The Religion Thing
Last week while I was visiting family in Mississippi, I spent more time in church than I have in the past two years. This reminded me that from the age of 4 and 14, I spent roughly 490 Sundays in church excluding occasional sick days. That’s 1,225 hours when you include Sunday school and “fellowship” time. In addition to regular Sundays there were Wednesday night dinners, youth group meetings, confirmation classes, summer Bible school, youth choir practice, choir tours and weekend retreats. I’m estimating that about 3,500-4,000 hours. Yikes!
But what effect does all this Jesus have on one’s writing? I can’t speak for everyone who has had this kind of upbringing, but for me, church-going led me directly into writing. Prayer led to journaling; journaling led to disgraceful poetry; disgraceful poetry led to disgraceful fiction, then to essays and memoir and more fiction. But church also instilled a reverence for narrative and the inclination to analyze and obsess over stories and books (first books in the bible, of course, but then others.)
Just in time for Christmas, N+1 posted this video of their panel discussion titled Evangelicalism and the Contemporary Intellectual and it’s pretty interesting, though the title is slightly misleading. (It’s not just about Evangelicalism, which is a very particular corner of Protestantism, but about growing up in the church in general.)
The panelists are James Wood, Malcolm Gladwell and Christine Smallwood. The moderator is Caleb Crain. I like what Christine Smallwood says the best. It earned sporadic applause.
(Skip to 5:35 if you want to hear Caleb Crain’s introduction. Skip to 7:25 for Caleb Crain’s short history of evangelicalism. Skip to 11:00 for Malcolm Gladwell’s story, Skip to 20:00 for Christine Smallwood, and 29:00 or so for James Wood.)
New Yorkers will laugh at children who are addicted to the ecstatic experience of “being saved.”
Writing is often a replacement for church.
Malcolm Gladwell used to sneak into revival meetings that were held in a vacant lot near his house.
Church teaches one to “reconcile the irreconcilable.”
Christianity teaches adherents to feel outside of the mainstream.
English churches place more of an emphasis on the literalism of the spirit, and American churches place an emphasis on literalism of the word (the Bible.)