about it. He "sacrificed his own son" to his narrative tradition with a calm and assurance, a peace of heart, that I still find difficult to accept. Often that afternoon I found myself at a loss for words as Cantrell narratively generated what for me were novel grounds for knowing and for speaking, but the story of his son's death struck me dumb. He might as well have gone up in a puff of smoke.
A cynic, second-guessing Reverend Cantrell's motives, would say he was manipulative, that he used this painful story to "get to" his listener. But from within born-again culture, this telling was the ultimate evidence of belief, Cantrell's moment of maximum authenticity. If he told me the story for effect, it was to effect the reality of God in me. What God said to him and he said to God in that tragic moment meant that God is absolutely real. This was his own conclusion: "Now I'm saying that, Susan, because he is real. This is not mythology. I'm 46 years old, and I'm no fool. God is alive. And his Son lives in my heart."
Among fundamentalist Baptists, the Holy Spirit brings you under conviction by speaking to your heart. Once you are saved, the Holy Spirit assumes you voice, speaks through you, and begins to reword your life. Listening to the gospel enables you to experience belief, as it were, vicariously. But generative belief, belief that indisputably transfigures you and your reality, belief that becomes you, comes only through speech. Among fundamental Baptists, speaking is believing.
Many thanks to Faye Ginsburg, Frances FitzGerald, Shirley Lindenbaum, Bruce Mannheim, Roy Rappaport, Rayna Rapp, Jane Schneider, Cynthia Sowers, Kathleen Stewart, Harriet Whitehead, Robert Wuthnow, and Marilyn Young for their comments and encouragement.