Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Evangelicals on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Thank you Robert for this image.

The Christian Smith quote from my last entry was lifted from an article I read in Books and Culture. Today, I found the entire article online. Sweet. B&C is something I'm just discovering. I find it an odd hodgepodge of clear relevant thought and pompous drivel. (This review of Beaumarchais in Seville is an example of the drivel. I have to follow this lagomorph trajectory because the article simultaneously amused and horrified me. It is peppered with polysyllabic words that seem to have landed amid the sentences like aliens. I'd love to hear what you think.) Ok, back to writing like a person who says "rabbit trail" when that's what they mean. This must be the journalist in me.

Now, I'm somewhat distracted.


Moving on.

Smith's article is of the "clear and relevant" variety. He restates C.S. Lewis' assertion that a Christian writer should first be an excellent writer, expanding it to include statisticians. He doesn't even give partial credit for ignorance. And I'm glad he didn't. I couldn't agree more with many of his assertions, but what fascinated me was his conclusion that the Evangelical world thrives on fear. This has certainly been my experience, and I gather it has been Robert's as well based upon his comment on my last post.

When I was a small girl in a Christian School, I was bombarded with News of the World-style horror stories. Every Friday, my grade would gather together in one classroom to watch movies like The Hiding Place, John Hus--Martyr for God, and predecessors of the Left Behind movies. In the same way that my parents spent their childhood scanning the sky for nuclear missiles, I spent my childhood mentally preparing for the day I would be martyred. Or imprisoned. Or worse yet, Left Behind. I clearly remember the day when one of my teachers read this story aloud to the class. Talk about nightmares. Later, we were treated to a story about the night another teacher woke suffocating to find a yellow demon perched on his chest. I'm not going to say this didn't happen, but I will say that he probably shouldn't have told his class about it. (This particular teacher was passionate about his subject. He was an excellent teacher and I liked him. I wouldn't even all him crazy, but he did provide a credible camp-fire story for years to come.)

To be fair and honest, John Hus and Corrie Ten Boom are my personal heroes because of what Jesus empowered them to do.

I remember thinking that I could do something to improve the world around me and consequently, my fate, if I could just make it to the age of eighteen and remember to Vote Republican! (I have some admissions to make, here. First, I mean no disrespect to Corrie Ten Boom's book or John Hus' martyrdom. Both have been an inspiration to me. Second, I actually think that Barack Obama might be the antichrist. Time will tell, I suppose. Incidentally, my mother-in-law thinks he just might carry Alabama if he would change his name to Barack GoBama.)

Back to the topic at hand and to summarize, since I can't seem to dam my stream of consciousness this morning: Christian Smith said some interesting stuff. I hate pretentious writing, and my school contributed to my damage by scaring me on purpose when I was small.

The End.


Robert said...

You forgot this.

susan said...

You should have just let me forget it!


G. Twilley said...

I have never heard about the well to hell before reading about it here. That is absolutely amazing and utterly challenging. I mean, I've fabricated some stories in my time, but none of them have ever aired on Christian television (I did some reading on it through your link and snopes). Geesh!

Generally speaking though, fear often seems to be the cheapest [and easiest] mode of persuasion - whether in the "Popular" evangelical world or outside of it...

susan said...

Gene, I guess that's it. It's a point worth noting that when Christians seek to persuade with fear, we're only copying our culture. That makes it worse, almost.