SPOILER ALERT: The following post contains a passing reference to the conclusion of the show LOST.
The most popular book on Christianity today — at least 120 weeks on the bestseller list, many of them at the top — is Heaven is for Real. It’s the true story of a four-year-old’s near-death experience, in which he recalls going to Heaven and meeting Jesus. Another bestseller, Proof of Heaven, has spent more than 60 weeks on the list. It was written by a neurosurgeon who had his own near-death experience during which he also met people on the other side. Also consistently floating around the top ten is Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus, which is the latest in his Killing [Famous Person] series.
I haven’t read any of these books and I don’t plan to. Continue reading
I have tried to avoid talking about Marilynne Robinson’s Christianity, but it’s not going to work. To do that would be to pretend that her faith is not almost immediately encountered in When I Was a Child I Read Books — or her other books, for that matter — so acknowledging it is inevitable. Marilynne Robinson is a Christian. She is also a writer, and may perhaps be a “Christian Writer,” whatever that means. But rest assured that she is not pictured smiling and looking dynamic on her dust jackets, and her writing bears no resemblance to thinly veiled self-help. Like the Bible, her work offers no assurances that Jesus wants you to be rich, quick or otherwise.
Some readers may be more comfortable with the title of Theologian, but Robinson is not exactly that either. While she mentions Christianity early and often, her essays are not focused on that single subject, and When I Was a Child is not exclusively or explicitly a Christian book. Her faith is more akin to armor than insulation, equipping her for taking on issues like economics, history, education and democracy. Much like Reinhold Niebuhr, her nearest predecessor in a line that traces back to Whitman and Emerson, Robinson is deeply fascinated with the nature and destiny of human kind, and what we tell ourselves about those things at our moment in history. I worry about calling her a Christian writer out of a reasonable fear that readers will hear it and deny themselves this thoughtful, exceptional, and important book.