Katrina Gray: No pretenses here, Andrew: I zeroed in on Dirty Theologians because I have a thing for men who wear Franciscan cassocks and shave their heads to resemble tonsures. But I don’t think your group is about that kind of dirty theologian. Can you clear this up for me?

Andrew Bowen: Dirty theologians are folks who create art regarding religious/spiritual matters without holding the punches. In the profane world, religious life is messy. The lessons we glean often come through R-rated circumstances. The work of a dirty theologian isn’t found in the Inspiration Section, but in jars hidden in caves, between mattresses, and in the locked drawers of the clergy.

I see that there’s a discussion in the group about whether creativity and theology are like oil and water. I side with the Baha’is — that an act of creativity is the ultimate prayer.  Where do you weigh in?

The Baha’is and I are good friends. Because they believe in “progressive revelation,” the idea that divine inspiration can arrive on any station jives well with their typical artistic flare. I happen to agree. Many of our spiritual/moral/cultural truths are crafted via the arts. Fiction (and other forms of art) is therefore the language of truth and inspiration.

What’s your favorite piece of theological fiction and/or poetry?

A favorite? Really? Honestly, I get around, but I’ll play along. Yan Martel’s Life of Pi, The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis, the poetry of Rumi… I’m getting turned on just thinking about this.

You know what I heard? You’re doing this cool thing called Project Conversion where you put on a different theological hat every month. What inspired this?

With all the animosity and conflict regarding religion, I came to a crossroads last October where I felt that I needed to pick a side: say “to hell with religion” and join the New Atheism movement, or try and bring some sense to the world of faith. I chose the latter. My strategy is to do something so dramatic that it creates a lull in the fighting on both sides. Through Project Conversion, I hope to inspire folks to explore the spiritual/philosophical traditions of our species instead of focusing on our perceived differences. So far, the results are amazing.

How has Project Conversion affected your creative impulses? Is there still room for writing?

I am a writer first, revolutionary second. Because Project Conversion is so intensive and time-consuming (living a faith literally takes every second of the day), I find myself with little time for fiction projects. Nothing however, lasts forever. I still think about old story ideas, and because I have new inspiration from each religious tradition, new ones spring to life. These are recorded for later use when Project Conversion cools down and I have more time to go old school.

Katrina Gray checks in with Fictionaut groups every Friday. She lives in Nashville with the writer John Minichillo and their lovechild. She is the editor-in-chief of Atticus Review, and she blogs about mostly non-literary things at www.katrinagray.com.

  1. Marcus Speh

    i love project conversion but before i loved it i loved andrew’s divine dirt quarterly and his fiction. andrew is a true visionary and all his endeavors reflect that. this is the stuff that the best writers of all times were made of. so good of katrina to dig through the dirt to get to this theologian and get him to say this: “Fiction … is therefore the language of truth and inspiration.” yes mate, yes.

  2. James Lloyd Davis

    I am easily attracted to this kind of fiction. I don’t know why, but I truly love this Project Conversion concept. Thoroughly intrigued now. Great interview.

  3. J. Mykell Collinz

    Thanks for the informative and entertaining interview, Katrina and Andrew. Yes, Project Conversion does inspire and The Dirty Theologians Group looks intriguing.

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