Monday, October 29, 2012

TO CARPING THEOLOGIANS

Wendell Berry's poem satirizing stiff theological discourse resonates with me


Perhaps one too many duly-appointed church official or slave of the academy--those who "know" sacred correctness and Lord over what they know wrongly--felt compelled to critique, correct or school Wendell. Been there. Have you?

Between the lines of satire, Berry points to a purity of heart and simplicity of faith--which is, to me, inspiring.


Having written some pages in favor of Jesus,
I receive solemn communication crediting me
with the possession of a "theology" by which
I acquire the strange dignity of being wrong
forever or forever right. Have I gauged exactly
enough the weight of sins? Have I found
too much of the Hereafter in the Here? Or
the other way around? Have I found too much
pleasure, too much beauty and goodness, in this
our unreturning world? O Lord, please forgive
any smidgen of distinctions I may
have still in my mind. I meant to leave them
all behind a long time ago. If I'm a theologian
I am one to the extent I have learned to duck
when the small, haughty doctrines fly overhead,
dropping their loads of whitewash at random
on the faces of those who look toward Heaven.
Look down, look down, and save your soul
by honester dirt, that receives with a lordly
indifference this off-fall of the air. Christmas
night and Easter morning are this soil's only laws.
The depth and volume of the waters of baptism,
the true taxonomy of sins, the field marks
of those most surely saved, God's own only true
interpretation of the Scripture: these would be
causes of eternal amusement, could we forget
how we have hated one another, how vilified
and hurt and killed one another, bloodying
the world, by means of such questions, wrongly
asked, never to be rightly answered, but asked
and wrongly answered, hour after hour, day after day,
year after year--such is my belief--in Hell.

in Leavings, poems by Wendell Berry, Counterpoint Press, 2010

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