Why This Newsletter Exists
A Stylist Submits: Where Christian thought and worldly literature meet.
Welcome to “A Stylist Submits” by me (Kevin LaTorre, if that wasn’t clear).
It’s where Christian thought and worldly literature meet (if that also wasn’t already clear).
Before you read anything else, you should know the genesis of this newsletter.
It exists because, between fiction and Christianity, there’s a blind spot.
In 2018, I encountered a contempt for my faith that rooted itself in fiction. In 2021, it resurfaced. Novelist Jesse Ball, in a GQ article called “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read,” wrote this of the Bible as a reason for us to dismiss it:
“The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”
As two-legged chemical vat, I first felt anger at the insult. But I later found mourning, truer and better, instead. Yes, Ball’s note is arrogant, contemptuous, and childish mockery of Christians. Yes, Ball intends to antagonize and offend down to the last word. But the insult is needless. That’s what makes it something to mourn rather than hate.
It’s needless because the Bible explores all the same concepts as any of the best novels that I (and likely Ball) love: what it is to live among others, how we might learn to know ourselves, where we choose to look for purpose and being, where we arrive because of—or despite—our choices, the effects of evil, the beautiful face of goodness.
I have faith that the Bible provides truth for these concerns, as do other Christians who do fervently read the Word and honestly struggle with its truths. Ball doesn’t trust the Bible worth a lick, which is fine. But I sense that he looks to novels for those truths, or at least for explorations of those truths. We—Ball and me, Christians and non-Christians —are seekers, at the end of the day. We tend to walk in the same gait, swing our arms in the same rhythm, no matter our respective directions. We are not as different as Ball would like to think.
That’s why the comment in GQ sounds like a dirge to me. In denigrating the Bible to antagonize those who read it, Ball rejects the chance that it covers the same ground that his writing does. He rejects that its followers could conceivably care about, much less inhabit, the same worlds he does. Maybe he does these things deliberately, or maybe without noticing. Either way, he doesn’t have sight of a fertile terrain where both novelists and Christians walk.
That terrain is what “A Stylist Submits” covers. In lieu of more “middle-ground” pablum, I’ll just say that my faith and my favorite literature do intersect. Everything I write here will discover how. After all, I created this newsletter because that intersection is worth exploring, for Christians and non-Christians alike.
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