Marilynne Robinson explains what people at her book signings reveal about perceptions of the church today.
I do book signings, you know, and people come up and talk to me and often they say, “Oh, I just love John Ames, he’s just like my pastor!” And I don’t know what it’s like in Australia, but you can see, there’s a church on every corner – and a lot of them are directly dependent on their congregations to keep the lights on. And so we have this double consciousness of the church as threatening, and the church as a sort of second home. And these things are completely simultaneous.
But you have to point out to people how much they value and why they value their churches. That’s one of the oddest things about writing, and seeing response to it – because when you write about somebody and they say, oh he’s just like my pastor, he’s just like my uncle who’s a priest, he’s just like, you know … they’re having a very deep recognition. And this is very common. But if you sat them down to describe a priest, a church, they would come up with the conventions that are everywhere now. This kind of televised religion, it really contaminates the public mind about what religion is. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that they’re not at church.