Ken’s e-Pistle

March 13, 2024

In this month’s issue of The Atlantic we find a thoughtful and sensitive article by Judith Shulevitz entitled, “How Marilynne Robinson Reads Scripture.”  For those of us unfamiliar with her work, Gilead is a good example.  Her prose is at once picturesque and prophetic, finding God’s elusive yet imminent presence in all creation.

Robinson is a lay-theologian of a definite Calvinist bent and she has lately embarked on a journey of reading Genesis as an artistic endeavor.  She acknowledges that the first book of the Bible stands in the tradition of many creation stories, notably, the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh (remember having to read that in high school?) and others.  She posits that the Genesis account gives more humanity to the principal characters as they are created in the image of God and placed in a garden where all their needs are met. Instead of being made to simply serve the gods, these are established to be in relationship with God.

The work reads at once like a novel and an exposition of family systems with all of the faults and foibles which come packaged with our humanity.  Adam and Eve evade responsibility, Cain kills his brother, Abel, Noah responds to salvation from the Great Flood by planting a vineyard and getting roaring drunk and Abraham has to deal with frenetic wives and sibling rivalry.

The drama, of course, continues.  You know most, if not all, of the stories.  The difference here is that we are asked to read scripture as an artistic form rather than holy writ.  We are called to appreciate the written word, the turn of phrase, the beautiful descriptions, and the scenic panoramas which float into our periphery of the soul as we read.

I can’t help but believe that this is decidedly another expression of holiness. To move beyond the familiarity of the text to appreciation of the beauty therein.  That is the task Robinson lays before us.

As we approach Holy Week, may we consider the ancient story in such a way.  Then we may feel the triumph of His entry, experience the deep sorrow of the betrayal, sense the  brutality of the  whips and the crucifixion, and finally experience the beauteous glory of the Resurrection.

I bid you peace!