI hope you love somewhat fake maps as much as I do.

I’m thrilled to introduce A Field Guide to Losing Your Religion … but Not Your Soul. It’s the 20-step plan you’ve been waiting for.

The topography of an un-conversion is wild, and I’m here to guide you through it. (With Dante! And Dickinson! And marshmallows! And Korean taco trucks!)

Completion may take several years, so why not start today?

Or, I’d love to see you over on my new site, which is


Pocket guides for post-charm-school studies

December 3, 2009

Enrich your pockets.

Today’s charm school break is sponsored by the world’s pockets.

Most Christian Charm School dropouts I know long for books that both inform and amuse. Ideally, these books also should fit in our pockets. Those of us without overly large pockets on all of our clothing would perhaps settle for such books that fit easily in our purses. Very well – look no farther than Jason Boyett, who has so far managed to pocket-ize the Bible, sainthood and the apocalypse itself.

As highlighted on the Charm-o-Matic gift guide, Jason Boyett’s Pocket Guide to Sainthood: A Field Manual for the Super-Virtuous Life captures the glory, the shame and the silliness of saints throughout history. Starting with St. Ambrose and ending with St. Vincent de Paul (surprisingly, not the only saint who was captured by pirates), Boyett irreverently chronicles the miracles and trivia surrounding everyone’s favorite saints.

Boyett’s consistently entertaining tone and unexpected asides create an amusing backdrop for what’s actually a highly informative series of books. Writer Daniel Radosh pronounced the guides “witty, weird and sometimes even wise.”

In Pocket Guide to the Bible: A Little Book About the Big Book, Boyett includes summaries and terms and then rounds things off with a series of lists, such as Nine People God Smites and the Four Best Moments for Donkeys.

Boyett also keeps a blog (and, you know, he actually updates his regularly).

For more …
Pocket Guide info
Boyett’s blog
Charm-o-Matic gift ideas

Original sin takes one on the chin

October 12, 2009
Shambhala warrior philosophy

Train like an ancient warrior.

Today’s charm school break is sponsored by ancient Tibetan warriors.

In Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior, the Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa writes about the Tibetan concept of Shambhala and the importance of understanding your own basic goodness, so that you can in turn create peace and harmony in the world.

“When you experience the goodness of being alive,” Trungpa teaches, “you can respect who and what you are … Because we appreciate the world, we take better care of it and our fellow humans.”

There’s a basic assumption in his teachings that’s at the other end of the spectrum from that other religious concept of original sin. The Charm Marm loves reminding all the sweet chickadees in her class about original sin. The idea lurks on many pages of the Christian Charm Manual, including admonishments that the girls are members of the weaker sex, valuable only when pleasing others.

Instead, Trungpa keys into something much deeper. “When we feel that our lives are genuine and good,” he writes, “we do not have to deceive ourselves or other people. We can see our shortcomings without feeling guilty or inadequate, and at the same time, we can see our potential for extending goodness to others. We can tell the truth straightforwardly and be absolutely open, but steadfast at the same time.”

Trungpa emphasizes that this outlook provides the ground for helping yourself and others. He goes on in the book to teach more traits of the warrior, but a steady sense of one’s own goodness is at the core. He mentions a sudden whiff of fresh air or the clean feeling after a shower and says, “It is worthwhile to recognize and take advantage of these moments, because they are revealing basic nonaggression and freshness in our lives – basic goodness.”

Perhaps the Charm Marm would like to take a bubble bath now.

Apocolypse … how?

August 17, 2009
Slate to the rescue/apocolypse

Slate to the rescue / apocalypse

Today’s charm school break is sponsored by the apocalypse.

If you grew up going to Christian charm school, you also may have been sent to prophecy conferences in your spare time to learn the many ways in which the world could end.

Perhaps your family attended scary movies in the ’70s about what happens to those who are “left behind” after the rapture. Perhaps after dinner, your parents read aloud to you from classics such as 666. Perhaps your fundamentalist grade school taught conspiracy theories that involved Christians being taken to concentration camps in black helicopters.

When you think about it, it’s sort of a miracle that you’re so clever, evolved and carefree these days, isn’t it?

