Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Affability and condescension

Read an article in the New Yorker, The First Church of Marilynne Robinson, by a Mark O'Connell. Admitting "borderline hostility" to religion, after quoting a luminous passage from her beautiful novel Gilead, he says,

This is not the kind of voice I normally associate with religious people, and it makes me wonder whether we might not be listening to the wrong voices. (A resolution: instead of clicking links to stories about the Westboro Baptist Church condemning, say, the Foo Fighters to the eternal flames of perdition, I’ll read a paragraph or two of an essay by Robinson instead.)

I don't know. As a Christian, an attitude that most religious people stink but Marilynne Robinson smells like a rose can't help but offend me. I don't know if I'd feel flattered by this article even if I were Marilynne Robinson. He basically says, "Usually I can't stand people like you, but I like you."

Then there's this:

Robinson is a Calvinist, but her spiritual sensibility is richly inclusive and non-dogmatic. There’s little talk about sin or damnation in her writing, but a lot about forgiveness and tolerance and kindness. Hers is the sort of Christianity, I suppose, that Christ could probably get behind.

I haven't seen such condescension since Lady Catherine de Bourgh invited the Collinses to tea, especially that last sentence. It reminds me of the story that there once was a contest to see who could write the most pretentious opening for an essay. The winner was: "As Jesus Christ once said (and rightly so) ..."

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