Monday, March 4, 2013


First off, Happy Sousa Day!  I look forward, too, to celebrating Star Wars Day in two months' time.

Second, and the actual reason that I am writing, has to do with church yesterday.  The Gospel reading was Luke 13:1-9, in which Christ relates the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree; a tree which has not yielded fruit in three years is promised that if it does not give forth fruit for a fourth year, after it has been tended and fertilized specifically to that end, it will be cut down.  He offers no explication of the story, but its meaning is clear; chances to grow are given, as is aid in the growing, but if they are not seized upon, the alternative is fire and ruin.  It is a message more common in the churches where I grew up than in the one I attend, admittedly, but it is present--and applicable.  In my teaching, for instance, I make resources available and offer to help students if they will but do the work and meet with me; all too often, I sit alone during my office hours, and students wonder why they do not pass my classes.

More to the point, however, the Gospel reading spurred interesting comments from the ministerial intern and the senior pastor.  Since the Scripture speaks of putting dung to a tree, the intern in her words of grace and liberation and the pastor in the sermon made more than passing mention of Gods fertilizing the soil of the soul.  And I found myself in mind of a piece of Puritan poetry I read during my graduate coursework, Edward Taylor's "Meditation 8."  In it, the narrator observes that "Gods Tender Bowells run / Out streams of Grace" (sic, ll. 15-16); the image is jarring from the pen of a Puritan, who was surely more devoutly religious than any of us fallen, hedonistic, immoral people can hope to be.  The idea of salvation being shat out upon us, of holy shit being instrumental to the redemption of sins...I remember provoking gales of laughter in the class.  I was certainly much amused by my recollection of it yesterday morning, even as it ticked my fancy to hear that even Christ compares Providence to manure.

Knowing that the Scripture, accordance with which supposedly keeps people pure and from thinking "nasty" thoughts, and that the Puritans, who are praised for their purity and derided for their rigidity, both run to the scatological is freeing, somehow.  If the traditionally most moralistic of Americans and the very document upon which they based their understanding of the world and their place in it both joke about poo, then surely I may safely do the same.

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