A sense of place

The many horizons of Martin E. Marty

When you grow up on the prairie you learn to live with what you have. The Marty people—formerly the Martis, Swiss Lutherans who emigrated to America in 1869—had dirt. Nebraska dirt. They mixed it with water and made houses. They set their houses against caves and rock formations and brought organs, linens and teacups into them. In the mud houses, they sang songs to God.

They had sky, too. And calamity. They looked at the horizon and saw in the foreground a step or two. The middle ground was where possibility lay, and then, way off, beyond the horizon was eternity. When what you have are mud houses and teacups, dirt and sky, the landscape becomes metaphysical, Martin E. Marty would say. How odd, he would also say, when opposing realities come together in harmonious symbiosis, the simple and the magisterial, the earthy and the transcendent, sod houses and songs to God.


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