Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday Forays in Fiction: Research

This is a dispensational chart and is very similar to the one behind the pulpit in the Bible Chapel I attended for most of my first thirty-five years tho that one had been drawn and painted in bright colors by my Uncle who also painted the Bible verses in Gothic lettering on many of our cars. The relevance to this post will become clear further down. Way further down. H/T st..ephen

Ah the things we do for our art!

Last week I ordered a slew of books from our library system via the online catalog for research related to Crystal's story--the entire Fruit of the Spirit story world actually. I raided the system for everything that I'd never encountered yet that came up with the search words: fundamentalism, dispensational, sects, cults. I mentioned here awhile back that one of the things stalling me out on Crystal's story and pretty much every other one set in this story world that I've begun and not finished is my reluctance to look too closely at the religious sect that is the most significant influence on the lives of each of the protagonists POV characters--some twenty now.

My reluctance is emotional and personal more than anything else. By looking at it in my story world I'll be dredging up uncomfortable things from my own past in spite of the fact that I have always intended for there to be very distinct differences between the cult like sect in the story world and the one I was raised in and broke with in my late thirties. The stories began in the first place as a kind of therapy I believe. Though that wasn't conscious at the time.

So I sent for the books and then it became apparent yesterday that I would have to walk the mile to the library to pick them up. Getting ready to go was the first step and that took most of an hour. I walked out the door at 2PM and promptly fell down the steps as I was unfolding my white cane. I was shook up pretty bad but nothing broke (except three inches off the tip of my cane LOL) and no blood not even dirt or grass stains on my white slacks. As soon as I was sure there was no serious sprain or broken bone I pick myself up and picked up bookbag, cane, water bottle and set off.

I made it all the way too tho I had to walk slower. It took fifty-some minutes to get there and the last time it took forty. Some of that may have been due to having to walk through two school zones as school was letting out. Thankfully, I didn't have to walk home tho as Ed arrived with the car about five minutes after I got there. His Mom told him I'd fallen. I think I probably would have called home for a ride when the library closed at four as I was starting to hurt plus the pile of books waiting on me overflowed the bag.

I am hurting bad today and typing isn't much fun. I have to wear the elastic support gloves which I got for Nano last year and had to use after that only while recovering from the flu last spring. When the cane yanked out of my right arm it yanked my fingers, wrist and arm to the neck which feels whip lashed. But the worst of it isn't the pain but the weakness of my right ankle (which had twisted as my foot slid off the step) and the stressed muscles in my left thigh and lower back which seem to not want to support my weight. They will but they rebel and walking is like walking on a balance beam if I lift either foot off the floor.

I set out here intending to list the books I brought home for FOS research purposes. There were thirteen of those and they represent only half or so of the total number of items I brought home. But this post was supposed to be about the research aspect of writing fiction. I let this post get away with me. Now my hands are screaming for a break. So I think I will list just three:

In the World But Not of It: One Family's Militant Faith and the History of Fundamentalism in America by Brett Grainger
--Grainger is telling his own family's story. His grandparents had been members of the Plymouth Brethren, his father had fled their extremism and then found his way back to faith. Brett himself has his own faith story to tell here as well. My interest in this one is probably more personal than it is for my story world. But one never knows where something that will influence a story might be found. The sect I was raised in split off from the Plymouth Brethren by our founder between the two world wars. My mother's family entered into it when she was three. Material of any kind about the Plymouth Brethren has been rare to non-existent in all the public library systems I've had access to so this is a real find for me.

Fleeing Fundamentalism: A Minister's Wife Examines Faith by Carlene Cross
--I guess it is obvious why I would be interested in a woman's memoir of fleeing the faith community she had been devoted to. I can't be sure from the info on and inside the cover but I think the church she was affiliated with was one of the Evangelical Mega-Churches in the Seattle, Washington area which unabashedly used its influence in national politics.

Fundamentalism and American Culture (New Edition) by George M. Marsden
--I think I have encountered the 1980 edition of this book before. But I rather doubt I read it all even if I did and there is quite a bit additional material covering the last thirty years of the movement's influence on American culture. This is an academic essay though written to be accessible by the layman. Marsden is a Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. He traces the roots of the various fundamentalist movements back to our colonial era. I am interested in following how they developed and how the various influences on them developed. And of course I have a special interest in whatever he has to say about John Nelson Darby the Irishman who developed the dispensationalist doctrine taken up by the Plymouth Brethren in England where it never really took off. But with the help of C. I. Schofield in America his teachings were spread like a fire throughout this country, infiltrating already established churches, sometimes taking them over and other times splitting them into antagonistic factions. They also spread by building new communities via traveling tent meetings that would plant house meetings wherever they could attract as many as two families willing to meet regularly.

OK some of what I just described in that last part was a garbled form of the oral history I received growing up. Our sect's founder was named Nels Thompson (sp?) who had split over doctrinal disagreement with a Plymouth Brethren group in Texas shortly after WWI. He took a tent meeting on the road and planted a number of house meetings. One of which met in my maternal grandparent's home for a time.

I have never yet seen a book with Nels Thompson's story mentioned in it. And I've seldom found one with more than a sentence or two regarding Darby or Schofield. According to the index of this book Marsden has devoted more than a dozen pages to them.

Schofield by the way was the creator of the Schofield annotated Bible. I received my first copy at age six. By my teens I had nearly as many of Schofield's words memorized as I did Bible verses. And I was a dedicated Bible Verse memorizer having lost count around the second hundred or so. One of the saddest moments of my childhood was when I realized that being a girl would prevent me from being a teacher behind the pulpit. Now, of course, I see that as a blessing.

Well, I'm re-engaged in the exploration of that which is bound to bring up a lot of disturbing emotions. All for the sake of my stories. Now I just need to try to not go overboard with the research, getting lost in it and neglecting the stories themselves. I'm going to keep a close watch on myself because I know that tendency of mine.

3 tell me a story:

Jamie 9/06/2008 11:45 AM  

I remember the chart looking completely different, not laid out in the same manner as this one, it has the same information. I'm glad that you are facing that darker side of your past, and I hope you find peace within your own soul...

Unknown 10/21/2009 1:43 PM  

Nels Thompson - Last Day Messenger Assemblies (Defunct)

Nels Thompson, born in Denmark, immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s and, in 1912, was converted in a meeting of the Plymouth Brethren (Grant Brethren) under the leadership of Harry A. Ironside, later pastor of Moody Church. Thompson became an evangelist, but a conflict arose with the Brethren over the control of his evangelical activity. He also accepted the Grace Gospel position and dropped water baptism (as of the Jewish dispensation). He founded an assembly at Oakland, and, soon, others were formed.

The Gospel Tract Distributors was founded as an independent, but associated, publishing concern, and began publishing Outside the Camp (now Last Day Messenger) as a nondenominational dispensational periodical. Each issue carried a seven-point statement of belief in the verbal inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity and the deity of Christ, total depravity, redemption by grace, the security of the believer, the personality and punishment of Satan, and the pretribulation second coming. The group did not practice baptism and was opposed to celebrating Christmas and Easter. Headquarters for Gospel Tract Distributors remain in Portland, Oregon. The assemblies were disbanded in the mid-1990s.

David Nels Reese,  5/04/2013 3:43 PM  

You have the name right. It is Nels Thompson, a Danish immigrant, who started a small sect that I will call the Thompson Brethren. I am Thompson's grandson and I do have access to a rather unique collection of memorabilia that covers his life and the lives of his followers. If you are serious about this search you could contact me at While the dispensational charts are unique, something more unique is Thompson's use of scripture covered vehicles. So are you in any way related to Archie Brown?

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