Stevie and God
In this page I explore some of Stevie Smith’s religious beliefs and some of her poems which touch on religion.
God was always important to Stevie: when she was young she belonged to the Anglican Church and she recognised ‘a cheerfulness and courage in the church community, and modesty in doing good, she wanted to believe in a loving God, but she came to the conclusion that it was morally right and necessary to reject Christianity. Her religious poems reflect the tension between her desire to believe in the Christian God and her belief that Christianity was seriously flawed.
Stevie explores the Christian religion with an intensity which is unusual in the multicultural and generally secular society of the UK today. However in the interval between the two world wars many other writers were also preoccupied with religion. Some, including Graham Green, Evelyn Waugh, and T S Eliot, started off as strongly agnostic and then converted to the Catholic Church. As Stevie put it, ‘ there was what might be called a stampede of the sensitive and the intellectual person away from the vulgarities of the secular world into the Catholic Church.’ George Orwell, (in the essay Notes on Nationalism) wrote in 1941 that in the 20’s and 30’s ‘political Catholicism' was in the place that Communism occupied in 1941. I think this can be interpreted as meaning that political Catholicism was a militant ideology espoused by a number of intellectuals. A number of other writers, C S Lewis and WH Auden were devout members of the Protestant church.
In her childhood Stevie loved the ceremonies of the church; psalms and hymns are often echoed in her poems. After her mother’s death when Stevie was sixteen, Stevie and her sister Molly were introduced to the Roman Catholic Church by a relative. Aunt disapproved strongly but in spite of this Molly joined the Catholic church a few years later. Molly wrote that...