I have been going to church since I was a child and have heard hundreds of sermons. I know the underlying message of most of these sermons, which is salvation through belief in Jesus Christ. I must admit that of all these sermons, it is rare for me to be able to follow the preacher through the entire message. On the other hand, I have attended many medical and scientific lectures and most of these are presented in a logical format that is relatively easy to follow and understand.
I think after all these years I am finally catching on to the technique used by most preachers. Their method of delivery dawned on me after rereading William Faulkner for the hundredth time. Faulkner’s writing method in his novel “The Sound and the Fury” is something called stream of consciousness. This is a technique employed by several famous writers. James Joyce used it in “Ulysses” and Virginia Woolf used it in “Mrs. Dalloway.” Hermann Hesse, William Styron, T.S. Eliot and Marcel Proust also made use of this technique in their writing.
With the stream of consciousness the writer takes the reader into the mind of the one telling the story. There is no chronological, logical progression of the story. The teller of the story randomly skips around on a subject and may be describing an event in one sentence and the next sentence may tell about something unrelated that occurred at another time. It follows the thought process of the storyteller and is connected to their sensory reactions to external occurrences. Our minds work like that in our thought process every day and that is what these writers are trying to capture.
That’s the way it is with most sermons. The preacher jumps around and tells you whatever comes to their mind. I guess their emotions are just heated up with the spirit and anything may come out of their mouth whether it has anything to do with the subject or not. Sometimes it may even be babble and folks called that speaking in tongues. Today, I heard a seminary professor who is supposed to be a scholarly individual and his deliver was no different than some of the totally unschooled preachers I have heard who were just “called” and can barely read or write. You have to be somewhat of an intellect to understand the writers who use the stream of consciousness technique. I really don’t fit into that category, so that is probably why they are not my favorite authors. I am more of an Elmer Kelton and Robert E. Howard fan who also loves history and just about everything else that is written in a logical pattern. My lack of intellect and difficultly in following the stream of consciousness technique is probably the reason I get bored in church with most of the sermons and usually think about something else. Often times I find myself just praying and remembering that the real reason I am in church is to worship God even if I don’t understand what the preacher is saying.
As I have said before, the most reverent and worshipful place for me is on the porch. I wish the preachers would issue some “Cliff Notes” for their sermons, they have helped me a lot to understand “The Sound and the Fury.”