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One Pilgrims' Regress

Church-bashers have another collection of horror stories to give them goose bumps.
2002This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.
This Dark World:
A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost
Carolyn J. Briggs
Bloomsbury, 342 pages, $24.95

If one aspect of American culture is a readiness to let people reinvent their lives, Carolyn Briggs shows near mastery of this art.

First, she emerged from a lower middle-class childhood in rural Iowa, and teen pregnancy, into a marriage and active membership in a fundamentalist church. Briggs eventually became a literature student who ditched her two-decade marriage and Christian commitment for an affair in Ireland. She says she's a Christian again, but without the "narrow" religion of her past.

Bloomsbury promotes This Dark World as an account of "salvation found and lost." It seems more an admixture of marketing hype and an account of belief not taking root in a burdened soul. Unfortunately, the book is likely to win plaudits for its savaging of evangelical Christianity as the source of one woman's oppression, and her abandonment of that faith as a fount of liberation.

Awaiting Gabriel's Trumpet

Briggs, now a part-time writing instructor at Grand View College, a Lutheran school in Des Moines, writes movingly of her quest for her place in life.

The odyssey begins in a family whose dysfunctions eventually split it apart. It includes a weekly drop-off at a Baptist Sunday school where young Carolyn makes a commitment. In her telling, that church's elders were too busy ogling her mother's legs to make the family's spiritual welfare a priority.

Discovering boys and dating in high school—and one particular classmate and rock musician wannabe—led to a sexual relationship, and then a marriage when she became pregnant.

Early in that marriage, Briggs's casual watching of televangelists rekindled her early religious interest and led her ...

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