Monday, August 16, 2010

From the Mailbag: A Tremor of Bliss

I received a review copy of this book last week and just wanted to quickly mention that the introduction and first chapter trial reading (to see if I wanted to keep going) surprised me with how much I thought the author got right and how much I enjoyed reading. More later, but I did want to give a sample to anyone who might be interested in trying it out. I'd like to put the entire introduction here as that is what won me over, but will just put these tidbits. Hopefully, you will get a glimpse of what interests me in the book.
This book began as a chapter I didn't want to write. ... My book was about how both sides of the Catholic culture war could achieve peace by—well, by following the teachings of the Church.

The first chapter in the book was going to be about sex. I wanted to write about sex first not because I found it the most interesting, but because I wanted to get it out of the way. I still had a reticence about sex that wen back to the way I was raised, by parents who were by no means prudes, but who also never talked about sex. I also am a sinner and a faulty vessel and wanted to avoid sounding like a conservative scold about sexual matters. So the first chapter would be about sex and then I could go on to less chaotic and terrifying topics.

But then something happened. While doing research, I came across some of the most poetic, beautiful, inspiring writing about human sexuality—and it was all written or said by Catholics. Much of it came from the years before Vatican II, the Church council from the early 1960s that supposedly modernized the Church. I had thought that before the council the world, and especially the Catholic Church, was lost in a puritanical darkness that dared not speak of the human body. Then I came across writers like Saint Teresa of Avila, who lived in the sixteenth century and used exotic metaphors to describe our seduction by God ...

... As I was doing research for this work, I was struck with another revelation: The most poetic an powerful expression of the Catholic idea of the nature of love is rock 'n' roll music. I grew up with rock 'n' roll and as I became a more serious Catholic as I got older I realized that rather than driving me away fro Christianity, the music drew me closer. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones (the bands that I grew up with), Coldplay, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin, and Beyonce all sing most powerfully about one thing: love. It is the constant, inexhaustible theme of their sounds. If, as the Bible says, God is love, then God must love rock 'n' roll. As I explore in the book, this, of course, does not mean that rock 'n' roll is not rebellious music that challenges social custom. But more often than not, this challenging is a cry for a saner, more just, and moral society, not a more decadent one. ...

1 comment:

  1. I grew up on rock'n'roll too before I became a serious Catholic, and I still love my Rolling Stones. (I've got them playing in the background as I type. ;)) But while love is a subject I do think the cheap sexuality that goes along with the rock'n'roll portrayal of love is not a very Christian. But the music is enjoyable, even if the themes are sometimes distasteful.