Marilynne Robinson on writing about faith

This is very much worth reading, saving, thinking and talking about. The following, for obvious reasons, are two excerpts that directly spoke to me, but I expect that the whole thing is going to churn around in my head for quite some time.

From her reply to a question about the language of faith as a source for writing:

We have anxiety about differences. We are different, anyway, so we might as well calm down about it. But one of the things that we have to do is understand that within the system that is anyone’s difference is incredibly enabling.


Her reply to a question about why there are so few good authors who write about faith:

Religion has been associated with narrow denominationalism, where people think if you explore religion in the language that your own tradition makes available to you, that you are making some assertion about the superiority of your tradition over the one next door. But there’s no reason to think that. We simply have different vocabularies that come out of different traditions. Anyone can explore the brilliance of their received vocabulary.


Marilynne Robinson on beauty

In “Freedom of Thought”, the first essay in her collection When I Was a Child I Read Books, Marilynne Robinson laments the marginilization of the sacred and the retreat from beauty that she sees a key elements of modern American life. And she indicts both the social sciences (the models for understanding the world anthropology, psychology and especially economics have given us) and religion in this lament.

She goes on to write:

If we think we have done this voiding of content for the sake of other people, those to whom we suspect God may have given a somewhat lesser brilliance than our own, we are presumptuous and also irreverent. William Tyndale, who was burned at the stake for this translation of the Bible, who provided much of the beautiful language in what is called by us the King James Bible, wrote, he said, in the language a plow-boy could understand. He wrote to the comprehension of the profoundly poor, those who would be, and would have lived among, the utterly unlettered. And he created one of the undoubted masterpieces of the English language. Now we seem to feel beauty is an affectation of some sort. And this notion is as influential in the churches as it is anywhere. The Bible, Christianity, should have inoculated us against this kind of disrespect for ourselves and one another. Clearly it has not. (6)

I’m not sure how (and how well) this can be done in the modern world. But beauty that is without affectation, that does not presume, that is not sentimental — that seems like something to seek for. In fact, it seems like our 13th Article of Faith rather expects it of us.