Min Yin Lee, Pachinko (Grand Central 2017).
Today would be Flannery O’Connor’s 97th birthday.
- “I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.” Mystery and Manners, p. 112.
- “The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism. I believe that there are many rough beasts now slouching toward Bethlehem to be born and that I have reported the progress of a few of them, and when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror.” Mystery and Manners, 117.
- “Wise blood has to be these people’s means of grace—they have no sacraments. The religion of the South is a do-it-yourself religion, something which I as a Catholic find painful and touching and grimly comic. It’s full of unconscious pride that lands them in all sorts of ridiculous religious predicaments. They have nothing to correct their practical heresies and so they work them out dramatically. If this were merely comic to me, it would be no good, but I accept the same fundamental doctrines of sin and redemption and judgment that they do.” The Habit of Being, p. 350.
I recommend again Jonathan Rogers, The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O’Connor (Thomas Nelson 2012) [link].
The Trinity Forum, The Rabbit Room, and the WindRider Institute sponsored a conversation with Makoto Fujimura yesterday, and it was a delight to “get to know” this painter. Here’s the [link].
He spoke generally about “Art + Faith: A Theology of Making” but these nuggets especially caught my attention:
- how “forced binaries” (conservative-progressive, left-right, etc.) satisfy our “lust for certainty”;
- how the Japanese art of Kintsugi (which “repairs” broken pottery and calls attention to the repair, where the Western goal is to make it appear that there was never any break) may inform how we are to receive other broken people; and
- how there are still “burning bushes” though we have stopped taking our shoes off.
Well worth an hour of your time. Watch, don’t just listen, for Fujimura’s delightfully expressive and joyful face.
I hope you have been following the ever reliable Sarah Willard (Blind Mule Blog) and Alan Jacobs (Snakes and Ladders), as both have been amazingly prolific over the last few months. Don’t wait for me to point you to specific posts!
We all know that it is the worst of times . . .
If I vote for Biden, I will be complicit in abortions on a mass scale.
If I vote for Trump, I will be complicit in cementing a worldview in which the ends justify the means, power replaces truth, and thus the very truths by which we define and understand ourselves as human are at stake.Karen Swallow Prior, “Voting for Neither,” Christianity Today (Oct. 28, 2020) [link].
Here’s your semi-regular reminder: You don’t have to be there. You can quit Twitter and Facebook and never go back.Alan Jacobs, “it’s time,” Snakes and Ladders (Oct. 28, 2020) [link].
but it is also the best of times:
There have been many men on the court who seemed deep and were celebrated for their scholarly musings but were essentially, as individuals and in their conception of life, immature. But this is not a child, a sentimentalist, an ideological warrior. This is a thinker who thinks about reality.Peggy Noonan, “Everyone Has Gone Crazy in Washington,” The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 15, 2020) [link].
Sad tales are generally accepted, but when you share joy it is likely that someone somewhere might be hurt by it, especially in a year marked by such sweeping stress. We are all secretly afraid that there might not be enough happiness to go around, and that we will perpetually be that kid that gets left behind.Sarah Willard, “Reader, I Married Him,” Blind Mule Blog (Oct. 27, 2020) [link].
and indeed, it is like all times:
And all shall be well andT.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” The Four Quartets [link].
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one
It is not how we vote, or what we read, or who we support or oppose, or even how well we love. We live in a comedy, not a tragedy, for there is One to rescue us from ourselves.
There is One who does good, and the world is certainly in his hand. He will judge and he will redeem.
More than usual, sorry, I usually post when I have three, this time I have five for you. Please don’t miss the last one.
Stephen L. Carter, “How We Got to Capital-B ‘Black’: America’s long conversation about race has often stumbled over which specific words to use,” BloombergOpinion (July 1, 2020) [link]:
So black is now Black. In the wake of the protests following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others, editors everywhere have decreed with sudden and remarkable unanimity that the formerly common adjective referring to African Americans will henceforth be a proper adjective.
I’m all for the change. Yes, as a card-carrying Grammar Curmudgeon I have a few curmudgeonly concerns. But before we get to that part, let’s do a little history.
Over the past half millennium, the U.S. and its predecessor colonies have invented all sorts of ways to refer to the Africans they bought and sold and their many generations of descendants. Many of those terms were derogatory at the time; most are considered derogatory today. The nation’s difficulty in finding the proper word to describe a people dragged unwillingly to its shores itself mirrors the difficulty the nation has had in digesting the original crime.
