Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


I heard an interview on NPR with Alexandra Pelosi about her documentary "Friends of God," about evangelicals in the Bible belt. I've not seen the documentary (I don't get HBO) but I was interested in her take on their culture -- both what she found, and how she found it. She manages to strike a very good balance, in which she is completely open about having her own beliefs and opinions, and equally sure that her beliefs and opinions are not what the documentary is about. It's rare that someone has the humility and common sense to let others tell their own story, and let that speak for itself. It seems like too many documentaries have the pretension of trying to "make a statement," to the detriment of the subject matter.

It's also a living testament to a culture of tolerance -- on both sides. Pelosi is open, friendly, candid, and not afraid to make fun of herself and her ignorance of the evangelical life. She could make friends with these people, and talk about their most valued beliefs, without either compromising her own integrity or showing the least bit of disrespect to them. The evangelicals, too, demonstrate a principle of a society with religious freedom: they are a culture that is built on persuasion. Evangelicals (at least, the ones in the documentary) believe that their goal is to convince you that they're right -- they need you to freely come over to their side in order for them to "win". Unlike some other religious-centered cultures, they are less concerned with forcing you to do something than with changing your mind. And much of their culture is geared towards teaching people to win the argument; they are steeped in apologetics, and they tirelessly practice their capacity to broadcast the truth as they see it. In this sense, they seem far superior to the sneering scientific atheists who so despise them; the evangelicals are patient and persistent and have faith that the Truth will win, while the scientists, though equally sure of their beliefs, usually stomp off in a huff when people refuse to acknowledge their message, and mutter things about outlawing superstition.

I was also struck by the primary form of the evangelicals' argument, at least the one that was presented to Pelosi. "I was saved at least five times a day," she said, "And every time they would start by asking me, 'What do you believe?' And they would listen to me talk at length before they would say anything. And then they would ask, 'Why do you believe that?' And a lot of times, I couldn't say. But they could always point to the reason for their beliefs -- 'see, it's right here in the Bible.' At least they knew why they believed what they believed." The evangelicals were not even trying to sell Jesus Christ; they were starting with a more basic appeal: "Wouldn't you like to understand your own beliefs, and your own life?" The evangelicals are selling the same thing that I am, as it turns out -- consistency, integrity, and a consciously chosen life.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home