Summer Reading - Pastor Nancy Becker
One rainy day, while visiting a friend in Florida recently, we explored a very massive and musty-smelling used bookstore. There I came across a book titled "The Classics We've Read, the Difference They've Made," edited by The Chrysostom Society. It includes a bunch of Christian authors who have each written an essay about a classic author who had been important in their spiritual lives.
The contributors are very well-known contemporary Christian thinkers such as Walter Wangerin, Madelein L'Engle, Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster. Most of them cited classical authors that one might expect in such a collection: Flannery O'Connor, John Milton, Thomas Merton, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, etc. Certainly these would be interesting reading. But what actually surprised me and led me to buy the book was the promise of an essay on Ray Bradbury by Calvin Miller.
The late Christian writer Calvin Miller was an important author in my own Spiritual journey -- his books, particularly "The Table of Inwardness," (a long meditation on the Lord's Supper) and "When the Aardvark Parked on the Ark," (a book of imaginative verse) had enlivened my own spirit.
The thought that science fiction writer Ray Bradbury had been an inspiration to Miller was intriguing, partly because it reminded me of my own fascination with Bradbury when I was a teenager. Way before I had any inspirational or theological interest, I loved the books of Bradbury.
The essay prompted me to find a copy of Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles" and reread it. Published in the 1950's, the book is a post-apocalyptic imagining of the colonization of the planet Mars over the course of several decades. Some parts are a little dated -- written in the 50's the "future" is from 1990 to 2020. Yet, it really is a brilliant piece of writing with a lot of theological overlay.
In his essay, Calvin Miller writes of Bradbury, that "although he is not often explicit about the content of his faith,[he] professes a glorious, self-declaring confidence in God." (p.129)
He quotes Bradbury's exuberant declaration on the tenth anniversary of the Apollo moon landing:
"This is the most exciting time in the history of the world... Landing on the moon was our greatest achievement. We are gifted with miracles we forget to acknowledge or think about. God has privileged us with the ability to represent Him in this part of the cosmos and to go out and change things -- one hopes -- for the better. Our descendants will circle Alpha Centauri or some other sun. And all the knowledge that we have developed in the past 15,000 - 20,000 years will go with us."
Miller says that Bradbury is "a writer with such a dynamic view of the God who leads us toward scientific maturity. Bradbury, at his best, is not only a prophet for a depressed people; he is a kind of deliverer, awakening our sensibilities."
He goes on to compare Bradbury to St. John of Patmos who also "once rocketed forward in time to bring God's final joyous image to despairing Christians in the time of Nero." Miller refers of course to the Book of Revelation which promises us a future in which John saw in his vision:
"The Holy City Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband... The city does not need the sun... for the glory of God gives it light... Now the dwelling of God is with people and He will live with them... They will be his people. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away. (Revelation 21:1-4)
Both Bradbury and Miller are so optimistic and hopeful about the future! What a helpful view of the world that we need to be reminded of when the news is as negative and depressing as it often is in our time. As someone once said, "We Christians should view history optimistically, for we have, after all, read the last chapter."
So, if you are looking for some interesting and inspiring reading for the summer, I recommend Ray Bradbury -- "Fahrenheit 450," "Dandelion Wine," "The Martian Chronicles," or Calvin Miller, "The Table of Inwardness," "The Singer."
Have a blessed summer!!!
Pastor Nancy Becker