What conflict or tension does John Ames III experience between his commitment to his religious faith and his love of his wife, son and godson in Gilead?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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John Ames III is a man whose struggles and doubts are laid before the reader in this amazing book. On the one hand, he has served as a preacher for a number of years, and struggles to do his best to follow the tenets of Christianity and his Calvinistic theology. On the other hand, he struggles with the fact that he is very human, and he is worried about what will happen to his wife and son after he dies, which seems to be very imminent, as he is well aware, and also whether he can bless his godson or not. Because of his Calvinism, a major conflict he experiences is whether somebody can change from being not saved to saved, as Calvin argued that individuals were predestined to be one or the other. What is so moving about the conflict he faces is when he has to concede that he is human and that he experiences normal human emotions that surprise him, such as jealousy. Note what he says about the relationship that Jack strikes up with his wife and the "understanding" that they have together:

Understanding might be the wrong word, since I have never spoken to her about him, and it is precisely the fact of her knowing so little about him that worries me. Or "understanding" might be exactly the right word, no matter what she knows or does not know. I can't decide which worries me more.

This quote evidences the jealousy of the speaker as he compares himself, an old man near death, to Jack, his godson, who is a young man not without his charms. This jealousy is something that John Ames later refers to when Jack starts playing with his son and he feels that he is in danger of being replaced when he dies. The conflict that John Ames has between his faith and those near to him is centred in his Calvinistic theology and the vexing question of whether a leopard can change his spots, and also in the struggle he has to accept his humanity and his weaknesses. 

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