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J. Dana Trent turns her drug-dealing childhood right into a podcast about poverty and religion

(RNS) — J. Dana Trent is finest identified for a collection of books through which she has expounded on religion, love and grief from the angle of a Southern minister wanting to win over readers with impressed messages about discovering that means, slowing down and mourning loss.

However in a brand new podcast, this ordained Baptist minister and teacher in world religions strips away the polished, healthful facade to disclose a painful previous. Trent grew up in a trailer within the small city of Dana, Indiana, the daughter of oldsters who bought and used medicine.

Breaking Good,” a four-part podcast produced together with the Lilly Endowment-funded Louisville Institute, tells a posh story of a dysfunctional churchgoing household residing in a fading railroad city beset by poverty, habit and psychological sickness.

Trent’s grandparents had been pillars of the city’s nondenominational Bible church and made positive she attended each Sunday. Her mother and father, nevertheless, had been hooked on megachurch pastor Robert Schuller, the apostle of constructive pondering, whom they watched on TV.

Trent’s mother and father adopted Schuller to Los Angeles to be nearer to his Crystal Cathedral, hoping his message of self-healing and self-empowerment would enable them to conceive a baby. A few 12 months later, Trent was born in Los Angeles and named for the Indiana city the place her father was from.  (The city’s singular declare to fame is that it’s the birthplace of World Struggle II newspaper columnist Ernie Pyle.)

RELATED: J. Dana Trent is on a mission to discuss death with the post-millennial generation

Dana, Indiana’s downtown has seen higher days.  Picture courtesy J. Dana Trent. 

However the household went broke 18 months into their LA keep and returned to Dana, Indiana. There, Trent’s father enlisted his younger daughter as a helper and lookout for his fledgling drug-trafficking enterprise.

He gave her a code identify, “Budgie,” and taught her to belief nobody.

In exploring this darker facet of her life, Trent stated she was all for truth-telling.

“The extra individuals are keen to speak about it, that offers different folks permission to speak about it in their very own communities and households,” Trent stated. (Each her mom and father have since died, and that freed Trent to speak about them.)

A graduate of Duke Divinity College and a former hospital chaplain, Trent now teaches world religions at Wake Technical Neighborhood School in Raleigh, North Carolina. However she has devoted the previous 10 years to writing — about her interfaith marriage to a former Hindu monk, about Christian meditation, about making time for Sabbath and about getting ready for dying.

Dana Trent poses with a statue while visiting her home town of Dana, Indiana. Photo courtesy of Trent

Dana Trent poses with a statue of Ernie Pyle whereas visiting her hometown of Dana, Indiana. Picture courtesy J. Dana Trent

Her new undertaking is grittier and extra uncooked.

On the podcast, she describes how from the time she was a toddler, she separated hashish plant stems from seeds. She discovered to make use of a razor to chop bricks of cannabis into smaller baggies. And she or he and her father would load the trunk of their automotive with massive quantities of medicine, typically stashing them contained in the bowels of coin-operated kiddie rides as a part of an interstate trafficking operation.

At age 6, Trent’s mother and father divorced and he or she moved to her mom’s residence state of North Carolina. However she nonetheless traveled again to Indiana to spend summers along with her father. That stopped at age 12, when his psychological well being declined.

“He was tearing out trailers and vehicles and was tremendous duper paranoid with a lot of suicidal threats,” she stated.

A leisure therapist by coaching, Trent’s father was identified with schizoaffective dysfunction. Trent continued to summer time in Dana, however now at her grandparents’ residence.

Her mom had psychological sickness too. The couple met in a locked inpatient psychiatric institute 4 years earlier than she was born. They cherished to inform the story of snorting cocaine on their wedding ceremony evening, Trent stated.

Regardless of their troubles, the couple had a honest Christian religion. Trent’s father stored a King James Model of the Bible open on the scratched-up kitchen counter the place he and his daughter bagged medicine. He was keen on quoting from Leviticus.

Trent’s mom wished nothing greater than for her daughter to grow to be a minister. She known as her “Revy,” and bought her concerned in Baptist church buildings in North Carolina.

The Ernie Pyle World War II Museum reminds residents of the towns famous former resident and newspaper columnist Ernie Pyle. Photo courtesy of Dana Trent

The Ernie Pyle World Struggle II Museum reminds residents of the city’s well-known former resident and newspaper columnist Ernie Pyle. Picture courtesy J. Dana Trent

“If I didn’t know her personally and I learn this, I’d have thought, ‘Come on. That is fiction,’” stated Sally Bates, a retired chaplain at Duke Divinity College who employed Trent as her administrative assistant years in the past. “However I can attest: That is the actual deal.”

The podcast is a component of a bigger grant Trent acquired from the Louisville Institute to look at how the church might reply to poverty-stricken rural cities similar to Dana. Within the midst of her household’s chaos, church supplied Trent a stabilizing affect.

She thinks non secular congregations might present a ballast to different youngsters in the event that they enterprise out of their buildings and collaborate in modern methods. 

“One church group is just not going to have the ability to tackle the massive issues of poverty, substance abuse and psychological sickness,” Trent stated. “But when all of them work collectively they’ll pool their sources to make one thing ecumenical and open to anybody.”

Final 12 months, Trent helped the city of Dana win a $20,000 grant to renovate a baseball area and a $10,000 grant to check the feasibility of changing a city storage constructing right into a multipurpose group middle.

“What she’s doing is busting illusions, which is how we get to therapeutic,” stated the Rev. Michael Mather, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Boulder, Colorado, and a member of the Louisville Institute’s advisory board. “We within the church typically do job of pretending every part is all proper, and her story was telling the reality of what was really occurring.”

Trent is now revising a guide model of the podcast that may inform the story in larger depth. Diving into her scarred previous has been tough. Trent’s mom educated her to placed on appearances.

She’s aiming for a extra sincere accounting of lived religion.

“I’ve lived that shiny, well-edited veneer of religion,” she stated. “I’m beginning to strip off these layers.”

RELATED: Baptist-Hindu couple write how-to book on interfaith marriage


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