Carter continues to look at the history and significance of the usage, with his usual insight. Alas he is behind the Bloomberg paywall, and (so far as I am aware) his earlier columns are not released after a period of captivity like some other writers. See, e.g., Peggy Noonan [link]. Choose your one free article for the month wisely (now I will have to wait until August).
Sarah Willard, “Remember This,” Blind Mule Blog (June 29, 2020) [link]:
In January I wrote the word Eucatastrophe down on a scrap of paper and propped it up on my desk. A sudden turn of good events, it means, which ensures the protagonist does not meet some very probable doom. It was with barely a mustard seed of belief that I wrote it down. Really I just liked the way it looked on paper. I didn’t name it and claim it. I didn’t presume to pray for it. I was, in fact, avoiding it personally.
Great word, Sarah, and one we need to remember. She gives us a scrap of story about unexpected grace.
Nadia Nadim, “The Outsiders,” The Players’ Tribune (June 18, 2020):
Although I’m encouraged by the Black Lives Matter protests, I still feel that too many people have become numb to what’s going on in certain parts of the world. Take one of them aid campaigns about Africa, where children are suffering from hunger. People see it, in the literal sense, but they don’t really see it. You know? But then let’s say that you live in Denmark, where I arrived when I was 12, or in any other privileged country. If two Danes die or get killed in Africa or Syria or wherever, that’s suddenly big news. You’re like, “Oh my God. They were Danish!!”
This is a different story than we are used to.
Rebecca Manley Pippert, Stay Salt (2020) [link]:
Our task is learning how to apply all that we have received from God so that we can witness to the truth about him in ways that are effective and that truly connect with people today. We do not need to get angry, shouting at our culture. We do not need to feel defeated, staying silent in our culture. We can be hopeful, as we share the message that the whole word so desperately needs to hear. To put it another way, we can still be disciple-makers. We can—we must—stay salt!
Voddie Baucham, “Racial Reconciliation,” YouTube (2019) [link]:
If God can reconcile those who have real and God-ordained distinctions between them, He can certainly reconcile people who have arbitrary and artificial differences and distinctions between them.
This is a very powerful sermon—by the way, Dr. Baucham is not (1) saying there is no problem, or (2) reading books is worthless, or that (3) we can experience no peace with non-believers. What he does say is worth multiple hearings.
Dr. Baucham has many online sermons—does anyone have other suggestions? This was the first I had heard.
I have been reading about Flannery O’Connor in Jonathan Rogers, The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O’Connor (2012), which is excellent.1
During her life O’Connor was often rebuked for the violence in her fiction, but she explained how it was not at all inconsistent with her Christian faith:
I suppose the reasons for the use of so much violence in modern fiction will differ with each writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.2
I was struck by this, I think, because it seems particularly apropos to our current situation in which our lives have been violently reduced, and much that was extraneous has been torn away from us.
It seems to me that O’Connor echoes C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain (p. 81: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”) and in “Learning in War-Time” (The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.”).
O’Connor, as diligent “sub-creator,” looked for ways that her character might be brought to grace — our creator (and hers) is now doing the same.
1Isn’t that a perfect title? The Terrible Speed of Mercy is a great place to start a study of O’Connor. [Ed. note: It turns out that “the terrible speed of mercy” is a phrase of Flannery O’Connor’s.]
2Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (ed. Sally and Robert Fitzgerald (1961) (emphasis added).
Though our hearts are faint, his arm is strong. He has not forgotten you and he is not surprised by all this. Cry out to the Lord and pray for deliverance for yourself and those around you.
Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark: Thought on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making (2019) [link].
This is an absolutely marvelous book if you (1) are a fan of Andrew Peterson, (2) are interested in Christians in the arts, or (3) read books. (Okay, I threw the last one in, because I think this could have very broad appeal.) Peterson, of course is a singer-songwriter living near Nashville who is also involved the lives of a number of creative Christians in an online community called The Rabbit Room.*
You likely know Peterson as a thoughtful singer-songwriter and (perhaps) a gleeful author — mostly of fantasy novels — but in this case his thoughtful faith plays out in a string of reflections and personal anecdotes about the faith and the creative calling. Adorning the Dark is memoir and (in the best sense) sermon.
There are many delightful anecdotes referencing the influences on his thought, including some usual suspects (C.S. Lewis, Rich Mullins, Wendell Berry) and some decidedly unusual suspects (The Dragonlance novels, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor). Tolkien and Dylan were relatively late additions. By far, though, it is friends and fellow believers who seem to have built themselves into Peterson’s life. Continue reading Jesu juva