Wearing God: A Conversation with Lauren F. Winner, Part 2

lauren winnerContinued from yesterday.

Image: A lot of history makes its way into your new book Wearing God, especially American history. Could you talk about what you think makes a good history book, the kind you like to read?

LW: Two things come to mind, and they don’t always show up in the same book. Some historical episodes lend themselves to almost novelistic writing, and in the last twenty-five years there has been a lot of interest among historians in taking craft seriously, experimenting with narrative form. You see it in writers like John Demos and Simon Schama.

That said, there are plenty of excellent, interesting history books that aren’t so much narratively interesting as they are interesting because of the argument they make or the evidence they’ve uncovered. I have always enjoyed so-called microhistories, where instead of writing a monograph about crime in early America, someone writes a case study of one infanticide in seventeenth-century Braunschweig.

I often enjoy this kind of history the way I enjoy a short story or novel. A favorite of mine is A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, which is essentially an exegesis of the diary of a midwife on the frontier of Maine at the turn of the nineteenth century. Ulrich’s book turned out to be quite helpful when, in writing Wearing God, I turned my attention to the Hebrew Bible’s likening God to a midwife. [Read more...]

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.

[Read more...]

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...]


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