Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Cover Treatment Option 1. A recreation
of Chapter 1: Vision of Adventure

The autobiography, of my journey of faith, which I've been working on for the past eight-months, has finally been least the first full draft. Mary Kochan, my editor, has finished reviewing the first 75% and is working on the rest. A few others have reviewed portions of the manuscript and more will come before I seek a publisher. Nineveh's Crossing could publish GROWING UP CHRISTIAN, but I'm hoping for a publisher with larger, mainstream distribution. (Yes, I'm looking for an agent.)

I thought I would celebrate the manuscript's completion with this post (veering away from another current events editorial) and share with you the book's two cover ideas and the Prologue, which you'll find below. 

Your comments are welcome.

The pitch for the book goes like this:

TITLE: GROWING UP CHRISTIAN: Strange and Funny Stories from the Heartland of America

TAG LINE: Quintessential Americana with a Twist of Faith

GENRE: 1950-1990 Americana, Humor, Religious, Autobiography

HOOK: Rabid Evangelical embraces what he was raised to hate, Roman Catholicism.

LOG LINE: GROWING UP CHRISTIAN is the peculiar story of a compulsive man's sojourn through America's heartland and the ideological vagrancies of Evangelicalism. In a near-futile effort to save his soul and find a faith consistent with reason, he stumbles onto the natural law logic of Roman Catholicism.

WORD COUNT: 150,000 

Cover Treatment Option 2
Yes, that's me and my family. If you
misspell my name you come up with
either "STAIN" or "SAINT."
PROPOSED DUST JACKET and BACK COVER COPY: Stanley David Williams was named after Scottish pioneering medical missionary and adventurer David Livingstone, and Sir Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh adventurer and journalist sent into central Africa to find Livingstone who was sick with malaria and had lost touch with the outside world. 

The grandson of adventure-seeking missionaries to India and a postbellum circuit-riding preacher, Stanley David took on the mantel of compulsive perseverance in his quest for knowing the world about him. The aunt who helped raise him claimed, "Stanley never learned to walk. He went straight from crawling to running." The running and frequent escapes from his fenced backyard ended him up on a leash tied to a clothesline. But that didn't stop him from climbing the backyard apple tree and jumping off a limb in a failed attempt to reach the ground.

His suspension from the apple tree left Stan kicking the air, a fitting metaphor for his attempt to find a reasonable faith that was consistent with his observations of the world around him. As a young man he would often bolt from church services because, in his mind, the pastor had apparently forgotten to read the Bible before he began to preach.  

If Stan was compulsive and quick to judge he was also persevering…somehow leveraging an uncanny gift of faith. But Stan's faith was not in religion. And that became a problem for those around him in the heartland of Christian America of which he was raised. He knew there had to be a God, but finding a version of the Almighty that was not schizophrenic proved nearly impossible.

In high school he won a bassoon scholarship to a prestigious music camp, but only because his pianist didn't compete against him. Stan's first job out of college found him training astronauts, a childhood dream, until he discovered that NASA engineers were usually laid off when the rocket took off. He pursued a career in photography but his camera-phobic wife ended up taking the picture that was published around the world. And so it went, every story of his professional life paralleled his search for a reasonable faith which seemed to elude him at every turn. 

Humorous, strange, peculiar and true. This is the story of what it was like growing up Christian in the heartland of America and wildly searching for something that was on ever corner.

[End of Pitch]

Here's the Prologue.

Prologue - Raising a Red Flag

It was 1960, and a hot, sweltering summer night. I was 13, in the midst of adolescence and attending an event that would be a sea change in my peculiar journey of faith.

Mom had me in a white shirt, tie, and creased, wool trousers. I matched Dad's getup except for the tie—his was wider and more colorful. Dad always wore his Sunday best…even to cut the lawn or take out the garbage. Not to be outdone, Mom was arrayed in her best flower-print, silk dress and velvet hat with a fake flower pinned to the side and a fishnet veil pulled over her eyes. 

We weren't in a fancy place, however. We were in a sawdust revival tent, and my belligerent goal was to get through another evening of fist-pounding, foot-stomping, hell-fire preaching without my Mom cuffing me for not being the ideal Christian kid. 

I sat next to my 8-year old sister, Hope Ellen, her blonde locks in a curl hanging over her fancy Easter Sunday dress. She had learned, through my mistaken exploits, how to sit still, look pretty, and get Mom to beam at her. 

The evangelist's lean face was red with emotion and wet from perspiration. After mopping his brow and neck with his white handkerchief, he'd wave it at his audience—trying both to air dry it in the humid August heat, and reinforce the point of his sermon: Our surrender to Communism if we elected John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a Catholic, to the U.S. presidency.

We were spending several weeks of vacation at our small cabin on the Free Methodist Church campgrounds, hidden in the woods just East of Jackson, Michigan. The campgrounds consisted of about 40 acres of woods on which were located several hundred lots organized along dirt roads and paths. Some lots contained small cabins -- I recall helping my dad build ours -- and on other lots trailers were parked, or tents erected. In the middle of camp was a large barn-like “tabernacle” that seated perhaps a 1,000 people on unfinished pine pews below bare hanging light bulbs pulsing with the beat of a hidden diesel generator. Meals were taken in a large WWII styled steel Quonset hut dining hall, with food served up on compartmentalized metal mess trays. Each day of Family Camp was filled with Bible studies, youth meetings, prayer meetings, and swimming via a bus ride to nearby Gilletts Lake. The days concluded with a two-hour singing and preaching service in the tabernacle. 

