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The Christ-Haunted Landscape

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The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival is set in the South during the late 1920s, during a time when religious fervor was white hot over much of the country and especially in the rural South. Of this period and the decades that followed, Flannery O’Connor famously commented that, “while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner who isn’t convinced of it is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God.” (These words, by the way, suggested the title for Susan Ketchin’s 1994 study of that old-time religion in Southern fiction.)

Unravel that quote from Flannery O’Connor, the most Christ-haunted of all writers, and you discover a ghost story: we Southerners are certainly haunted and often fearful when it comes to religion. And if you think that evangelical Christianity no longer thrives in the “New South,” just visit the images of Billy Graham lying in honor at the U. S. capitol.

So, if you want to understand the South—indeed the American people writ large—you have to understand our fundamentalist fascination with religion. It doesn’t matter if you are a believer or not; you are surrounded by those for whom the Bible is true, or at least they are afraid it might be.

The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival explores these issues in depth, and it explores them through a character who is at once a thoroughgoing agnostic and evangelical tent preacher. Jedidiah Robbins acts as though he believes in God when he doesn’t; and he acts as though he doesn’t believe when he does. In other words, pretty much like the rest of us.

Is life ultimately comic or tragic? Will God save us from ourselves, or is he, like Jedidiah, a con man? Come along for the ride….

Terry Roberts

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