Friday, May 15, 2009

An American Gospel

I'm working on my first novel (more about that soon). The main character is an Episcopal priest who leaves the church and starts an art gallery in West Hollywood only to find he has to re-examine his beliefs to save his gallery.

Terry Gross happened to interview Erik Reece on Fresh Air recently and they spoke about Reece's new book An American Gospel: On Family, History, and the Kingdom of God. Reece's story is very different from the story of my main character. What's similar, though, is the way Reece and my main character look to the arts to understand religion, in Reece's case by examining (mostly) American writers, in my main character's case by examining contemporary artists.

From Reece's book:

What follows is a parallel narrative - a personal history of how I slowly came to discover and understand this gospel, and a history of how that gospel arrived and evolved in this country. From the founding of Jamestown four hundred years ago, up through the founding of America's only homegrown philosophy, pragmatism, this other gospel has been reappearing, reinvented, again and again in the writings of certain American geniuses, thinkers like William Byrd, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, William James, John Dewey, and Lynn Margulis. Together, they offer an astonishingly comprehensive and relevant vision for where, and how, the United States must proceed in the twenty-first century. I believe these men and women can show us a way back to our country's best impulses, and thus a way forward to a future that is more respectable, more responsible, more sustainable, more interesting, more reverent.

My main character doesn't arrive at pragmatism in the sense the Reece writes about it, but he is looking for the elusive American understanding of belief.

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