Anyway, whether you grew up anticipating the four horsemen around every corner or not, you likely will be unable to resist’s handy new Chose Your Own Apocalypse feature. It focuses on theories about the demise of America and not the entire world, but that ought to cover things for now. We pilgrims have had it coming for years.

SNL’s other church lady

February 3, 2009
Julia Sweeney's show

Julia Sweeney's one-woman show

Today’s charm school break is sponsored by atheism.

I’m so happy that Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God is finally out on DVD. The former Saturday Night Live star’s story about giving up her religious views after trying first to reclaim them is smart, touching and funny. (It was first performed as a one-woman show in a few cities and then was available as an audio book, which you can still find on iTunes.)

I love this performance. Anyone who’s only seen the writer-actress as Pat on SNL might be surprised at her intellectual curiosity; she’s more than just a funny girl as she digs down to find out for herself what’s at the heart of the teachings she once accepted. The result, full of both sweeping commentary and tiny moments of discovery, is brilliant.

While recounting her path away from the church, Julia (may I call her Julia?) is conversational and uplifting – ironically, she proves to be as inspiring as any self-help guru could want to be, even though she debunks New Age thinking right alongside traditional religion.

Even if you’re not interested in letting go of your beliefs, this monologue is a must-see, must-listen kind of performance. Just experiencing her ride vicariously is a liberating sensation.

The Charm Marm wouldn’t approve, but I certainly do.

View trailer & such (music auto-plays at this link)
Letting Go of God DVD, $14.99

14th-century poet to the rescue

December 3, 2008
Ralph Waldo Emerson called Hafiz "a poet for poets."

Emerson called Hafiz "a poet for poets."

Today’s Charm School Break is sponsored by the 14th century.

The Persian poet Hafiz was born about 100 years after the better-known Rumi. They both wrote mystical love poems, but Hafiz is slightly more surreal.

His work has this odd mix of earthly references and heavenly insights – the effect is jarring and undeniably joyful. Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorites, Of Course Things Like That Can Happen:

The sun rolls through
The sky meadows every day,
And a billion cells run
To the top of a leaf to scream and applaud
And smash things in their joy.

Of course things like that can happen.

Rivers stay up all night and chant;
Luminous fish jump out of the water
Spitting emeralds at all talk of Heaven
Being anywhere else but – Right Here!

Clouds pull each other’s pants down
And point and laugh.

O my dear,
Of course things like that can happen.

Light stretches its arms
Open even more
And shouts to you, because you are His lover,
To forget your harsh actions of the past
And just Dance!

Oh my … the Charm Marm certainly would not approve of clouds pulling each other’s pants down. She wouldn’t likely encourage the little girlies in her charge to forget their harsh actions of the past and just dance, either. So I’d much rather have a holiday meal with Hafiz, who both inspires and reassures me. Here’s to getting medieval on the Charm Marm.

I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy, $10.20 at

Blessed are the ironic

October 5, 2008

Fresh theology from Blue Q

Today’s charm school break is sponsored by faux holy soap.

While scrubbing is not a recommended technique for soul-care, irony is. In my quest to un-do my religious programming and find an authentic way of being on the planet, I’ve read dozens and dozens and probably hundreds of ponderous books, many of which were quite brilliant and helpful.

I’ve read books by scholarly heavyweights and quirky revolutionaries, by theologians and atheists, by mystics and poets, by priests and psychologists. But as it turns out, a tube of lip balm can also speak volumes.

My cheeky “Looking Good for Jesus” balm is “virtuous vanilla” flavor and promises to help me “be worthy” and “be noticed.” Turns out all of that effort in churchy charm school could have been replaced by judicious beauty purchases.

Guilt, begone!

Lots of Blue Q products offer the same sense of whimsical detachment, in fact. Nothing makes me feel better about personal germ dispersal than my “Wash Away Your Sins” towelettes, scented with heavenly Easter lilies and guaranteed to help me “go forth purified and moisturized.”

Sure, it’s hard work to keep digging until you hit spiritual pay dirt, but a bit of wit along the way propels you with pure charm-i-ness. Besides, you know you could use an extra lip balm (it’s SPF 18, for goodness sake!) and anti-bacterial towelettes to keep in your car. It’s just plain good sense.

And it’s exactly what the Charm Marm wouldn’t order.