Monday, 18 January 2010
Act of God?
It would be foolish to give that outrageous American televangelist any more publicity by mentioning his name, but do you think it's enough for a senator just to call him 'silly'? 'Silly'? A man who says that God hates Haitians because they signed a pact with the devil to get rid of the French? Wouldn't that be categorisable as a hate crime, or at least a mindf**k? After all, I listened two days ago to Floridan Haitians gathered together to talk to the BBC World Service, all of them firm in their belief in God and several, including a priest, wondering whether they might not, after all, have been justly punished. The poison spreads.
Well, I hope I'm speaking to the enlightened, so I don't need to say any more. Except, like everyone else, to add, give what you can, either through Medecins sans frontieres or any other reliable charity.
As so often, the obvious awfulness of religious dogma and superstition sits alongside something genuinely strange or wonderful: the Jerusalem versus The Sacred Made Real syndrome. I've just finished Barbara Reynolds's lucid, if sometimes oddly uncritical, biography of her friend Dorothy L Sayers. Now there was a woman who could make dogma seem credible.
There's one obvious connection with the current bandwagon of disaster: the palaver over her attempt to render the New Testament vivid in contemporary language with the radio plays that make up The Man Born to be King. This was wartime, and when, Reynolds tells us, 'Singapore fell to the Japanese, the event was interpreted in the press as a sign of God's judgment on Britain for allowing such a blasphemy to be committed'.
Sayers is such a splendid example of the flexible mind, capable of change across vast swathes of time. It's true that she comes over a little priggish in her cleverness. But then, around the time of embarking on the Wimsey/Vane novel everyone thinks her masterpiece, Gaudy Night - I've just ordered it up - she seems to have learned how to reconcile the head and the heart. After that, she goes on developing up to her dying day: laying out her extraordinary parallels between the trinity, above all the Nicene Creed's essential idea of God's incarnation as man, and the three elements of artistic creation, before tackling Dante. The whole rule-of-three business is a conceit, of course, but how plausible she makes it. And I love her simple faith in the value of unimpeded work. I can't say I always like her from reading this, but I do admire her.