Romulus Linney: Holy Ghosts

Romulus Linney: Holy Ghosts

September 19, 2019 1 By William Hollis


You can’t grow up in the South in the Thirties,
as I did, without being profoundly influenced by religion in one way or another. My influence.because
I write a lot about it. I don’t write about religion, per se, but I write about the effect
that it has on people. Few things push people to more extremes than religion, and as we
can see today, few things are being used to push people to extremes more than religion.
Yes, I was in the Methodist Church, and I dutifully had to go to church on Sunday, and
I didn’t like it. I did not like it. My friend, Pearce McHenry and I used to shoot dice in
the back pew. I just didn’t like it at all. I didn’t like the smell of the flowers. I
didn’t like the calm kind of way it went about everything. I sure didn’t like the passing
around of the thing and all of the money. I just didn’t like it. It was too calm and
quiet. One night I was walking by.this was in this little town, Madison, Tennesse and
the church was rented out to evangelists, and I heard something that I’d never heard
before. And, I went and looked in the church. Here was an entirely different scene. Here,
were people in extremists. There was a man on the floor beating the floor, and crying
out. And the singing. Suddenly they would break into these songs, and I thought, “What’s
this? What’s happened to this awful place that I didn’t like?” I just sat in the back
and was mesmerized. That was a profound experience. The play of mine that is done the most is
called Holy Ghosts, and it’s about Pentecostal snake handlers and some people who get involved
with them. The play has in it my profound respect for those people. I do not respect
all of their values or all of that, but I do very much respect the emotionalism. Because
religion is an emotional business. People who try to cover it over and make it something
else, I think, cause a lot of trouble. It’s better to let it go, and, of course if you
believe that your faith is strong enough that you can pick up a diamondback rattlesnake
and look at him in the eye, and he can’t hurt you, then you’ve got to respect that.