Voice of Protestant denominations recommends Updike novel

According to their website, “Day 1 with host Peter Wallace is the voice of the historic Protestant denominations. Through sermons, blogs, and video & audio resources, Day 1 proclaims God’s hope for a hurting and divided world. Formerly ‘The Protestant Hour.'”

The lesson for June 13, 2023 was “Science for the Church: Summer 2023 Reading Favorites,” with one of the staff—Greg Cootsona—focusing on John Updike’s novel In the Beauty of the Lilies.

“Though I highlighted it previously in Christianity Today, the book is so good, my recommendation bears repeating,” Cootsona wrote. “Updike’s novel explores how certain technologies—particularly films—have affected American perceptions of what is real and what is transcendent. In the first of four sections, (each follows a different generation of the same family), the early 20th century Presbyterian pastor Clarence Wilmot “felt the last particles of faith leave him. The sensation was distinct—a visceral surrender, a set of dark sparkling bubbles escaping upward.” This happens at the very moment that the silent film actress, the 17-year-old Mary Pickford faints while filming at local landmark Lambert Castle.

“Clarence finds he can no longer serve as a Minister of Gospel and literally cannot speak when he’s called to deliver sermons. Instead, he seeks transcendence in watching the technological marvel of the silver screen. So, if you’re ready for a bit of Updike’s normal palette of sexual and other transgressions, I think you’ll find that this initial episode begins an eloquent and challenging narrative of American life as the novel’s characters seek to live out faith—or perhaps lose it—in an increasingly technological 20th century.”

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