Braying Rhetoric and Knee-Jerk Liars

| 11/24/2010 12:10:23 PM

MaryIn a beautiful remembrance of Barry Hannah, who died earlier this year, William Giraldi writing in AGNI tells of a fishing expedition the two shared as an escape to a writers’ conference they were attending. The piece begins with Hannah asking Giraldi if he’d been fishing lately. Giraldi replies,

“Like a Nazarene.” [Hannah] had recently become reinvigorated by Christianity—born again lower case—and gone sober after a lifetime of being a venal Baptist and then nearly dying in an Oxford, Mississippi, hospital from too many maladies: lymphoma, pneumonia, organs napalmed by decades of cigarettes and booze. As a twenty-something sycophant and Hannah fanatic myself, I referenced Christ when I could—my Jesus-happy boyhood on me like a party hat—and even recited for him the religious sonnets of Donne and Hopkins. “Those bards are bent believers,” he said. “Sing more.”

The rest of the essay follows that fishing day trip and the return to the conference the two were escaping for a short time, exploring themes, from love to violence, in Hannah’s work.

It was a footnote near the end, though, that sent me away from the essay searching for a referenced piece Hannah wrote for Paste magazine called “The Maddening Protagonist,” as it seemed like it might give some answers to why the elder writer might have “become reinvigorated by Christianity.”

In a time when the date celebrating Christ’s birthday has been co-opted by marketers and sales folk and used earlier and earlier each year to hock their wares—Christmas songs playing in Macy’s well before Thanksgiving…soon, no doubt, before Halloween and then onto Labor Day!—I figure it’s never too early to give a dose of what that birth and life actually means, or could mean, when not bastardized for bottom lines and by those so called Christians on the right. And that’s exactly what Hannah’s essay does, so I offer bits of it here as a salve against Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the other shopping-named days to come.

To begin, Hannah sets the table for what is about to be served:

Thousands of pastors have memorized the work and pontificated on it without an honest reading. You’d hear more honest confusion and less braying rhetoric from the pulpits if the Bible were actually confronted even by Christian-leaning ministers. You’d get fewer knee-jerk liars from the so-called-Christian Right if they could or would read their own New Testaments. The absence of many millions of sincere Christians and near-Christians from church is less a matter of apostasy than disgust.

Then, on Christ:

12/17/2010 8:24:05 AM

As I was reading this I was trying to decide what direction it was going to go. I thought to myself, yeah it is about time UTNE did a story that cast a positive light on Christian sprirituality, after all they cover Judaism, Muslims, Buddhist, Agnostic, Universalist, channelers and all sort of other cult spiritual topics all the time. Surely they can dig up something positive on Christianity. Nope. They found a guy who basically says Christians got it all wrong those evil right wing people have convoluted the good news that only I have been privvy to the true meaning. How did he say it, with out an honest reading? If you have read the bible and maybe this guy just likes to read the parts that are convient for his ideology (which is what most of america does)there is good reason to fear the lamb.

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