25 December 2009

Hopkins poem for Christmas

Merry Christmas! Here is a gorgeous poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins which, while it is not an occasional poem for the season, tropes on Incarnation and our response. Enjoy!

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme

AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: 5
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces; 10
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

-- Gerard Manley Hopkins

21 December 2009

Rembrandt, the prodigal artist

Sorry most of what I've been posting here lately has been links to work by other people. I just haven't had time to be original recently.

Anyway, my art historian friend Laurel Gasque has published a great article on Rembrandt van Rijn in Christianity Today: The Prodigal Artist. In it she describes how "Rembrandt’s art, like his life, traced the contours of sin and grace."

18 December 2009

Evangelicals, Faith, and the Life of the Mind (WSJ)

The Wall Street Journal has a very interesting article today by Jonathan Fitzgerald: Winning Not Just Hearts but Minds : Evangelicals move, slowly, toward the intellectual life.

It mentions Comment magazine, for which I write a column, and Mark Noll's book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which was a great influence on me in the 90s.

This article makes a perceptive distinction between a real intellectual and an "intellectualist" -- one who puts on that sheen but doesn't really wear it from the inside. I'll muse further on that thought. A true intellectual wants to learn for the love of learning, not for any external purpose (e.g., to appear smart so he or she can win intellectuals to Christ). Being an intellectual is not mutually exclusive with being a devout Christian, as some have thought. Read the wonderful classic The Love of Learning and the Desire for God by Jean Leclercq, a study of monastic culture and how its excellence of the mind led to a deeper faith, not a casting away of same. Intellectualism can lead people away from faith, but it need not.

16 December 2009

Visual Sonnet

Here is a short movie two of my students made for an English class. They filmed Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnet "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed" with a very interesting antiphonal rationale, using two actors to represent the same person. The first young lady is always filmed in color; she represents the "summer" of the happy past full of love. The second, always shown in black-and-white, represents the heart-broken present. I thought that was a simple but excellent idea.

06 December 2009

Jeremy Begbie: Theology Through the Arts

Jeremy Begbie is someone whom anybody with an interest in faith and the arts should be acquainted with, so if you haven't heard of him, let me introduce you. He is a musician (concert pianist), an ordained minister in the Church of England, and an academic theologian. He founded the Theology Through the Arts research project, which involved collaborations between theologians and artists in creating commissioned works of visual art, music, and drama. Out of that project came Spicer's "Easter Oratorio" with libretto by N.T. Wright, among other things. Begbie is currently Professor of Theology at Duke Divinity School. He is also senior member at Wolfson College, Cambridge, and an affiliated lecturer in the Faculties of Divinity and Music at Cambridge. Prior to that he was Associate Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and also honorary professor and co-director of St. Andrew's Univerisity's Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts. He has also taught numerous times at Regent College Summer School, and has published several books, including "Voicing Creation’s Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts," "Theology, Music and Time," and "Beholding the Glory: Incarnation through the Arts." He is a man of intense energy, passion, wit, and incredible brilliance. And he has a really cool bald head. :-)

Here is a video of him presenting some of his Theology Through the Arts ideas, produced by Faith & Leadership at Duke Divinity School.

01 December 2009

December poem of the Month

I regret that this poem has nothing to do with the Advent season. If I get any Christmas-related inspirations, I'll post them. Meanwhile, well, here's something (continuing my new, freer style).


my overcoat is a pelican
my umbrella is a stork
the flowers I plant have
grown down into the soil
their roots are enjoying the sun
and all I have to say
pours back inside my lungs.

my garden is a laundry bin
my kitchen a game of chess
the dishes I feed you were
gleaned from a railroad
a transcontinental surprise
and every last sip I slip down my gorge
tastes like checkmate at sunrise.

my tires are elephant’s knee-bones
my speakers house bumble wasps
when I taste between sheets, feet
first through the sandwich of dark
nothing is not scented
of you and of you and of you
oak-gentle, gray-pillar, wind-eye.

~ Sørina