Reclaiming the Sacred Commons

John Gatta

in Making Nature Sacred

Published in print October 2004 | ISBN: 9780195165050
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835140 | DOI:
 Reclaiming the Sacred Commons

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Wendell Berry’s creative nonfiction has been chiefly inspired by the author’s longstanding relation to his home place in Kentucky. It embodies his religious conviction that land should be understood not as commodity but as divine gift and sacrament, and that human community is organically wedded to the rest of nature’s ecological household. Confronting the problem of theodicy raised by the apparent cruelty and waste of Creation, Annie Dillard endeavors to combine traditional practice of meditation on the creatures with spiritual understanding gleaned from modern science. John Cheever, in his final work of fiction, produced a scathing critique of the pastoralism fancied to persist in suburban America—yet affirmed that this world we inhabit can indeed be revered as a marvelous and holy “paradise.” By contrast, Marilynne Robinson’s novelistic tale of a mountain-rimmed lake in the Pacific Northwest images not paradise, but the holy terror of the abyss inspired by untamed nature.

Keywords: Wendell Berry; Annie Dillard; John Cheever; Marilynne Robinson; sacrament; theodicy; pastoralism; suburban; paradise; science

Chapter.  12751 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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