Two Family Stories from the Reformation and Modern America
Yale University Press, $27.50, 320 pp.
Craig Harline’s captivating book about the family dynamics of conversion gives the reader a three-for-one. Interwoven chapter by chapter are two stories: the conversion from Dutch Reformed Protestantism to Catholicism of Jacob Rolandus in seventeenth-century Holland, and the double conversion of a friend of Harline’s in twentieth-century California, first from evangelical Protestantism to Mormonism and then from Mormonism to life as a homosexual. The third story concerns the author himself, whose serendipitous archival discoveries, Mormon background, and personal ruminations make him a visible presence throughout the book.
Harline can relate the story of Jacob Rolandus in riveting detail because he discovered in the National Archives of Belgium a journal that Rolandus kept in 1654 and 1655, the period of his conversion, and because further archival sleuthing unearthed a wealth of correspondence, local documents, and church records relevant to the story. Jacob’s father and grandfather were pastors in the Dutch Reformed Church. They were both held in high regard for their ability to expose the perfidious errors of Roman Catholicism. But Jacob’s father fell into seemingly unending contentions with his clerical peers, and the family’s move to Boxtel, a small town in southeastern Holland with a predominately Catholic population, precipitated another round of controversy involving the Rev. Rolandus and local Protestants...