Friday, November 28, 2014

Advice from Gilead, on prophets and pharisees

'The article is called "God and the American People," and it says 95 percent of us say we believe in God. But our religion doesn't meet the writer's standards, not at all. To his mind, all those people in all those churches are the scribes and the Pharisees. He seems to me to be a bit of a scribe himself, scorning and rebuking the way he does. How do you tell a scribe from a prophet, which is what he clearly takes himself to be? The prophets love the people they chastise, a thing this writer does not appear to me to do.'

'But people of any degree of religious sensibility are always vulnerable to the accusation that their consciousness or their understanding does not attain to the highest standards of their faith, because that is always true of everyone.... It seems that the spirit of self-righteousness this article deplores is precisely the spirit in which it is written. Of course he's right about many things, one of them being the destructive potency of religious self-righteousness.'

- John Ames
in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead
pages 162 and 166

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Advice from Gilead, 'against defensiveness in principle'

'I would advise you against defensiveness on principle. It precludes the best eventualities along with the worst. At the most basic level, it expresses a lack of faith.... And often enough, when we think we are protecting ourselves, we are struggling against our rescuer.'

'Boughton takes a very dim view of him [Ludwig Feuerbach], because he unsettled the faith of many people, but I take issue as much with those people as with Feuerbach. It seems to me some people just go around looking to get their faith unsettled.'

- John Ames
in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead
pages 176 and 27

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Advice from Gilead: 'Don't look for proofs'

'So my advice is this -- don't look for proofs. Don't bother with them at all. They are never sufficient to the question, and they're always a little impertinent, I think, because they claim for God a place within our conceptual grasp. And they will likely sound wrong to you even if you convince someone else with them. That is very unsettling over the long term....

I'm not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I'm saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own, not, so to speak, the mustache and walking stick that happen to be the fashion of any particular moment.'

- John Ames
in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead
page 204

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

'So to be forgiven is only half the gift.'

'"It don't matter." It was as if she were renouncing the world itself just in order to make nothing of some offense to her. Such a prodigal renunciation, that empty-handed prodigality I remember from the old days.'

'And grace is the great gift. So to be forgiven is only half the gift. The other half is that we also can forgive, restore, and liberate, and therefore we can feel the will of God enacted through us, which is the great restoration of ourselves to ourselves.'

'He could knock me down the stairs and I would have worked out the theology for forgiving him before I reached the bottom. But if he harmed you in the slightest way, I'm afraid theology would fail me. That may be one great part of what I fear, now that I think of it.'

- John Ames
in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead
pages 169-170, 183-184, 216

Monday, November 17, 2014

'The heroism of routine'

'In one way we have been reacquainted with a local and unexciting heroism that we have ignored in our relentless pursuit of drama.... the heroism of routine.' 
- Rowan Williams, Writing in the Dust:
Reflections on 11th September and its Aftermath
, 47-48

We tend not to notice them until something goes dramatically right or wrong, but every day there are thousands of public servants and socially involved individuals who carry it out in millions of small but significant acts.