On a few particular nights in 1960, however, there was competition a few miles outside the camp on Jackson Road, near the Dome Ice Cream parlor. There, a traveling evangelist, Dr. Harvey H. Springer, had dumped a pile of sawdust next to the main road into Jackson, erected a modest tent over it, put up a canvas sign, and was preaching -- not about God or Christ -- but against Catholicism. 

Historically (I'm old enough to feel the need to explain my childhood in such terms), General Dwight D. Eisenhower was completing his second term as President, and the Cold War was hot. Senator Joseph McCarthy had died several years before, but McCarthyism's  "Red" fear was very much alive, thanks to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev's rhetorical threat to take over the United States. 
Khrushchev was reported to have said, "We will bury you." To which my very Christian, evangelical, Bible teaching, daughter-of-missionaries, mother would passionately respond, "I'd rather be dead than red." 

She'd say this, and then ask if I didn't agree with her. I never did know how to answer since she was the one that first taught me about Jeremiah's prophecies to the Judean king, Zedekiah that it would be better to be alive and a slave in Nineveh, than dead and a snack for vultures in Judah—yeah, yeah, yeah...I knew a lot about the Bible back then. But you have to remember, I was Evangelical, not Catholic...and Evangelicals go to Sunday School, every Sunday, all year long, their whole lives—learning all about the stories and their meaning in the Old and New Testament. Hezekiah! We could even recite the books of the Bible backwards. 

It was the beginning of the 1960's—a sea change for American culture. The Kennedy-Nixon campaign of 1960 occurred during the pontificate of John XXIII, and, here in America, Catholics were busy having large families. We lived near the Divine Child parish in Dearborn, Michigan, and it seemed that every other household in the neighborhood was Catholic with 6-12 kids.

Some Protestants (like my mother) were afraid that Catholicism would take over America -- not by killing people (like the Communists had threatened) but by having babies who would eventually allow Catholics to dominate the democratic process. She had not yet heard of the contraceptive pill, which would be made widely available to the public in a few years. Nor did she know that Catholic women would swarm to use the pill against the Church's prohibition. Mom might have been delighted had she known what the future held. 

Back in the sawdust revival tent, the perspiring Dr. Harvey Springer was waving his white handkerchief, and preparing yet another, but larger prop. I'll never forget the image or the "logic." 
He had been railing, ranting, and raging for some time against Catholicism and Communism. The parallels were unmistakable (to him): (a) both institutions started with the letter "C" and ended in "ism" -- suffixes that, by the standards of the English language, identified evil ideologies; (b) both Moscow and the Vatican were determined to take over the world, one by death, the other by over-population; and (c) both were in league with the devil -- Communism outlawed God (neat trick), and Catholicism was the sinister front for the anti-Christ. Americans should fear both, he told us. "The facts spoke for themselves..." and my Mom, bless her rather-dead-than-red heart, joined the ever-louder "Amen!" chorus.

Then, it came time for the big climax, the coup-de-grace, the clincher. Springer selected two, good-looking pre-teen children from the audience, and led them onto the small wooden platform on which he stomped back and forth. The kids looked like "plants"—they were dressed, brushed, and combed for the part. Yes, in addition to knowing something about the Bible, I was a cynic. I recall the girl was wearing a pretty white dress, with a bow in her curled blonde hair, like she had just posed for a shampoo ad. I really don't remember the boy. Hormones were in the process of permanently altering my interests.

Springer had the kids stand next to each other facing the audience, hands at their sides, idealistic smiles distorting their faces (they had done this before). Then with great pathos he intoned: "Men and women of America. I am warning you with God as my witness. If you elect John Fitzgerald Kennedy to the Presidency this is what will happen." And suddenly out of nowhere (okay, so I was distracted) he produced a HUGE red communist flag, and, standing behind the kids, draped it over their shoulders like a warm blanket on a cold night, pulling it tight around their necks, leaving only their faces staring sadly (as if on cue) at the audience like a mad Andy Warhol painting.
The image was complete. The memory indelible.

My mother acquired one of the Harvey H. Springer, D.D., Th.D. pamphlets, CATHOLICISM IN AMERICA, wrote my name on it and slipped it into my Memories Chest. I found it after I got married when she gave me the chest full of memories from my childhood. The cover (under my name in my Mom's handwriting), pictures two dark clouds overshadowing a map of the United States. One cloud is labeled "COMMUNISM" and the other contains a crude drawing of John Kennedy with the label "CATHOLICISM" written across it. Inside, many paragraphs are underlined in pencil, and noted in my mother's handwriting are directions to "READ," and "Modern Day Persecution" detailing how the Catholic Church in Columbia, in cooperation with the government was killing Protestant missionaries, putting nuns in public schools in Ohio, and how Kennedy was taking orders from the Vatican.

Springer died at age 60, six years after my exposure to him. He was known as the "cowboy" preacher and was a former communist before his late conversion to Christianity. I do not know if he is related to the infamous TV rebel rouser, Jerry Springer, but there was a similarity in their style and affinity for the sensational.
At 13, my mind wasn't on theological inconsistencies or political tyranny. The stage theater had held me spellbound, but I found it disgusting. Thankfully, I hid my feelings, because my head still ached from the last slap to the head I had sustained. Besides, Russia didn't sound like a good place to ask for asylum.

I didn't believe Springer for a moment. But my parents did and so it seemed that the rest of the audience did as well—there were gleeful cheers, and boisterous affirmations while the stomping raised tiny clouds of sawdust. My mother indeed, much of her life afterward, would proclaim out of the blue: "I'd rather be dead than red." 



  1. I really like option #1 - far better than #2. That image of a kid seems like a great analogy of how faith is meant to help and protect us, even if we'd rather dash across the road.

    1. Hi Rick. Yes, I agree. There are a couple of stories that literally relate to the picture, too.