Feb 27 2012
A few people have raised some valid questions to my introductory comment to the recent poem by Francis of Assisi.
First, my reference to “the Catholic season of Lent” makes it sound as if Lent is only observed by Catholics.
I do know that Lent is not just for Catholics, but it isn’t so widely observed in the various Protestant denominations. I referred to it as Catholic as a sort of short hand. In the minds of most people who do not celebrate Lent, it is particularly thought of as a Catholic practice.
But on reflection, I see that the criticism is a valid one. In the future I will try to avoid casual, imprecise statements like this. My apologies to the many other Christian denominations that also honor Lent.
A few people objected to my statement that “many of you will instinctively react against this selection’s tone. It might have too much of a Sunday school savor for your taste.” Why would I say that about Christian poetry, but not Muslim or Buddhist poetry?
This is an important question; one to which I only have an imperfect answer: I’ve gotten so many emails over the years from people who, for many reasons, have strongly negative associations with “churchy” language. This reaction is particularly triggered by the language of institutionalized Christianity.
I do regularly feature Christian poets from many Christian traditions, and I have a deep personal love and respect for this profound material, but when the language is overtly “religious” (as in the recent poem by St. Francis), I know that a large portion of readers will be tempted to tune out. When I share a Christian poem with a strongly religious tone, I feel compelled to acknowledge what I know will be a strong counter-reaction by a significant number of readers.
My statement about “instinctively reacting against” the poem was an attempt to encourage everyone to read the poem anyway. It is my awkward way of letting people know that I am not trying to proselytize, that I understand that hesitation to delve into this sort of language, but to say that there is so much depth and richness to be found here when we approach it with non-dogmatic minds.
It’s always a difficult balance with such a diverse readership. I sincerely hope I haven’t caused any offense.