Thursday, October 26, 2017

FiftyYearsAgoToday: Norman Vincent Peale in My Life

A temp agency sent me to work one day a week at the Marble Collegiate Church, at 29th Street and Fifth Avenue. (This was my deal with Jack when I quit my job at Bantam Books and went back to school full-time, that I would work part-time so I would never have to ask him for cigarette money.) Marble Collegiate Church was the home of Norman Vincent Peale, who for those of you too young to remember, became famous for writing a self-help book, “The Power of Positive Thinking” (a forerunner of “The Secret”?), which was widely criticized by mental health practitioners and theologians.
            I worked for an assistant minister—I think it was Arthur Caliandro, who followed Peale as minister, but can’t be sure—who liked to have long conversations with me after I made it clear that I was an atheist. I think ihe was first interested in my being Jewish, wondered whether that would be a problem for me working at the church, and when I said no, I wasn’t religious in any way, he was even more intrigued. I think he wanted to persuade me to become religious, and I didn’t mind these conversations because it was more interesting than the secretarial work I was being paid for.
            There was no smoking in the office, so if I wanted a cigarette, I had to go to the ladies’ room and smoke in a stall. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to do that either, but I don’t remember being chided for it. I worked there for several months, but by the following spring, I was temping elsewhere.
            You may remember during last year’s campaign mention of Trump’s attendence at Marble Collegiate Church. The current minister says he was never an active member, but he did marry his first two wives there. Here’s a Washington Post article from almost two years ago about Trump and Peale.
            Side note on Norman Vincent Peale: My senior year in high school, I took a class called Social Problems. The teacher, Mr. Wilcox, was primarily the football coach. One of our assignments was to read Peale’s column in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer every week and discuss it in class. He was also against alcohol and maintained that when the Bible referred to “wine,” it really meant “grape juice.” (My yearbook tells me that he graduated from Swarthmore College, which surprises me, and the Internet informs me that he was president of his freshman class in 1923-1924.) #52essays2017

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