Friday, September 23, 2005


Had a longish chat with Agent Lydia today. She confirmed what I suspected. The proposal isn't quite cooked yet.

Here's the intro:
I've been born again, twice, yet I don't feel any closer to Jesus. I've been baptized two times too: once as a baby, though I didn't hear about it until much later; and once as an adult, in front of a full congregation, dressed in a suit and a tie. Both experiences feel meaningless now. Yet the very failure of my salvation is significant, especially now, as our nation bends to the force of so-called fundamentalist Christian principles. During the most recent presidential election, the victorious party drew momentum and power from a grassroots network that spread deeply through church communities. Afterward, the newspapers and the TV pundits told us that the people had voted with their religion. True or not, it’s clear that, more than ever, the personal is political. Yet in this era when the nation’s moral compass seems so certain, if polarized, I’m drawn to my own story, my family’s story, our three-generation tale of faith and lack of faith, because I’m still unsure —not only of what I believe, but of whether or not one can be American and fundamentally Christian.

This story is an ellipses, a space between the news making moments where belief and political power intertwine. It begins in 1968, the year I was born to a pair of teenagers in northern Indiana, a month after Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered, taking with him to the grave an entire religious and political movement. It ends with the death of my father, in 1976, near the time when Ronald Reagan gave his seminal speech at the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, a moment widely regarded as the flash point for the rise of the Christian right. During the eight years in between a Christian revolution flourished and faded away, and is now almost forgotten. They were “The Jesus People.” The movement grew so large it twice made the cover of Time magazine, and unwittingly formed a foundation for the faith-based political forces that enjoy so much power today. My father could have been the movement's poster child, following the path from drugs to God, taking both to extremes. For my grandparents, my dad’s salvation was bittersweet; they were pleased to see him clean from drugs, of course, but pained by his new faith, which differed so greatly from theirs. The family clashed on several epic occasions because my dad was convinced that his parents and two younger brothers were being led astray by false prophets, that the church had become staid and complacent at a time when Christians ought rise up and evangelize with the commitment and conviction of revolutionaries.

In the accounts of these fights lie lessons, not answers so much as questions to challenge human certainty about the divine. The stories upon which fundamentalism is based are maddeningly vague, open to interpretation and perversion, and my family's stories reveal ways in which this is so. The first eight years of my life marked a time when the nation’s religious calling was uncertain and up for grabs, and my family was living out all the ambiguity and potential. Now, as we gear up for another election where the debate is already being framed narrowly around moral issues, I offer our story as a means of broadening the conversation, of casting new parameters for the debate about the politics of God's will.

She said the whole connection is too forced, and I agree. Like I really have two stories here -- a family memoir, and an amorphous idea about Fundamentalism. And I'm basically too young and inexperienced to write a memoir.

So the plan is to slide all that family stuff into the background, and try to find a more contemporary narrative. All that family stuff can inform the main story. Like, I might want to bring it in at key moments for perspective and such.

So, I guess it's back to square one. Or maybe square three.

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