Plot Lines

A stranger comes to town, or someone takes a trip.

Novelist Lee Smith, who lives in Hillsborough, says all of literature can be boiled down to those two basic plots. Think about it: Moby-Dick, The Great Gatsby, Where the Wild Things Are, Superman, the Bible.

In a way, the same premise applies to this issue. With "Leap of Faith " (p. 106), Mike Giglio has written a multilayered story that is as much a portrait of controversial Concord minister Michael Brown as it is a story of how religion works in America. Brown was a leader of the Brownsville Revival, which took over Pensacola, Florida for more than three years, drawing a cumulative audience of two million people. Early on, the local paper printed a series of award-winning articles that, as Giglio writes, "painted it as a great big scam." But, as we've seen often in American religion, faith trumps reporting. As the revival wound down, Brown split from it, eventually moving with a small group of followers to Concord. A stranger comes to town. Since moving to the area, he's operated outside the local religious mainstream, but he's starting to gain traction. This February, he was scheduled to hold his second forum on being gay and Christian, in a time slot that conveniently coincides with the Human Rights Coalition Carolinas' annual gala. And he has big plans for Charlotte. In this city full of money and churches, he sees more religious revival. He thinks Charlotte can be  "a battleground for moral issues."

Elsewhere in the issue, Associate Editor Jarvis Holliday takes a look at Hendrick Motorsports, which is not only the most successful race team in NASCAR, it's the most successful professional sports team in the country. (From religion to racing—this is Charlotte magazine, after all.) Last season, two of HMS's drivers, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, who both live here, dominated the circuit. This season, Rick Hendrick recruited Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the team, which promises to change the team's dynamic—and increase its stranglehold on the sport. OK, so Junior's not exactly a stranger, and he already lives here, but he's new to the team. So I'm counting it. Holliday's story, "All in the Family," starts on p. 96.

As for someone taking a trip, well, that someone could be you. Associate Editor Blake Miller has put together a standout package of great weekend getaways ("A Year of Excellent Traveling," p. 76). Each of the twelve destinations is either a short flight or car ride away, making them perfect weekend escapes. This isn't the same old lineup of quaint inns and beachfront resorts, either (not that there's anything wrong with those). Brooklyn, Boston, and Providence, Rhode Island in the Northeast, Aruba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, and seven more spots in between. We've even taken the liberty of suggesting appropriate months in which to plan your visits. If, like most people I know, you've been going full-speed since coming out of the holidays, you deserve a little trip. Hope this helps.