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Marilynne Robinson on fear and the image of God

Marilynne Robinson on fear and the image of God

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson, best known for her books “Home” and “Gilead”, recently spoke at Union Theological Seminary in New York on a range of topics in Christianity, including fear:

Q: In your book “When I Was A Child I Read Books,” you refer to Christian fears. What kinds of fear do you see in Christians today?

There are so many kinds of fear Christians have now. There are some Christians who are anxious about identifying with tradition, because of any suggestion of exclusivism that brings with it; there are Christians so scared of the world that they want to carry a gun. Those are two very different kinds of anxiety, but I do think in both cases it’s a little bit unChristian to have thinking and behavior governed by fear.

Q: Are there issues that you are particularly concerned about right now?

A: Everything for me comes down to the idea that people are images of God. This makes me highly reluctant to see wars fought in any circumstances, and especially when no rationale can be offered for it. That’s just folly. I don’t understand the state of mind that makes people at ease with the idea that gun laws are being relaxed to the point that makes it overwhelmingly likely that homicidal people will have possession of these military weapons.

How did we get so scared of each other? I have never felt as if I was in a situation that could remotely suggest to me the appropriateness of lethal violence. And I’m not living in a gated community in Florida. I mean, who are these people? And what do they get out of all this fear?…

Q: Can you explain what in Calvinist theology was so profound to you?

A: One of them certainly was the importance of human consciousness. He’s also a humanist; he’s terrifically admiring of what the human mind does. He says we have completely fallen away from the glory of God, and look what we are, and then he describes this glorious creature. The implication is that if we were to be in our un-fallen condition we would be spectacular. He allows for the reality of great evil. He was living in the 16th century, which was a brutal period. He was ready to grant the dark side of reality, and completely lyrical about what is splendid about it, including the stars and including human consciousness, human presence, most profoundly.

For the full interview with Robinson, please visit the Religion News Service article here.

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