My Literary Portrait

Although the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, as a “Calvinist” church is meant to be a group that chooses you, I very definitely self-selected to be a member myself. I considered the various packages offered: the Catholics had their clever philosophy, the Anglicans would be permissive, there was nothing going on for the Baptists, the Methodists had integrity and I chose the Presbyterian Church because well, they looked like wealthy Methodists.

I am always quietly proud of the influence my little adopted corner of Christianity has had on the world at large. I am always fascinated to see how we are depicted in culture. A PhD could be written on the mis-representation of the Puritans but well, not by me. And probably not read by you. Here are some literary portraits of us Presbyterians I’ve came across recently:

“I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these things, and not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals, pagans and what not, because of their half crazy notions on these subjects… Heaven have Mercy on us all- Presbyterians and Pagans alike- for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending”

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“Not that Edmund is profligate, but really, he’s one of the least morally concerned boys I’ve ever known. I was very startled when he began to question me- in all earnestness- about such hazy concerns as Sin and Forgiveness. He’s thinking of going into the Church, I just know it. Perhaps that girl has something to do with it, do you suppose?…. Is she a Catholic?”

“I think she’s Presbyterian,” I said…. “A Presbyterian? Really?” he said, dismayed… well whatever one thinks of the Roman Church, it is a worthy and powerful foe. I could accept that sort of conversion with grace. But I shall be very disappointed indeed if we lose him to the Presbyterians.”

– Donna Tartt, The Secret History

Your Correspondent, Issuing unwarranted high-fives.

One Response to “My Literary Portrait”

  1. jayber crow says:

    John Steinbeck has a lovely line about an Irish Presbyterian grandmother who had “a small round head full of small round convictions.”

    My favourite comment about the Puritans (obviously an appalling misrepresentation) is this one – “The Puritan hated bear-baiting not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.” (Thomas Babbington Macauley) They were lovely people really.