Crash helmets and life jackets in church? So suggests Annie Dillard

A week ago I posted one of my favorite quotes from Annie Dillard.  My friend and former Baptist colleague (former colleague, not former Baptist) Ashley Smith commented (on my Facebook Page): “Dillard is one of my favorites as well; I’ve read Holy the Firm over and over, and used these quotes more than once in preaching and writing.”

I wrote her back: “Ashley, her (Dillard’s) words maintain their freshness, don’t they? The other perennial quote from her, which I can’t seem to find, is about how people should be wearing crash helmets during church services because of the danger of the holy.”

And she found it.  Thanks Ashley!

It’s from the essay “An Expedition to the Pole” in Dillard’s volume Teaching a Stone to Talk:

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”  (Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk. Harper and Row, 1982)

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2 thoughts on “Crash helmets and life jackets in church? So suggests Annie Dillard

  1. >Hi Rick:I am a United Methodist Minister, not quite retired but at that stage in life, and I needed the Dillard quote for my Remembrance of Baptism sermon this Sunday.I notice you live in Pittfield, I know the area as my oldest daughter, Marisa, is a graduate of Williams (and, I may brag,Harvard.) So I spent around six years driving around that area. I have a good friend who lives in Boston and is the editor of the Cambridge Alliance for Democracy's paper. I will keep on reading your postings now that I have found you.

  2. >Thank you for the comment. It is a great quote. The woman who found it for me is also a Williams grad. As you know from your driving around here, we live in a pleasant spot. And keep visiting, I have been on a bit of a post holiday hiatus, but we'll be cranking up soon.Best.Rick

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