Wearing God: A Conversation with Lauren F. Winner, Part 1

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Lauren F. Winner’s new book, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God, is excerpted in our spring issue of Image. Each chapter explores a single biblical image of God through a mix of exegesis, cultural history, and personal essay. Image’s Mary Kenagy Mitchell recently asked her about her new book, her love of history, her punctuation, and the politics of writing about the Bible:

Image: Your new book is about overlooked images of God in the Bible. I imagine there were some images you found that didn’t make it in. Could you talk about some of those?

LW: In the scriptures there are a lot of animal and nature images for God—water and rock and so on. I’m especially interested in two that liken God to dew and to a tree. I’ve spent time with the tree image, thinking about what trees are, and I have a nascent spiritual practice of tree gazing, where I regularly stare at a magnolia in my yard as a practice of attentiveness.

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Monasticism In Lockdown America, Part 7: Holy Fool

5411790553_3a0b63a224Continued from yesterday. 

 

Hank’s trembling confession had charged the small jail visitation cell where I sat discussing the image of God with three men from the infirmary. I pulled out the last of three “icons” and passed it around. It was a color printout of the crumbling Sphinx in Egypt—its nose fallen off, all color worn away by sand and time. “How have we, have you, become like this? If we were made images of God, works of art, how have we been defaced?” [Read more...]

Monasticism in Lockdown America, Part 6: Icons

prisonThe jail staff asked if I would meet with some of the guys in the infirmary.

I sat down at the small, bare table in a cramped lawyer visitation cell, and three men in red scrubs squeezed by each other to take their seats with me. One of them was Hank, an old man with a scraggly white beard stained yellow around his mouth, gray and white hair hanging over his sagging face.

The long beard and long white hair reminded me of an abbot I know at a Russian Orthodox monastery I visit a few hours away, on a rainy, evergreen island, an abbot I am very fond of. But this man, Hank, stumbled into his seat at the table to my right. His pale and bare chest was exposed by the ratty red XXL V neck he was issued. He swore at the guard over his shoulder as she slammed shut the heavy door to our cell. [Read more...]

My Only Begotten Sin

11087699415_16fe60c2bb_zBecause I remain restless and impatient even in middle age, I am often only halfway listening to important things spoken of in church. Therefore, I can mishear what the priest is saying, sometimes to comical effect.

Like Bart Simpson, “In the Garden of Eden” becomes “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” I have heard “sex” for “sects” and “possums” for “apostles.” When I was a boy, for the longest time I thought “Agnus Dei” was the name of the woman up front who played the choir organ: “Agnes Day.” [Read more...]

The Bible, Science, and Higher Education

By Vic Sizemore

5042620370_343d73008c_oIn an evening church service at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1979, Jerry Falwell explained the academic foundation for Liberty Baptist College (which became Liberty University in 1984). He said, “We give all kinds of academic freedom, as long as it agrees with this book.”

Picture, if you will, Falwell behind his massive pulpit, holding up a black floppy Bible. “If it doesn’t,” he said, “it isn’t academic.” He continued, “I want you having all the academic freedom you want, as long as you wind up saying that the Bible account is true and all others are not.”

In 2008, a little over a year after Falwell’s death, I was in the midst of a career change. I had a chance encounter with a dean from Liberty University who told me of an opening in their English department. The rumors around town were that things were changing, loosening up, so I sent the dean my CV.

Several days later, I spent the morning touring Liberty’s campus and talking to various members of the administration. Before lunch, my faculty escort dropped me back in the English department for a meet-and-greet. After introductions and small talk, the lone woman in the group of teachers asked if I was ready for “The Inquisition.” The other professors laughed.

“What’s The Inquisition?” I asked.

“The doctrinal,” one of the men said.

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