Published by Jason
on Wednesday, April 04, 2007 at 4/04/2007 11:45:00 AM.
Some recent reading I've done concerning our call as Christians in the world--Irresistible Revolution, Simply Christian, and a friend's blog--really enriched my experience with The Grapes of Wrath as I started teaching the novel this week. Steinbeck, as most other Modern writers, rejected organized religion as a way to establish meaning in the modern world. (The Moderns' reasons for such a view are many, but for the purpose of this post, I'm going to stick to Steinbeck's main objection in The Grapes of Wrath.) In the novel, Jim Casy, the preacher who would stir women into a religious frenzy one moment and sleep with them the next, personifies the hypocrisy and superficiality Steinbeck saw in organized religion and demonstrates its inadequacy to offer purpose to modern people. But Casy also becomes a mouthpiece for Steinbeck, explaining to Tom Joad that he came to believe that the Holy Spirit was really just the human spirit--a need for connection and love between people. For Steinbeck, those things, not a set of rules or a "pie in the sky" doctrine, speak to the needs of people as they scrape and struggle their way through the world.
His indictment of organized religion (particularly Christianity) in his time is equally as fitting in our time. Connecting with people through love and compassion is at the heart of Christ's call, yet for Steinbeck there was as much a dearth of those qualities from Christianity as there was rain from the Dust Bowl. Sadly, I don't know that much has changed about Christianity in our country since Steinbeck's time. If we aren't about sacrificing ourselves in loving, compassionate ways for the people we encounter, then we're not about following Christ. A superficial, hypocritical, or "do not"-driven faith has nothing to offer to the world in our time or any other.
I'll end this post as I've done before:
Father, fill us with your Spirit. Transform our hearts and minds into a likeness of Christ. May the fruits of our actions be sweet nourishment for the suffering, the searching, and the lonely, not something bitter or rancid they spit out. May we love with abandon.