Back in 1857, several years before the Cubs last won a World Series, the English novelist and humorist Anthony Trollope wrote his delightful satire of goings-on within the Church of England, Barchester Towers.
My congregation, Second Presbyterian Church, was formed eight years later in 1865, but until last night, as far as I know, no book study group in the church has ever read Trollope's book together. Churches move slowly. A small group at my church discussed this book last evening.
Well, truth is I don't really know if some Second Church book group back in, say, the 1920s chose Barchester Towers, but it would take forever to look up that information -- if it exists at all -- and would be beside the point. (The link in this paragraph will allow you to get the Kindle edition of the book for free.)
What I most love about the book is that it satirizes religion and what sometimes passes for religion but does it in a loving way with terrific insider knowledge. I would love to read something similar today about the Church of England as well as the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and lots of other religious groups.
Religions that can't stand being made fun of aren't very strong. Defensiveness doesn't become religion. But it works best if the one making fun of a religion is an adherent of it. Otherwise it seems like an unfair and mean-spirited attack.
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JESUS COULD HAVE BEEN THE GOOD SAMARITAN
And completely different from satire, author Marilynne Robinson offers this insightful look at the old parable of the Good Samaritan. As her many regular readers know, she deeply grasps the essential elements of Christian theology.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.