Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Gilead

I just finished the book Gilead. What an incredible book! I found myself completely drawn in by a character that was so familiar to me I wondered if I could be related. :-) There were a few passages that so eloquently expressed views that I've tried to convey myself that I wanted to share them.

In a passage commenting on a critic of the narrator's faith, he says:

[He] doesn't imagine the possibility of an existence beyond this one, by which I mean a reality embracing this one but exceeding it, the way, for example, this world embraces and exceeds Soapy's [the cat's] understanding of it. Soapy might be a victim of ideological conflict right along with the rest of us, if things get out of hand. She would no doubt make some feline appraisal of the situation, which would have nothing to do with the Dictatorship of the Proletariat or the Manhattan Project. The inadequacy of her concepts would have nothing to do with the reality of the situation.
And here's a thought I've been mulling how to convey but not yet gotten around to. Maybe now I won't need to...

There are two insidious notions, from the point of view of Christianity in the modern world. (No doubt there are more than two, but the others will have to wait.) One is that religion and religious experiences are illusions of some sort (Feuerback, Freud, etc.), and the other is that religion itself is real, but your belief that you participate in it is an illusion. I think the second of these is the more insidious, because it is religious experience above all that authenticates religion, for the purposes of the individual believer.

Authentication. What an interesting word choice when I hear it so often used in attacks against religion, as if participating in religion necessarily diminishes a person's personal involvement in his spirituality or as if to be authentic one must embrace the natural man rather than be dissatisfied with him.

Oh. And here's this bit about Truth with a capital T and tolerance that I enjoyed.

And I felt, as I have often felt, that my failing the truth could have no bearing at all on the Truth itself, which could never conceivably be in any sense dependent on me or on anyone. And my heart rose up within me--that's exactly what it felt like--and I said, "I have heard any number of fine sermons in my life, and I have known any number of deep souls. I am well aware that people find fault, but it seems to me to be presumptuous to judge the authenticity of anyone's religion, except one's own. And that is also presumptuous."

How nice to feel validated by a Pulitzer Prize winner... or at least the narrator of her book. I appreciated the peaceful sentiments in this very beautifully written book. I recommend it to anyone. The second half is better than the first, so be sure to stick through til the end!

1 comment:

Chris (hurricane) said...

Authentication. What an interesting word choice when I hear it so often used in attacks against religion, as if participating in religion necessarily diminishes a person's personal involvement in his spirituality or as if to be authentic one must embrace the natural man rather than be dissatisfied with him.

The other side of this is that many religious people reject the idea that one can be fully and authentically gay, for example, and still be spiritual or full participants in religious community. Both ideas are insidious. I have rejected Mormonism, but I have not rejected religion or spirituality.