The Seduction of the Spirit
Some books are hard to put down. This one is hard to keep up because of the mind-wandering it inspires and the festive spirit it awakens. Cox calls the departure of a thousand trains of thought and free flights into fantasy. – Presbyterian Life.
Harvey Cox’s book The Seduction of the Spirit was published in 1973; however, its relevancy seems timeless.
“My own family belonged, more or less, to the Baptist church next door. My parents, during my boyhood, rarely attended, although later on, after I went to divinity school, they went more often. But they were never very regular churchgoers. Still, all through the 1930s they did send us to Sunday school, where my excommunicated ex-Quaker grandfather took the class roll and counted the nickels and pennies in the collection. But that was about all the religion he could take. He left the church building after his Sunday school treasurer’s duties were done and sat on his front porch reading the Sunday edition of the Philadelphia Enquirer and smoking a cigar. He never once attended church services, so far as I remember, during his entire life. My grandmother never missed. A large handsome woman reputed to have been a famous beauty in her youth, she was kind, jolly, easygoing and totally untheological. For her the Baptist Church, the Fire Company Women’s Auxiliary and the Women’s Republican Club were all overlapping tents in the same big county fair, and she loved to be the center of it all. Although she was at times a member of various county and even state Republican committees, her politics was as nonideological as her religion was nontheological. She hated cooking, rarely cleaned house, dressed haphazardly and spent most of the day wandering the streets of Malvern conversing cheerfully with everyone she met. She never lost any election she ran in and she died of a heart attack in her seventies one blistering July afternoon while buying the rolls and hot dogs for the annual volunteer fire company fair.
“…I know, probably better than most people, how narrow and mossy Baptist churches, maybe all churches, can be–how intolerant, ignorant and all the rest. When I went to college I was sometimes embarrassed when people would ask about what they usually referred to as my ‘religious background.’ It seemed to be assumed that having something like that in your childhood, thought unfortunate, could be outgrown. But since I’ve gotten beyond that sophomore intellectual stage, I have never wanted to disavow that so-called ‘background,’ because when all is said and done, it remains the way I met the holy, and I’ve never been able to shake that off. I doubt I’ll ever want to.”