“The one belief I never revealed in three decades-plus was my disbelief,” writes syndicated newspaper columnist and NewSouth author Rheta Grimsley Johnson in a March 28 guest-post on the Washington Post “On Faith” blog; Johnson would later talk about religion in her memoir Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming. “I figured that straw for a Bible Belt columnist would be the last. I never said I did believe. But I never said I did not. It was a sin of omission.”
Johnson describes how she had kept her “disbelief” secret for years, for fear of alienating her readers. After the death of her husband Don, however, Johnson said she grew “fearless” enough to make her opinions known.
“The year of my husband’s death, I somehow finished a memoir I’d already begun for NewSouth Books, a Montgomery, Ala., publishing house,” Johnson continues. “Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming for the first time made clear my position on faith and religion. No bones. No hedges. I finished the manuscript in September, 2009, and waited a little nervously for its release in March of 2010. How would my regular readers, the ones who for so long had indulged my liberal politics and feminist rants, react to this ultimate departure from Southern mores?”
In the year that followed, Johnson describes, she received mixed responses to her revelations in the book; often those she expected to be shocked were not, and those she hadn’t expect to be were. Her fear of speaking about religious issues might have been unfounded, she notes, though she remains unsure if she would have faced editorial pressure not to potentially offend readers.