One of the first ideas that the advisory committee produced came out of the realization that some of the best theology written today appears in novels and short stories, cartoons and comic strips, poems and popular songs. One of our dreams is to assemble a group of artists, writers, poets, and composers who reflect on religious themes. One such person is Bailey White, who appears regularly on National Public Radio. I know her work best through reprints in “The Funny Times,” but my favorite of her stories I found in a volume called Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living (Vintage Books).
In the story, called “Sleep and Prayer”, Bailey White contrasts the attitude of her mother toward a hurricane with that of her fundamentalist Christian cousin Sophie. Bailey’s mother spent the night in her little bed on the screened porch, announcing that she would come in if it got too bad. The storm did get bad, almost the closest thing to Armageddon that Sophie had predicted.
In the morning, Mama turned out to be just fine so Bailey made her way through the tops of fallen trees to look in on her fundamentalist cousin. She found Sophie sitting on a tree limb, wringing her hands and crying. All eight trees that could reach the house had fallen on it. “All night I kneeled by the bed and prayed,” Sophie sobbed. “And every time I’d say amen, Bap! another tree would hit the roof.”
In conclusion, Bailey White observed, “I know it’s not a good idea to make generalizations about theological issues, but for some people at least, I’m pretty sure sleep is more effective than prayer.”