Midwest farmer’s daughter marries fundamentalist minister and confronts disillusionment in this brave memoir.
As a girl in the late 1960s on her family’s Montana farm, Cross (The Undying West, not reviewed) wanted desperately to live a more glamorous, urban life, “where people didn’t have to wage war against the elements of nature and spoke with proper English.” A preacher’s visit to the farm lured her and her mother into a Protestant sect that taught that the Bible represented the exact words of God and Jesus was going to return to “rapture” faithful Christians to heaven. Instead of dreaming of travel to faraway places, young Carlene immersed herself in the Book of Revelation, and attended Big Sky Bible College; while there, she briefly served as a Bible teacher to an extremely isolated Hutterite colony and volunteered to hand out Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. Soon, she fell for college dreamboat David Brant, but she preserved her virginity until marriage. (In their case, sex turned out to not be worth waiting for.) Eventually, David was ordained and settled on a ministry at the Calvary Baptist Church in Seattle. He was a flamboyant and popular preacher, but his congregation had no idea that this father of three had a troubling obsession with pornography. He was also frequently away from home, which gave Carlene time to commiserate about her unsatisfying marriage with another unhappy wife. Susan proved to be a lifelong friend, supporting the author through the shame of scandal and divorce. Gradually, Cross got her life on track, found a job and went back to school. Now, she writes, she can recognize how the Bible has been grossly misinterpreted throughout history to gird murderous missions. She tells her story in surprisingly jaunty prose, eloquent without self-pity. Describing life as a depressed single mother on welfare, for example, she notes, “I simply needed to muster the guts to embrace life’s emptiness.”
A long, fraught journey into the light, chronicled with compassion and spirit.