Needless to say, I’ve abandoned all hope that we can think our way out of the mess we’ve made of the world. The pathology that besets us in this cultural moment is a failure of imagination, specifically the failure to imagine the other as neighbor. Empathy is ultimately a feat of the imagination, and arguments are no therapy for a failed, shriveled imagination. It will be the arts that resuscitate the imagination.
So I’m back to Proust and literature. If love alone is credible, literature is truer than philosophy. Which is also why I left my post as editor in chief of Comment magazine and assumed my role as editor in chief of Image journal, a community of writers and artists bearing witness at the intersection of art, faith, and mystery. In the spirit of tikkun olam, Judaism’s endeavor to repair the world, I’m throwing in my lot with the poets and painters, the novelists and songwriters. While Plato would exile them from his ideal city, these artists are the unacknowledged legislators of the city of God.
“Nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense.” This insight from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead has never left me since I first read it. Indeed, the Rev. John Ames, narrator of the novel, looms large in my change of mind. Along with the whiskey priest in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory and the country priest in Georges Bernanos’s Diary of a Country Priest, Ames is the literary embodiment of a pastoral relation to truth.
There are layers to this: it’s not so much that I learned new information from this fictional minister, but that Robinson’s invention was more true for me than all my philosophical disquisitions. Her art found a way to say love; her words found a mode of incarnating the grace at the heart of the gospel. The novel, I was realizing, is a better match for the mysteries of mercy embodied in the crucified one now risen.
Read the entire piece here.