Kevin Roose, son of liberal Quakers, decided to leave Brown University and spend a semester at Jerry Falwell’s “Bible Boot Camp”, Liberty University. There he attended classes on biblical history and evangelism, participated in a mission trip to Daytona Beach during spring break, and joined a support group for chronic masturbators. When he announced his intention to spend a semester at Liberty, his family and friends expected him to find a group of intolerant arch-conservatives marching in lockstep, but the reality (of course) was far more complicated.
I could not put this book down. I must read thousands of books that are exactly like this book. I am fascinated, fascinated, by fundamentalist Christian culture because although it is officially the same religion as mine (Christianity), it is so massively unlike the religious culture in which I was raised. As a Catholic girl, I grew up completely unaware of the fact that there were churches in which people would stand up not on script because there was no script. Do you know, people in some churches wave their hands during songs? (I wrote “snogs” just there, an amusing mental image.) Because the Holy Spirit moves them? Catholics do not do that. We only wave our hands when they have palms in them because it is Palm Sunday and we are doing a procession.
Roose writes with affection and respect of his friends at Liberty, his teachers and spiritual advisors, and even Falwell himself (not, as you may imagine, the favorite person in the liberal Roose household). His friends are people who believe passionately in their religion, who struggle to overcome what they perceive as failings, and who are surprisingly kind and accepting of Roose even after he confesses his subterfuge to them. (I would be sort of angry.)
MORE. I MUST HAVE MORE. I am full of ’satiable curiosity. I am so interested in what it is like to be all sorts of things that I am not. What is it like to be a nun, what is it like to be a talk therapist for adolescents, what is it like being a cop? I am obsessed with what things are like, day to day; which is to say, I am not so much curious about the theology behind the Rapture, as I am interested in how the belief in it affects people and changes how they live their lives.
Tell me if I missed yours!
May I now address the other thing that has occupied me this weekend? It is the BBC miniseries State of Play, on which the 2009 American film was based. I have not yet found a way to describe it that gets it to sound anything like as good as it is. Political thriller! (But I do not like political thrillers.) Brilliant cast of actors! (But only Bill Nighy and James McAvoy are well-known in America, and they’re not the leads.) You know that Russell Crowe film? (That’s plainly a non-starter. I can’t stand Russell Crowe.)
Whatever. If you’ve not seen it, you’ll just have to take my word for it. State of Play is about journalists tracking down sources and taking care of each other and having integrity. David Morrissey plays a politician called Stephen Collins, whose mistress goes under a train in an apparent suicide*. John Simm plays Cal McCaffrey, Collins’s former campaign manager and current writer for the fictional newspaper The Recorder, working with fellow reporter Della Smith (the always lovely Kelly MacDonald) to find out what led to Collins’s mistress’s death.
*Americans don’t say “goes under a train” or “goes under a bus”. Wonder why. Seems like a reasonable turn of phrase to me. And am I mistaken in thinking that we also do not say “non-starter” much on this side of the pond?
Whether you are a political thriller sort of person or not, I swear to you, this miniseries is well worth watching. The relationship between Collins and McCaffrey is the linchpin of the series, and the two actors play off each other gorgeously. Writer Paul Abbott manages to keep the tension up throughout the six episodes, so if you ever feel like the story’s winding down, and you are safe to relax, I WOULD RECONSIDER.
Would anyone care to recommend me some more good British television to watch? My library has a fair selection of BBC dramas, but I just don’t know what ones to get.