Author: Robert Flynn
The following interview was conducted by: E.Dian Moore & To read more about Dian Moore’s reviews click HERE
To read Dian's Review Of The Book CLICK HERE
BP: From several sources available, online and in your permission of material, I find it you are a man of many aspects, including a Baptist, a former Marine reporter, a world traveler, an idealist, and a student of humanity. How would you describe yourself?
Flynn: Bon vivant. Boulevardier. I was a Marine during the Korean War. I was a civilian reporter in Vietnam. The combination allowed me to be an associate member of the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association. I am a Christian who considers himself a writer.
BP: In Slouching Toward Zion, you have used humor and satire to point out the ridiculousness of many of the traditions and some of the concepts that religious people hold. I'm interested in what kind of feedback you have been getting from this bold book.
Flynn: Most of it has been positive. At one reading of the title story, one man demanded to know if I were a Baptist. I said yes; I chose to be a Baptist. And that allowed me to point out exaggerations and pretensions in our posture before doing the same of another faith group. At another reading of the title story, some people smiled when I compared Baptists to Jews but when I compared Baptists to Muslims, many of them walked out. When I read the story at a Presbyterian Church a woman asked, “Are you sure you’re a Baptist?’’ She was pastor of the church.
BP: you stated that you poke fun at Baptists because you are know the denomination from the inside out and are a Baptist yourself. If you could redesign the Baptist traditions, or dictate what they believe, what are some of the first ones you would make over?
Flynn: I’m sure any redesign by me would be worse than what we presently are. I think Baptists have an earned reputation as mean-spirited, exclusive and lacking in loving forgiveness. I would like to change that. Baptists are passionate people and too often, that displays itself as anger, self-righteousness and disapproval rather than love. Like most Christians, we put country before God. We are captive to our culture, unable to see beyond our personal and national self-interest. I believed enlisting in the Marines was as much a religious duty as a patriotic one. I am unable to be a pacifist, but I think Christians too often return evil for evil. We don’t believe vengeance is God’s; we demand it for ourselves. That may be idolatry and blasphemy.
BP: The world has made it a practice as choosing up sides and disguising it as religion. What are your thoughts on this common practice and what words of advice would you give to someone who is ready to choose or change their "religion."
Flynn: We tend to adopt culture and traditions to identify with our family or our region or rebel against them to separate ourselves from our families and our region. That may be our belief but it is not faith. Faith is a relationship with God, not doctrine or tradition. Seek the church where your faith takes you, not your belief. And, perhaps this is a Protestant idea, where you can help those both inside and outside the church. A church has to be bigger than its own membership.
BP: During your many world travels, have you found any nationality to be more accepting of diversity than any other?
Flynn: As a visitor to foreign countries, I can only draw generalizations, but the Scandinavian countries and Iceland seemed open to diversity in visitors, but citizens are basically of one ethnic group and one religion, and they aren’t eager to change that. That’s also largely true of Southeast Asia. India is a complex country with many ethnic groups and religions, and for some time there has been conflict between Muslims and Hindus. France, the Czech Republic, and Austria seemed open to religious diversity, but that may be because they have little interest in religion other than cultural interest. France and England have ethnic groups from former colonies, but they don’t seem well assimilated. Canada has always seemed accepting of diversity and, despite our history of slavery, Americans are open to diversity unless we are frightened by war, crime or loss of jobs. That’s true of the West.
BP: what is your ultimate wish at how Slouching Toward Zion will be received?
Flynn: I hope that a reader will begin with a laugh and end with many questions. We’ll never know all the answers in this life, but people who have all the answers they want frighten me.
BP: The basic desire lives in most of us to improve the world in which we live to leave a legacy behind; what legacy would you like to leave?
Flynn: I have a daughter and a grandson. That’s a legacy. Words. If any of the words please God, they will be a legacy.
BP: I'm curious if any of the chapters in Slouching Toward Zion have insulted a reader enough that they have contacted you, and if so, how did you deal with the situation?
Flynn: A few. I try to understand their complaint, and it’s usually a misunderstanding. If they disagree with the point I tried to make, then we have to disagree in an agreeable way. In “The Rest of the Story,” I tried to put a human touch to some New Testament stories. After the feast, the Prodigal Son thinks, well, he got away with that so he’ll get some more money and do it again. Jesus heals a man who has been blind since birth and the man complains that he can’t beg any more, he has no trade, what is he going to do? And of course, the disciples bicker. I spoke to a class at a Baptist College that had read “The Rest of the Story” as an assignment and they were offended. After we discussed what the point of the Bible story was and what the point of my story was, they were no longer offended. I’m not sure any of them thought it was funny.
BP: Thank you for writing a book that at once entertains, informs, challenges and educates the reader.