Friday, October 16, 2009
The myth of the secular Shakespeare continues to cast a long shadow over most people's perception of Shakespeare's plays. Until I inherited the Shakespeare course in my department halfway through my career, I assumed that despite certain Christian patterns and occasional biblical allusions in the tragedies, Shakespeare's plays were broadly humanistic in their intellectual allegiance. Nothing has been a bigger surprise in my scholarly career than my gradually coming to regard Shakespeare as a Christian writer.Perhaps it is the friendship I have developed with David Allen White in recent years, but I find it surprising that anyone would find Shakespeare's faith surprising.
There are two factors involved here. For one, I think most people think things need to be explicitly Christian to somehow be Christian. The other factor is that I wonder how many people have the necessary literary training to distinguish the themes and motifs that run through someone like The Bard. This later factor is one of the few objections I have with home schooling. Not all parents have that training and it is hard to pass on what you do not have. But then, of course, such a problem can be solved at the University.
I am more concerned with the issue of Christians that think Christianity is some sort of bludgeon. I think such is yet another indicator of how shallowly we hold our faith in Jesus.
Jesus did not come to change things around us - he came to change us - to remake us. That process may or may not change what we do, or how we do it. We don't become Christians to write about Christianity, we become Christians to write as a Christian.
It is as if we forget that just becasue the Bible does not discuss the minutiae of Christ's earthly life, we forget he had one. He ate, he wrote checks, he went to the bathroom - and somehow he did all these things in a "Christ-like" fashion as well.
Or, maybe we don't forget, maybe we avoid. Maybe we want to keep Jesus a bludgeon becasue it is a way of keeping Him at arms length. We may want to change a few things around the edges, but the kind of radical change Jesus has in mind for us, well, maybe we find that a bit daunting and even scary.
Next time you think about what it means to be a "Christian" writer, or a Christian anything else - return to the simple question of what it means to be a Christian. You work that one out and I think the rest of it will just sort of fall in line.