I have lately been reading stories of the desert monastics, collected by the monk John Moschos in the seventh century. I don’t think I get it.
My pattern has been to feel slightly offended—sometimes even disgusted—by a story, and then walk away from it, wander around for awhile and finally realize that the story was probably a joke. In its own context, the main thing it elicited was probably laughter. But for me the humor is so strange, so wry, so unexpected that I don’t perceive it for hours.
My favorite book of the summer is Turn Here Sweet Corn, a memoir by organic farmer Atina Diffley. Her husband Martin started delivering vegetables from his family’s land to co-ops in Minneapolis in the early ‘70s, when co-ops were a new idea in Minnesota and few outside resources existed.
Last spring I visited the Paris exhibition Cranach in His Time, where I was introduced to a sampling of Lucas Cranach Sr.’s diverse and sometimes puzzling range of work. Cranach (1472–1553) produced more than 1,500 paintings, not to mention engravings, decorative work and altarpieces.
I began my tour with his portrait of the powerful and shrewd Frederick the Wise, who was Saxon’s ruling elector, Cranach’s patron and Luther’s protector. A little further on I studied a portrait of Luther, Cranach’s friend and partner, painted as a nonthreatening monk—an effort to persuade his critics that he was not dangerous.
Margaret Farley’s Just Love: A Framework for a Christian Sexual Ethics is at #16 on the current Amazon sales list. When is the last time a sane, scholarly, carefully argued and theologically rich book of sexual ethics ranked that high?
I don’t know, but I can’t imagine it was recent. (Four out of the top five on the Amazon list are versions of Fifty Shades of Gray. If only those readers would open up Farley!) To make matters even stranger, the book is six years old and used mostly in seminaries and at religious institutions.
The flurry of interest was provoked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
recently heard a panel discussion in which the conversation turned to the sorry
state of American political discourse, which too often descends into
sloganeering--assertions about "smaller government," "equal rights," "personal
responsibility" or "liberty," as if that ends the discussion.
Rash writes stories that have as much impact as any I've read; those in this
collection often left me feeling as if I'd been kicked. Rash lives in and writes
about Appalachia, and his stories never leave that home, even when they're set
at the end of the civil war ("Lincolnites").
Several years ago, I was interviewed by Linda Wertheimer of
National Public Radio about the then extraordinarily popular Left Behind
series. At one point, she asked me if I thought the Left Behind books were
funny. I paused, trying to absorb all the layers of her question, and then came
up with a brilliant answer: "No. Why? Do you?"