In this blog, I comment, perhaps more than is warranted, about my exercise of faith and about the difficulties I have negotiating my identity as a person of faith with my identity as a scholar. I may have mentioned, as well, the partial origin of the difficulty in the perspectives of many intellectuals and many Protestant Christians (and I am a Protestant Christian, by upbringing and family history and current practice, being a member of the United Methodist Church of the Village) that the two are mutually incompatible. Certainly, the topic has been on my mind, as became evident during a Maundy Thursday activity in which I took part this year.
I spent some time this afternoon musing on the matter, and it occurred to me that in my work as a literary scholar, looking at texts and pulling out of them little bits of truth that I then pass on to those who are interested in hearing it (far too few, I am afraid), I follow at least one of the paths that Christ laid out for those who follow Him. For is it not the case that Jesus, in telling and then explaining parables (as in, say, Matthew 13, Mark 12, Luke 15, and John 10, among others), performed literary explication--that is, He pulled from within a text, by way of explaining its imagery, a deeper meaning that is not necessarily clear from the literal, denotative interpretation of the words in it?
It seems to me that in doing my work as a literary scholar (although I do not do enough), I emulate Christ. And it seems to me (although I may well be wrong; it happens, and far more often than I should like) that in emulating Christ, I work to enact the Christianity that I profess. In that, then, my scholarship becomes the very living practice of my faith, an idea I find strangely comforting as I try to straddle the all too often, all too rigid schism between the life of the mind and the life of the soul, a rift that people on both sides try to widen despite the common history of the academy and the church, those two most prominent gathering-points of the two parties.