Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Norris gives a personal interpretation of some eighty terms used in Christian worship. Her vocabulary list includes essays on salvation, incarnation, repentance, grace, apocalypse, and the Trinity. One can imagine an adult Sunday school class reading any of these essays to provide a starting point for group discussion. People with diverse backgrounds would be able to contribute different perspectives to bring about a greater appreciation for the wide variety of individual religious experiences.

A major theme to which Norris returns several times in her book is conversion. One of her grandmothers was a “born-again” Christian who had committed her life to Jesus when she responded to the altar call at a revival meeting. Conversion was a one-time, emotional event that she would remember for the rest of her life. Her other grandmother had been brought up by her parents to read the Bible and to memorize and recite important verses. Conversion for her was not a spectacular moment of decision, but a continuation of her inherited faith expressed in kind deeds done for others.

Norris was in her mid-thirties, living in New York as a writer, when she began to feel that she was drifting along rather aimlessly. Her conversion was a very gradual process. She credits her conversion to friends in her small-town congregation, the Benedictine monks and nuns at the monastery, meditative reading in the Bible, and inspiration received from the writings of saints in the early Christian church. She did not follow in the path set by either of her grandmothers. Her story provides readers with reassurance that conversion can take place in a multitude of ways.