Tuesday, December 16, 2008

She said she was cleaning out her library and believes she must have picked this up when she was in seminary and wouldn't I be interested?

I joked, "Who's the latest listed?" and she speculated someone from the 60's.1

I was happy to take it and, as we all sat down to a pot luck, I placed it face-down on the table, explaining to her that I didn't want to put it on the floor and I didn't want to offend anyone.

Would a table of Presbyterians be put off their appetite by a book of popes?

Now, I've browsed the book a bit since the meal. I haven't delved into the text, the individual biographies, yet,3 but the images are remarkable. Some are drawn from other histories of popes but many are taken from art: the Sistine Chapel and other Roman churches.

So, my initial reaction to the breadth of material is that a tradition clearly deemed the remembering of this lineage as important. I mean, perhaps my gift-giver thought the book would embarrass me or even cause me to question4 the tradition and practice. But, I'm afraid, at least initially, it's had the opposite effect: I respect it more for its trouble.

1 It's actually 1959, so John XXIII.
2 It was all I could do not to flip it open at table when the luncheon conversation turned stale. Oh, but the food was great. Presbyterians can cook, I've said many times.
3 But the writing seems top-notch.
4 Change of heart can come about reading an author within one's tradition - when all the holes hit square between the eyes - just as easily as reading an author outside. I usually encourage people to read scholars within their tradition.

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