I wanted to post these things on Sunday, but stuff happened. Here are some of the best things I read recently:
1. Do you know Jamie Quatro?
Though these women can imagine and even entertain an alternative spirituality in which love — love at all costs, no matter its illicit nature — is endorsed, they cannot subscribe to it. Certainly, their families are no small consideration, but an even greater deterrent is the brave new world they would face, without divisions of sin and virtue, without a bible to tell them exactly which is which.
Quatro explores the repercussions of one such alternative Christianity in the fascinating “Demolition,” a parable about the gradual dismantlement of a church, and the subsequent dismantlement of its orthodoxy. When the stained glass windows with their pictures of biblical scenes begin mysteriously to shatter, many in the congregation believe it’s a sign of God’s disapproval. But others consider it a benediction and relish the new view it provides:
For the first time we could see each other worshipping in the natural light. Breezes fluttered out skirts and chucked our collars up under our chins. Through the empty lead came drifted scents of honeysuckle and wisteria, mown grass, grilled fish. We could hear weed trimmers, children’s laughter; the whir of a moped, the drone of an airplane.
The clergy and those faithful to the old order abandon the cursed church, leaving the rebel worshippers to remove the beams, then the roof. Eventually, desiring “open-air worship,” they demolish it entirely.
Surely these new reformers are onto something vital and invigorating, an antidote to stale orthodoxy. But details emerge to complicate this picture.
I’ve been waiting to get time to read the book, and the money to afford it, ever since. My university library’s copy has been checked out for months, and I hate doing recalls. [Did you know someone recalled my Budziszewski book? Don’t worry, I won’t let it affect tomorrow’s scheduled post!] But I was digging through an old stack of Oxford American Magazines, and I found and read one of her stories that they published in their Spring issue. Now I really want the book.
Somewhere along the way, many people got the idea that the religious sphere and artistic sphere are at odds with each other. I believe the opposite is true. Both the arts and spiritual discernment broaden our perspectives and enrich our lives, and in very similar ways.
3. William Lindsey has been writing so many good posts at his Bilgrimage blog that I can barely keep up with them all. But I wanted to highlight this one, which 1) introduced me to Becca Morn’s series on how the American religious right has been exporting homophobia and 2) includes Lindsey’s moving reflection on Rowan Williams’ recent thoughts about the violence that has been committed against gay people in the name of the Church. Lindsey writes:
I wonder, in short, what it means—in terms of actions in the real world, which make our words more than self-congratulatory rhetorical flourishes, after all—to say that we have to face the fact that we’ve deeply failed a lot of gay and lesbian people, not only historically but more recently as well.
I wonder. One can’t eat nice words as one’s daily bread and stay alive.