Monday, January 10, 2011

Return of the Staybattical Part III: Old, Dead, Liberals

There are times--like this morning--when it is hard to get going.  It is cold outside.  The trees, the road, the houses, and the people are all varying shades of slate-grey.  The dim outlines of the many school buses that ply their trade though the Burbanian morning are moving slowly, making the horrible noise of metal grinding against itself.  Ah Monday, when all that has been delayed reminds you of its tedious presence.

Later on Norm will wake up and we will get to work.  There will be more reading and writing for him.  There will be phone calls for me..  At some point, however.  I will get a few moments and will be able to indulge in the least systematic element of my staybattical.  Namely, the reading of old dead liberals.

Regular readers already know about this tendency.  I have gotten a membership this year in the Boston Athenaeum and have sought to make it my theological playground and frontier.  However, since I have kept the whole thing casual (picking books based on whim, mostly) my reading is rather scattered and unscientific.  At B.P. I have tried to take note of passages or ideas that might interest others.  Past posts are filled pithy quotes from random religious liberals and their mostly long-out-of-print books. 

They are all religious liberals, of course.  I am a Parish minister after all, and the purpose is to get a better sense of the thought and thinkers that have informed the thinking of the sort of people who make up my congregation.  Not that folks need to know their names, but I should know them.

The Eliot Church, being affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ, is both liberal and explicitly Christian.  Not all members claim to be Christian, but that is not unusual in the UCC or (obviously) the UUA.  Our UCC half, however, does require us to come to terms with what Jesus means to us and the answers vary.  The point is, not all of these liberals I am reading are of the "Emerson Fan Club" sort that I might be expected to read were I somewhere else.  Currently I am reading works by Frederic Henry Hedge (one of my faves), Harry Emerson Fosdick, Henry Ward Beecher, and the somewhat problematic Horace Bushnell.  At some point they all will be quoted and discussed here at Burbania Posts.

Actually, I have most recently been reading a small book written by William Channing Gannett entitled "A Year of Miracle".  It is a collection of four essays, each corresponding to one of the seasons.  The first essay is the best and takes its text from Job 38:22 (King James Version for all you KJ fans).  Here is his (Gannett's, not Job's) beginning...

If a sunset were as rare as a comet, the people would all be out upon the hill-tops--astronomers with their telescopes, poets with their pens, artists with their brushes--to capture what they could of it, and give it immortality.  Or, if only once a year the eastern skies held sunrise, we should be out of bed betimes that morning to watch the gold and crimson pageant passing up the sky.  But because these glories face us every day, we are color-blind to them.  Still worse with glories that are near as well as frequent.  We envy a friend starting for Europe, going where there is "so much to see," we say--Alps, cathedrals, and old art: as if a year spent in the nearest pasture would not crowd our mind with miracles, if only we had eyes to see with!

"Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?"  Probably not: for he who asked the question spoke of a treasure-chamber, rare in Bible-lands, but opened to us anew with each December...

Man he has a way words...

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