My wife is our handy-man. I follow her around Lowes. I am not so liberated that I still don’t die a little inside when the guy in the apron asks what we’re looking for and I have to break eye contact, deferring to the dainty little miss who can prattle off something about quarter inches. And just to turn the knife a little for good measure, no, I don’t make up for it by being particularly good at cooking or some other conventionally feminine trait.
She comes from a long line of bootstrap frontiersmen. Don’t nobody tell them what to do nor how to do it. They make really good Fundamentalist-Revivalists. I am the first son of the Lapsed Episcopalian whose only two known tools are the phone and its book. She is her mother’s daughter. That is to say, while it may very well sound like the cop-out of royal spatial-mathematical dunce, I am of the persuasion that there are experts for respective trades who are to be diligently employed when one is in need of their vocation, while she, well, thinks she can do anything just because she wants to. And our long running battle in this regard is between one reared in institutionalism and one on the prairie, a city-mouse and a country-mouse.
Nevertheless, while her bloodline is long on independence and short on confession (ahem), I must hand it to that woman whom the Lord put here with me. She recently picked up a book on home repair called “The Big Fix-Up.” (It’s spring, you see, so she is, as I have come to call it, “kicking her sticks.”) And last night, while I lay on the couch watching TV and not making up for my lack of masculinity, she admirably volunteered some information from the first chapter, knowing full well the title alone vindicates me: “The Case Against Doing It Yourself.” We had a good laugh.
As she read, I couldn’t help but discern some parallels to American religion:
“Americans have an almost innate urge to be self-reliant…But there’s also a dark side to self-reliance. We’ve somehow internalized the notion that delegating authority to others, or hiring others to do things for us, is a sign of weakness; it’s almost un-American…It doesn’t matter if we don’t have the expertise or skill to do the task in question. We still think we can do almost anything, if we set our minds to it…the do-it-yourself industry will do anything to convince a customer they can actually do a good job. They’ll play on the popular image of general contractors as crooks.”
There was much more. But generally speaking, I was not only thrilled to hear my case being made and hers being dismantled when it came to the immediate topic at hand of home repairs, I was equally intrigued that see how Stephen M. Pollan was, without knowing it, also making the case for confessionalism and against Evangelicalism. It was a one-two punch for me, since my extended family are rugged do-it-yourself-ers and frontier Fundamentalists. Often when discussions turn to religion I hear the same deeply seated skepticism and latent sneer about anything institutional.
It is funny though. Whenever I spell words like denomination, creed, confession, catechism, minister, consistory, council, session, church, officer or synod all of them have more than four letters. Given all the superior spatial-mathematical skills they have and I lack, that is really quite ironic.