[S]omething of the sacred lingers about every grape and every glass. There’s the potential for holiness in wine, a hint of something more to come, of some greater possibility, of some future transformation imaginable only through the sheer, gratuitous gift of God. In that sense, wine is a bit like us—made for more, longing to be transformed, waiting for grace to do what grace does.
2. Two of her other recent posts are worth mentioning, as well. This one about buying a table from a family that was selling off their deceased mother’s estate hit me hard, since, as I’ve written, I’ve had to do something like that twice in the past couple of months. I hope the people that get the things that once belonged to my mom and grandmother appreciate the history of those things as well as Stimpson appreciates her table. Then, this post on the virtues of her small kitchen reminded me of Casey Fleming’s “Sermon for Small Houses.” I know Casey, and I’ve read enough of Stimpson to know they stand on opposite ends of a lot of cultural and political debates. But remember that Peter Kreeft essay I linked last week, in which he insisted that something “certainly less important than religion but possibly more important than politics” might undercut our rigid left-right alignments? He said that “something” had to do with architecture, didn’t he?
3. Speaking of Casey, you absolutely have to read her personal and devastatingly beautiful essay on IVF and her (gorgeous) son: “Easter Sermon (A Baptism Story)”
4. I’m in my 7th year of my PhD program. A few years before that, I was here for four years as an undergraduate. After 11 total years at this school, there’s not much left on my UT-Austin bucket list. But one thing I haven’t done, but want to do before they kick me off campus next month, is explore the David Foster Wallace archive in the Harry Ransom Center. Alissa Wilkinson writes about the appeal of Wallace for those of us who struggle with faith and doubt but who, nonetheless, can’t seem to leave religion alone:
I guess you can’t properly call David Foster Wallace a religious writer, at least not with the definitions of religion we usually employ. Then again, when I first read him, I sensed a presence beyond the words on the page, a writer who was desperate to connect with the reader but also said what needed to be said. His questions are what I struggle with, too. Who am I? How do I connect with other people? What or who are we headed for, together? How do we get there? What is the best life?
Last February, Joseph Winkler wrote in the Jewish magazine Tablet about how reading Wallace led him back to the Talmudic study he’d left when he abandoned Orthodoxy. “Wallace … was always a rabbi to me, in a post-postmodern world where old values only meant anything if you so chose,” he wrote. “In a new world in which I couldn’t believe in old dogma, his work still tackled morality, the nature of belief, obligations, responsibility, and the human spirit.” Re-encountering Wallace, Winkler relates, actually led him back to reading and studying the Talmud.
I had a similar experience. In a time of confusion and loss for me, I read a man who wanted desperately to believe even as he was plagued by unbelief and absence. I was adrift in absence, and his questions gave voice to my own. They gave me some CPR when I most needed it, and helped me start to believe it was possible to be “alive and human” in the world. They sent me back to the Word, made flesh.
Wilkinson acknowledges the complicating fact that Wallace’s words failed him, that “those same words didn’t give Wallace himself space to be alive and human.” But she concludes that “it is a special sort of grace that lets someone’s words on the page become flesh, that makes those essays and stories into icons, no matter their deficiencies.”
5. OK, so this one isn’t entirely unrelated to the arguments going on at the Supreme Court this week. I pumped my fist while reading Rachel Held Evans’ “The False Gospel of Gender Binaries.” I’m not sure what my favorite line was, but here are few parts that made me cheer:
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is not so fragile as to be unpinned by the reality that variations in gender and sexuality exist, nor is it so narrow as to only be good news for people who look and live like Ward and June Cleaver.”
“No doubt some will argue that we cannot build our theologies around ‘exceptions’ like Adrian. When I bring up intersex people in conversations about gender and sexuality, I am typically met with blank stares, shrugged shoulders, and dismissive platitudes about how most people fit neatly into male and female categories and generalities, so we shouldn’t worry about the outliers. But if Jesus started with the outliers, why we shouldn’t we?”
“Now, I’m not suggesting we abandon conversations about the Bible and sexual ethics, nor am I interested in promoting a ‘genderless society’ (as some have bizarrely claimed, somehow supposing that acknowledging the existence of gray requires dismissing the existence of black and white). I am suggesting, however, that Jesus didn’t die on the cross to preserve gender complementarity.”
Say it, Rachel!
6. Finally, Michael Boyle has finished his series “Another Theology of the Body.” His last installment is exemplary: great writing, moving personal testimony, and smart argument. It also includes an index, so you can read the whole series. Which, in my opinion, he ought to turn into a book.
[Are they really going to kick me out of this place?]