Tuesday, December 11, 2007

From the Pulpit of Amos Townsend, Church of the Brethren of Fictional Jonah, Indiana

I found Haven Kimmel's new book "The Used World" at the library last week and read it over the weekend. I discovered her writing through the memoir "A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small In Mooreland, Indiana". I guess I was first drawn to her writing because we were both born in small-town Indiana in 1965. I spent 2 years living in Muncie, Indiana which is the big university town next door to Mooreland. The emotional and geographic topography of her writing is both comfortable and a challenge to me.

Also, turns out that Haven has Quaker connections, having studied at Earlham (and she named her son Obadiah, which was my first choice for Carmac's name).

"The Used World" is the last in a trilogy about a fictional town called Jonah, Indiana which is very similar to Mooreland in size and sensibilities. Here are some quotes from the book:

"...And now we are told that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, that it's here, that it's coming, all at the same time. ...The Kingdom...is, for some, the Church. The Church is the kingdom of heaven and the world is not, and the Church becomes the status quo. Everything Jesus said, everything in the biblical tradition, is then used to uphold the status quo, because that's what it means to enter the kingdom. But when the Kingdom is seen as transcendent, or beyond the Church, there is a call to revolution, in defiance of old customs and conventions. That's where we get the Jesus I find more attractive: the radical overturning the money changers' tables, the man who, in fact, turned everything upside down, the Jesus Who is not on the side of any empire or principality, but Who is concerned with outsiders and sinner and the sick. ...I believe that the Jesus we have come to know spoke in parables because there is no other psychically adequate way to address the human condition and that while it seems that what Jesus is saying is that the Kingdom is like a naked singularity, a trick of physics, it's equally possible He's saying you have to choose. What you choose determines the life you live, quite simply. If the Kingdom of Heaven is here now, and that requires from you a fearful clinging to the status quo, then that's who you are and what your life meant. If it's ahead somewhere, and out of reach in this lifetime, you will spend your days accordingly. For me-I speak only for myself now-the Ineffable, the Eternal, the Kingdom of Heaven seems to be inbreaking in our lives all the time, every day. I think it's here, just beside us, and if we turn out heads we'll enter in. I think all kinds of people, especially dogs and Buddhists, have gone in ahead of us, but there's always another chance. The Kingdom of God is a door perpetually opening, and it makes me, as dear Emerson said, 'glad to the brink of fear.' "

And later in the book:
"Imagine the distance collapsed, the one between God and your every decision; it would be like walking down a dirt road in perfectly bright sun, followed a hawk, or some bees. That is our Messianic dream, no division between God, the light, the road, the Man or Woman."

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