This summer I reread Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison in Fortress Press's extraordinary new edition of his collected works. Letters and Papers
remains almost endlessly suggestive and stimulating theologically. But
in this reading I noticed how often the imprisoned Lutheran pastor
Betty LaDuke of Ashland, Oregon, has spent decades traveling through the developing world. She has recently been painting people who have benefited from Heifer International, which donates animals to help families in poor countries become self-sufficient. Coptic Altar derives from her eight trips to Eritrea, a small country in the Horn of Africa. The painting is an aesthetic fusion of cultures, melding a Western genre with a contemporary African visual style. In the center panel Jesus, the Good Shepherd, stands at the threshold with a sheep, surrounded by admirers in various postures of prayer and reverence. In the left panel are more admirers of Christ, surrounded by angels and crosses. The right panel portrays a church leader accompanied by some of the faithful, who are sheltered by the Madonna and child, a crescent moon, saints and crosses.
Too much writing about the arts and Christianity is apologetic, explaining why the church should be concerned about artistic expression. Within that category is a lot of writing that voices high-minded generalities about "good art" and "bad art" and about who should and should not be making art.
Get Low is a redemption story that doesn't feel hollow or
fake. That's mostly because the protagonist, a Depression-era
small-town Tennessee recluse named Felix Bush, is played by Robert
Duvall in a wildly imaginative performance that may be the finest he's
ever turned in.
Here in the basement of the Espresso Royale on Sixth Street in this land grant university town, amid English Fog lattes and keypad-clatter, in the afternoon before the all-hallows-eve in which Katie, a great-great-et-cetera granddaughter of the townswoman they hanged for the crime of witchcraft, will play a game—homo ludens— of volleyball against the maize-and-blue Michigan Wolverines I draft a missive to the good citizenry of Dorchester as though they might yet happen upon these words, as though their revivified selves were a short gallop from this latitude and longitude, as though their sins of omission and commission might still be forgiven— not just forgotten—by an act of penance that includes a pilgrimage to tonight’s venue and a maniacal cheering for this descendent as she executes (I didn’t invent the language) a perfect play that culminates in (really, I didn’t) a kill. Full stop because I don’t know how to end this letter. So I do what I always do: continue breaking lines and staggering down the page until it’s time to witness more volleyball and cheer like nothing else ever happens or matters.