Thursday, September 4, 2008

Gilead, Hebrew, Palin, Football, and Fatherhood

In anticipation of the release of its companion/sequel Home (which came out on Tuesday), I recently finished re-reading Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead, which has the esteemed honor of being both my favorite book and the first novel I have ever re-read. I originally planned to review it similar to how I did The Straight Story -- a plan I am likely to take up in the future with most movies, books, and CDs I find valuable for theological exploration -- but upon reflection, I decided against it.

I can't bring myself to spoil one iota of the book itself. All I can do is recommend it in the highest terms possible. Let me be clear: I believe Marilynne Robinson to be one of the great literary masters of our time. She has only written five total books so far; three novels ( the one I have yet to mention is Housekeeping, a densely poetic and moving work), one collection of nonfiction essays (The Death of Adam -- absolutely spectacular), and Mother Country, an exploration of nuclear waste in Great Britain and its consequences for nuclear power in the rest of the world (on my shelf and ready to read).

As you can tell merely by looking at a description of her work, the woman is brilliant. She teaches writing for a living, and is one of those creatures less rare than you think: an imminently thoughtful Christian recognized in the larger world of her discipline for her obvious mastery. (Gilead won the Putlizer Prize, after all.)

Reading Gilead is, simply put, a delight and a joy. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single page is a marvel. I had to pace myself just to keep from reading it all at once -- for the second time. Re-entering the world of old John Ames, the town of Gilead, his family and his church, his friend Boughton and godson Jack, his theological prose and love for the world -- every paragraph, every sentence, filled with to the brim with what C.S. Lewis identified as Joy: the brief, stabbing pains of otherworldliness, of divinity, of beauty and glory and wonder and life.

And now, with Home, I get to spend more time in Gilead, only in another household. Praise God for writers like Marilynne Robinson.

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This semester I am taking Urban Ministries, Old Testament I (Genesis through Nehemiah), Thinking Through Theological Education, and Hebrew Readings. It has been approximately 16 months since I last waded into the world of biblical Hebrew, so that is going to be the class receiving the bulk of my attention this semester. We will be translating the entire book of Deuteronomy, plus a handful of Psalms and other passages. Whew.

On a related, and exciting, note, my little semi-epigraph on the side of the blog -- thoughts on "Mi Yodea?" and its implications for theology -- has, before my ignorant eyes, sprouted up in various other passages in the Old Testament, and I find myself realizing I may have stumbled onto something of which I knew nothing at the outset. I have found close to a dozen instances in the Old Testament where a person utters the phrase "Who knows?" in response to something mighty God can do, or a potential mercy he may do. I will explore this in a later post, but count me excited for accidentally (what a word!) happening upon such a happy discovery.

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Anybody watch Sarah Palin's speech last night? While the media was right to call it a knockout, man, that woman knows how to throw some punches. As multiple (male and female) commentators have noted, she has sure figured out the nuance of sticking in the knife without ever breaking a smile.

I also want to clarify my previous post, to make absolutely sure that no one heard me saying, in my excitement about McCain making a politically brilliant choice, that Sarah Palin as a candidate, or John McCain -- or Biden or Obama -- has my support or my vote. I hoped to make that clear through my predication (usually overly explanatory) about my having my own thoughts about what it means for Christians to be political, but I don't want there to be any confusion on the matter. So: politics, yay; endorsing one side or the other, nay.

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Basketball is by far my favorite sport, and the NBA is my league. However, after basketball is football, and my goodness do I love the NFL -- which happens to be starting tonight. I know I'm strange in a world where the "integrity" (or what have you) of sports is said to be found in the college games, but there is nothing like a Sunday full of good football. Go Cowboys!

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To conclude, please feel free to read about just how incredible a man is the one I call Dad.

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