Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Book Review: God's Faithful Servant


God's Faithful Servant by Kristi Dixon
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A quiet drive along any winding county road in the heart of Southeastern Kentucky will showcase some fascinating and unusual denominational church names. Yet, if there ever was a faith that personified what
Appalachian religion truly is, I think it would be that of the Old Regular Baptist Church.
I.D. Back was one of the only men I ever heard my grandmother, on my fathers side, speak approvingly of, present company in included. I’ve been trying to recall an instance where she may have spoken admirably or respectfully of anyone else but I’m drawing a blank. This little anecdote alone should tell you everything you need to know about the man, assuming you happen to know my grandmother, at least it does for me.
This biography suffers principally from a severe case of hero worship. It’s clearly written with a target audience in mind and I’m discernibly not a part of that community.
This was a 4th edition proof, signed by the author herself, and was riddled with errors. I can only assume that later editions have a lot of these mistakes corrected. In addition the author switches perspectives a lot from first person to third person narration which I found, quite frankly, exhausting. Her voice wasn’t authoritative or compelling in anyway, which is probably, I’m hoping, due to the inexperience of the author and not due simply to an absence of talent.
I don’t ever remember actually meeting I.D. Back. The likelihood that I did is pretty great, I just can’t recall any particular introduction. But I do remember seeing him fairly regularly every Sunday morning as my mother dragged us to church every weekend when we were younger.
I remember “Church” as a terrifying place. It scared me, I hated it and I eventually stopped going altogether once I reached a certain age and had a say in the matter.
Without exception almost every sermon shouted from the pulpit conveyed the same message, reiterated over and over again every week, that the “world was about to end and you needed to save yourself” before it happened, which caused me to have a lot anxiety towards the future. I used to mourn the loss of my future and the fact that I wouldn’t get to experience or attain anything in life simply because the world wouldn’t last long enough for me to do so.
I remember a recurring dream where my brother and I were playing outside when suddenly an angel descends out of heaven with a flaming sword warning us that our fun must now come to an end. It kept me up most nights. But I have never spoken about it until now.
It felt like we entered an alternate universe every Sunday and for essentially two hours we existed in a fantasy space where anything could happen and everything was possible and then once it ended and we began to exit the Church, usually through the side door leading into the kitchen at Cedar Grove, I always felt a kind of relief walking back to the car, back into the world, back into our lives, back to where things made sense to me. Going to church felt life denying in a way that wasn’t readily understood at the time.
The experience of attending “Church,” or religion more broadly, has never given me any comfort, no matter how hard I prayed that it would. For a long time I thought I was damned because God never spoke to me.
So you’ll have to forgive me for not having the same kind of admiration for a man, that many in the community had, and many still do, who was part of a belief system, and did his part in spreading it, that caused me to lay awake at night worrying about things no child should have to worry about.
I can respect the man, just not his religion.


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