If Huck Finn Were Catholic

If Huck Finn Were Catholic

Men don’t read, and men don’t go to church. Hyperbole? Sure. As Flannery O’Connor famously remarked, for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.

Granted, women don’t buy all the books that are sold. But they buy most of them. And they don’t make up all of the congregation on Sunday. They’re just most of it. So it’s entirely reasonable if they’re foremost in your mind when you’re approving a cover design or writing a homily.

It’s marketing instinct. ESPN executives know their audience and shape their message accordingly. Why shouldn’t publishers and churches do the same?

They do. At least trade publishers are free to decide that the Oprah demographic is their main chance. And to focus their energies on capturing that.

But churches are different. They’re commissioned to bring the gospel to whomever. In Christ, as St. Paul says, there is neither male nor female. In church, though, there is. You might have noticed. Congregations consist entirely of males and females. Fewer of the former.

It’s a vicious cycle. Christian publishers shape their product to the taste of their likely readership, which skews female. So the resulting book or magazine is practically invisible to guys, who see it out of the corner of their eyes and make a snap, often unconscious judgment: “That’s not a communication addressed to me.” They feel that to pick it up and read it might be vaguely creepy, almost like eavesdropping.

When the women in their lives do make them go there, they’re liable to feel like Huck Finn trapped indoors by the well-meaning Miss Watson as she tries her best to sivilize him:

Then she told me about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad then, but I didn’t mean no harm. . . . She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn’t say it for the whole world; she was going to live so as to go to the good place. Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it. But I never said so, because it would only make trouble, and wouldn’t do no good.

You know what would make a great novel? Take Huck Finn and make him a Catholic boy rafting down those chilly, choppy waters as he discovers that actually he likes God and wouldn’t mind being like Jesus, easily the most famous and, great paradox, successful man in the history of the world. He sees his goal on the distant shore. Can he stay afloat long enough, or will the raft capsize, sending him off in the direction of strange adventures?

Wait, somebody already wrote that book. And it’s not a novel. More like an autobiography or memoir: Sinner, by Lino Rulli.

 
 

About the Author

Nick Frankovich is an editor for Servant Books, an imprint of Franciscan Media. His favorite book in the Hebrew Bible is Genesis; in the New Testament, the Gospel of John. His favorite novel is The Great Gatsby. His favorite team is the Cleveland Indians.