Thursday, January 7, 2010

FFB- Christian Pulp?

I'm going to do something a little strange this week (not that my FFB entries tend to be normal), but for this Friday I am going to talk about 2 books I have not read, 2 books that I might never read

I was sifting through a stack of donated books at work when I came across the cover you see above.

It looked like 50s/60s Crime Paperback, with the scratchy art and that faded cheap green cover. It was only when I picked it up and started to look that my brain finally figured out that this was in fact not a crime novel, but the old Christian bait and switch. Christian, mostly well meaning, have had a habit of trying to co-opt mainstream pop culture as a way to spread the word and as a way to give the members of the faith a approved version of the secular experience. This is most obvious in the world of music, where you can walk into almost any christian book shop and find a chart that says-- if you like Green Day you should check out-- also see the left behind series of books (or don't).

Anyway, The Cross and the Switchblade from 1963 by pastor David Wilkerson with John and Elizabeth Sherrill made something of a splash in evangelical circles when it came out, and so I went to my experts on these matters with some questions.

My family, to be exact my mother and her younger brother My mother's father was a baptist minister in the 40s, 50s and until his death in the early 60s. She and her sibling grew up in the 50s, but their parents still lived and forced them to live as if it was the 1930s. My grandmother was a professional ministers wife, and of course my mother grew up in the hands of the all that 50s fundamentalism, going to their schools, their churches, their institutional learning facilities--- and of course read their books.

I asked her about the book and the sequel Beyond the Cross and the Switchblade. She reported that it had been a must read in the 60s and that she had read it. I read her the back copy, and asked what she recalled "pretty much what the back copy says was her answer". My uncle recalled the title but never bothered to read the book, he's a rebel like that, and pretty much recalled what my mother did about the hype and the audience for the book.

Apparently there is a movie with Pat Boon and Erik Estrada, followed by a comic book adaptation both in the early 70s.

Around the same time that this book came into my hands I also discovered a book called The Night Pastor about a catholic priest (why it was Night Pastor and not Night Priest I don't know) who ministered to the night people of Chicago in the 1960s mostly by playing a mean Dixie land jazz piano--

Thoughts, comments, anyone read any of these?


pattinase (abbott) said...

Interesting post, eric.

Juri said...

I may have read at least some portions of the book, since it was almost required reading even in Finnish schools. You see the copies of the translation everywhere.

I think there are even more of these "hardboiled" Christian books. Some of them are true crime. I have an account of a Chicago crime boss who worked with Al Capone before turning to religion. I can't remember what his name was, though.

Iren said...

patti- It's the rebel in me, I always have to find a way to challenge.

Juri: really, you had to read this in school in Finland? Finland has never seemed a strongly religious nation to me, I don't even recall seeing churches when I have visited-- on the other hand I spend most of my time in Helsinki drinking at Bar Loose, Shopping at Stupido Twins and hanging out with people in various bands.

Evan Lewis said...

I remember Cross and the Switchblade when it came out, and it seems like it was considered more mainstream then. Times have changed our perception.

Juri said...

I'm not sure if it was obligatory, since I didn't read it (maybe I started it, I'm not sure). It may have probably been a suggestion from the teacher's side, but I'm pretty sure some religious organization gave copies of the book to schools, in order to keep the kids out of the street gangs.

Interesting to hear you've been to Finland and been shopping at Stupido Records. :)

As for Finland and religion, yes, we are pretty Lutheran and keep a very low profile on religion, hence our churches are not very pointy. I'm a strict non-believer myself, though.