“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
—Blaise Pascal, Pensées
“For we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to man. We are fools for Christ’s sake.”
—Paul the Apostle, Corinthians 4: 9-10
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
—the White Queen to Alice
So what happens when people apply their religion to life’s hard choices in the small East Texas town of Bethlehem, where churches of various denominations are located on almost every block?
First comes a mysterious apparition of Jesus. Or is it? And is it a blessing or a curse? Then a woman turns into a snake. A wealthy banker confuses prudence with greed, with dire consequences. A woman has her grandchildren secretly baptized at a Holiness Tabernacle. A man is torn between his “sinful” TV watching and his fundamentalist wife. And an ethical young woman boldly confronts her rich father’s ambition…
These are among the characters who appear in this entertaining and superbly written collection of 10 stories exploring small town religion and the human quest for dignity and meaning. Sometimes funny, often tragic, the resulting conflicts are deeply personal yet have social repercussions. In the end, one wonders if organized religion truly helps anyone on a spiritual journey.
But one thing is certain: The award-winning author of these stories profoundly understands the aspirations we all hold and the pitfalls endured as we try to live by our ideals while reconciling ourselves with the competing beliefs of others.
And though the setting is richly specific—the culture of the Deep South—the stories engage us in universal truths as well as universal deceptions.
The author’s writing style has often been compared to Elmore Leonard, James Lee Burke, Cormac McCarthy, and Daniel Woodrell, among others. But his short stories are more reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor or Isaac Bashevis Singer—poetic, powerful, and all too human.
The print edition of Screen Door Jesus & Other Stories was released in December 2001.