Fr. Dwight Logenecker’s new book The Romance of Religion: Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty is somewhat of a sequel to his previous book Adventures in Orthodoxy. Being that the previous books is one of my favorites I was very happy to see this book.
Fr. Longenecker was kind enough to send me an advance copy of this book last year and I found it quite excellent. Recently I was sent a PDF copy of the final book to review and I had no hesitation regarding a re-read.
Towards the beginning of the book he relates the episode of as a child hearing the story regarding Jesus overturning the moneychanger’s tables.
The righteous religious people told me that Jesus turned over the tables because he disapproved of the merchants selling things in church. …
This, however, never convinced me. I knew the truth. Jesus turned over the tables in the temple because he enjoyed it. He trashed the place. He was angry. He sent the pigeons flying. The sheep and goats went bleating as he gave the thieves a beating. He scattered the proud in their conceit and dashed their little heads against the pavement. The story thrilled me. No longer would I believe only in the gentle Jesus who took little kiddies on his lap and blessed them. …
It is no coincidence that Fr. Longenecker goes on to overturn a bunch of tables himself in this book. Just like his Chestertonian blog name “[Standing on my head]” reflects viewing things from a different perspective, the landscape of overturned tables also helps you see things for the first time.
Specifically what “The Romance of Religion” successfully does is to view the faith through the eyes of a romantic hero. The type of romantic hero who is seen as a bit of fool from the outside. To take the great stories of just this type of romantic fool and to glimpse the truth that such stories stand upon. We look to articles, newscasts, and other media to fill us with facts while really it is often in the story where we will find the truth of the world. That this adventure in the romance of religion uses Don Quixote, Cyrano de Bergerac, and even Reepicheep to make these points adds to the enjoyment.
For those familiar with Fr. Longenecker you would expect a certain playfulness with words and phrases that both ring out and ring true. The playfulness of his writing with the inherent puns first make you laugh and then make you think. I also enjoyed his looking at the roots of certain words so that you more fully understood them. The title “The Romance of Religion” might seem like an odd choice at first, but he shows how the etymology of “Romance” fits perfectly. If you can’t see your faith as an adventure and a quest then you need a bit of “head standing” to see correctly.
This is a rather sneaky book in that it is the apologetics of the fairy tale. The big questions as seen through the big stories. Really it is surprising how well this technique works in answering some common objections as seen in apologetics.
I found my second reading of this book to be quite worthwhile in that there is just so much to be drawn from both his playfulness with words, but the ideas behind them that reveal the deeper reality.
Mandatory Chesterton quote:
“…If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe; if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time.”
– The Napoleon of Notting Hill