The parable of the sower has just failed at my house. Last winter I decided it was time to start a garden—not only because I thought it would give me pleasure but also because I hoped it might help me read the Bible. Since I moved to the country, I am more aware than ever what a rural preacher Jesus was.
Since Ernest Hemingway famously quoted Gertrude Stein in the 1920s, “You are a lost generation,” Americans have been fascinated by the idea of generational difference. Characterizing an entire generation involves a mammoth generalization, of course, and the generalizations are as likely to be resented as embraced by members of the cohort in question.
In 1984, Marvel Comics created a new nemesis for Spider-Man. The character would be a symbiote, inspired by what parasitologists call the weaker of two organisms inhabiting the same space. The weaker organism can draw life from the stronger, and in the most dramatic cases it siphons off its host’s nutrients before the host realizes what’s happening.
In this issue, Krista Tippett recalls that as a teen she was eager to leave Oklahoma and a Southern Baptist grandfather who represented a “small, closed world defined by judgment.” According to him, “Every Catholic and Jew, every atheist in China and every northern Baptist in Chicago, for that matter—every non–Southern Baptist—[wa
My grandfather was the Reverend Calvin Titus Perkins, known as C.T. He was a Southern Baptist evangelist—a traveling preacher in Oklahoma, the former Indian Territory. He arrived in a covered wagon as a very young boy, and the famous Oklahoma dust seems embedded in the black-and-white photos I’ve seen of him. He was a man of passion but also a lover of order, a believer in rules. The bare bones Calvinism that flourished on the frontier offered him not only a faith but a way out of chaos and poverty.
At the age of ten, Maggie Kast took a dance class with a former member of the Martha Graham Dance Company. This teacher one day quoted Martha Graham’s principal dancer and husband, Erick Hawkins: “This studio is a sacred space, a temple of dance.
It takes a certain level of self-deception to be a lukewarm evangelical. Intense piety is in the tradition’s DNA. The need for not only a conversion experience but a life in which the gospel is internalized and alive and demonstrated in the world has given evangelicalism an impressive vitality.