Sunday, 18 April 2010

Reading against flow - going against the tide ...

So we returned from Berlin with lots of books. Our house is full of books. I have recently ordered lots of books by post and so has Dr B. So what am I reading? A library book of course! One of the risks and benefits of having my office in the library is that I walk past the display of new books to get to my office which is how I ended up checking this book out today. Very glad I did, my bus got stuck in traffic and it's great and easy read, but also profound and moving writing. Here's an eminent theologian linking life, faith and theology quie unapologetically. It's wonderful.
Each piece is only about three book pages long. Perfect for reading on the bus! Flicking through it before I decided to take it home I got hooked by a piece entitled "not by sausage alone". It recounts Miroslav Volf's search for a "kulen" sausage and how he finds a devout and wise man who makes sausages and reads his Bible - blessed indeed are the sausage makers!
Here are two quotes from that piece:

"If the Bible is the book you read then your conversations will likely concern the deep questions of life rather than skirt them."
"But that loss (the loss of biblical literacy) is small compared to the moral, spiritual and intellectual impoverishment that comes from letting our lives be saturated by the superficial instead of being immeresed into the profound."
There are some beautiful personal pieces: on the adoption of his first child - called "ambiguity and grace"; on perceiving God's delight through the delight of a child in a parent; on married love; on grieving for a friend who died in a psychiatric hospital or for his father ...
The writing has great physicality, humour and honesty but it also shows deep spirituality. Here are some more quotes from "Evil and evildoers".
"Doesn't calling a person evil make us go after him with a vengeance, seeking to eleiminate or at least neutralize him?" my friend protests. "It all too often does," I agree. But it should not. God's love is broad enough to include evildoers, the worst of them. We know this because Christ died for their salvation no less than for the salvation of the rest of us who are one and all by nature God's enemies. To call someone evil is not to place her beyond the pale of God's redemption. Similarly, to call her evil is not to exempt ourselves from the obligation to love her. If our enemies are hungry, we should feed them; if they are thirsty we should give them something to drink. Instead of being overcome by evil, we should overcome evil with good.
I worry when I hear politicians speak of bin Laden as the Evil One Who Hides. But I would worry even more if we were to refrain from naming morally reprehensible acts, and those who commit them, as evil."
I suppose just the title of this book really spoke to me and deeply challenged me "Against the Tide - love in a time of petty dreams and persisting enmities"
It made me wonder about my own capacity to truly love in the midst of my own desperately petty dreams and persisting enmities ... my pondering was not as edifying as Miroslav Volf's. Do I just kid myself that I am going against the tide when really the way I go is also with the flow of an individualistic culture which loves far too little.
You can read a preview of the book by clicking here.