The Life and Death of the Chosen One

Ricky Rodriguez was born in the role of the messiah. His father was David Berg, the leader of the polygamous/incestuous cult The Children of God, which published a book documenting his early life:

In 1982 a shop in Spain printed several thousand copies of a book that was then distributed to group members around the world. Bound in faux leather, illustrated with hundreds of photographs, the 762-page tome meticulously chronicled Ricky's young life and was intended as a child-rearing manual for families. Its title, The Story of Davidito, was stamped in gold. With its combination of earnest prose and unabashed child pornography, it is perhaps the most disturbing book ever published in the name of religion.

Eventually, he left the cult and found work as an electrician. But revenge called him back.

Fiction Pick of the Week: "Other Gods"

A tornado causes physical and psychological turmoil in a religious community.

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"The next morning, I ran through the streets in my pajamas, screaming for somebody, anybody. I finally found Daddy standing at the edge of the detention pond behind the church. It was full of all sorts of stuff: cars, tree trunks, gas grills, hot water heaters, and two bodies. The bodies were naked, and I didn’t recognize them at first. But then I saw their faces. It was Brother Mack and the second Hillyer girl. They were facing each other, impaled by a metal post from the chain link fence, pushed together like two pieces of chicken on a kebab."

Fiction Pick of the Week: "The Sinner and the Saint"

A newfound faith wreaks havoc on a relationship.

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"I broke commandments left and right, several more than once. Coveting neighbor’s wife (well, neighbor’s husband)? Check. Taking the Lord’s name in vain? Big fat check. Lying? Too many times to count. But that was before I met Augustine. He’d made me better. Almost good (I still had a filthy mouth). That’s how I defined Love now. How could I ever see it another way? How could I ever see it with anyone else?"

Lithium Tetrachloroalum and Other Servants of God's Will

Religious mysteries surround a strange young child.

"'And of course the one book she had arrived with onto the stoop was none other than a New International version of The Holy Bible, which sparked the longest conversation the girl and I ever had. One afternoon while her alleged father was in the basement workshop of his, tinkering. I sat there flipping its pages and heard her clonking down the hall. Now, was I looking for notes or marginalia? Arguments? So I see the souped-up red lights and then there she is, sitting on the floor in front of me with a banana in one hand and a stuffed doll in the other, suspicious narrow eyes. Asking whether I was a Catholic. I am indeed, I told her, which she answered by affirming, me too. Which gave me pause, cautious not to trigger and witness again her version of tears. Well, I said, technically speaking, that isn’t true. Not until you take your first communion. And at this point she stared into my own face in a way I couldn’t describe if you gave me a full week.'"

The God of the Living Room

Struggling with sobriety, a man considers faith in all its complications.

"Wishes pour out of me, spilling onto the couch like blood from a bull on an altar. Big wishes for the whole of humanity—world peace and things like that— then, medium wishes—a better job, a wife, kids even, which I’ve never, ever wanted before, and even small wishes I laugh at but still mean—the Cubs in the Series, for example. I wish to hate booze, wish that my stomach would catch fire and burn me to death from the inside out if I ever take another drink. I wish for a better life, for a new me, for a better spirit. Without knowing exactly what that means, I wish for a better spirit."

The Ceiling

Horrifyingly astute reflections on a series of murders.

"The bank clerk gave John a pinched look as he pulled out his calculator, checking if she’d paid him the correct interest when cashing out Mother’s savings bonds. (She had, to the penny.) He sensed her subtle gloat. John didn’t care. He’d ended two people’s pain that day, single-handedly. Was SHE ever that kind?"

Thank You For the Light

On F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday, a repost from 2012:In this previously-unpublished Fitzgerald story, a saleswoman wants a cigarette, and perhaps encounters something more profound.

"Smoking meant a lot to her sometimes. She worked very hard and it had some ability to rest and relax her psychologically. She was a widow and she had no close relatives to write to in the evenings, and more than one moving picture a week hurt her eyes, so smoking had come to be an important punctuation mark in the long sentence of a day on the road."

The Names [Excerpt]

Scenes from a scary faith healing session.

"The one to be delivered shook at the apostle’s touch, recoiled from his voice. His boots stamped the floor, wrung more sweat free from his jumping body. It was darkest bluest winter and the one was dressed for the weather, had kept his coat on the whole dance. The look in his eyes, the exhaustion, the fear, his and not his. He named some of his demons at sentence length, readying his voice for story, but the apostle stopped him."