Monday, November 09, 2009

Reading Jesus by Mary Gordon

Mary Gordon's new book Reading Jesus came out at the end of October. I've ordered a copy. Newsweek's Lisa Miller likes it. She says, "It's a book about writing. What Gordon loves about the Gospels is not the pat lessons of Sunday school. She loves what a writer loves: paradoxes and inconsistencies, moments of high drama and plot twists. She especially loves the character of Jesus: ascetic, radical, perfectionist—the childish, arrogant, demanding boy. (The magical healer curses a fig tree to death because he's hungry and it has no fruit.) The story of the prodigal son is a parable about the bounty of God's love. But it's also a story that has the message of much great fiction: life is not fair."

It's good to be reminded of progressive Catholics and their engagement with Jesus of the New Testament. Mary Gordon writes for them and also for Jews interested in the Gospels. She hopes that she can be found trustworthy by this latter group given that her father was Jewish.

In an interview with Nathan Scheider for Religion Dispatches she talks about the complications of reading the Gospels:

When interpreting a text, one always brings something to the process. What are you bringing? Is it experience, or reason, or even the Holy Spirit?

One of the things that I wanted to explore in this project is what kind of reading scripture demands. In one sense, it's reading, just like reading the instructions for your DVD player, or King Lear, or a graphic novel. But that verb isn't adequate for all these different experiences. This is a text that you may have thought—as I once did—was the Word of God, literally containing your salvation or damnation. It has a whole overlay of your personal history, your anguish, and the culture of the West. It has your coloring book and it has Bellini. It has the horrible ranting of anti-Semites and of people who hate the body, but it also has Oscar Romero and George Herbert. The Gospels carry so much in them, so the reading can never be simple.

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