Category Archives: Bible

My Cries Cannot Pierce Thy Silent Ears

George Herbert poetry is admirable in the way he wrestles with his spiritual doubts. He may owe a debt to “The Book of Job,” where we also see such wrestling.

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Lit, Like Christ, Is Divinity Made Manifest

The opening lines of the Book of John can be used to describe how literature operates in the world.

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In the Beginning Was the Word

The opening of the Book of John is poetry of the first order.

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A Time for Silence

Silence can be a very powerful response to tragedy.

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The Deep (Not Scientific) Truth of Genesis

The Book of Genesis, like poetry, captures truths inaccessible to science.

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Fiction Is Best Way to Tell God’s Story

Story-truth superior to happening-truth, in war stories and in Bible.

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LeBron Toys with Foes as Gods with Lear

Lebron James is to opponents as the gods are to King Lear.

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But the Greatest of These Is Love

First Corinthians 13 may be St. Paul’s greatest poem.

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My Heart Leapt Up

A rainbow sighting led to a discussion about how humans often turn to nature for guiding metaphors.

Also posted in Blake (William), Wordsworth (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lamentation and Weeping in Newtown

The Sandy Hook killings recall the Biblical massacre of the innocents, referenced in “Moby Dick.”

Also posted in Melville (Herman), Owen (Wilfred) | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Half in Love with Easeful Death

In his haunting “Ode to a Nightingale,” Keats imagines himself as a homesick Ruth standing “amid the alien corn.”

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Does God Hear Us When We Cry Out?

The Book of Job, Herbert’s “Denial” and an internet poem about Job’s Wife capture the language of suffering.

Also posted in Herbert (George) | 4 Comments

Epic Poetry, King James Version

Through his nickname, Lebron James invites associations with the King James Version of the Bible.

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Like a Cat Asleep on a Chair, O Lord

In “Pax,” D. H. Lawrence echoes the 23rd Psalm only substitutes a cat for a sheep.

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Reaching Out for the Anchoring Pole

In “Vineyard Stories” poet Anne Higgins combines three of Jesus’s parables to imagine a vineyard where all can come and feast.

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Poetry to Read at a Hippy Wedding

Today is my wedding anniversary so you get to hear how I wove poetry into the ceremony. W. B. Yeats, Archibald MacLeish, D.H. Lawrence, and the Song of Solomon all made appearances. Get ready for time travel back to a very different era.

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God’s Non-Explanation for Suffering

As I think of the deaths and the destroyed communities that natural disasters have recently caused, from the Japanese tsunami to the Alabama tornadoes to the Mississippi flooding, the Book of Job comes to mind. After all, it is a story that addresses that most fundamental of questions, why do bad things happen to innocent people?

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Reading Literature, A Spiritual Practice

McEntyre notes that, in the ancient practice of lectio divina, one sought to maintain “spiritual focus and equanimity” by “reading Scripture slowly, listening for the word or phrase that speaks to you, pausing to consider prayerfully the gift being offered in those words for this moment.” Ditto, the author says, for reading literature.

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Rise Up, My Fair One, and Come Away

Spiritual Sunday St. Valentine, who has evolved into the patron saint of lovers, was beheaded by the Romans for (among other things) marrying Christian couples.  As Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, I turn to that most erotic of books in the Bible, Song of Songs (also know as Song of Solomon).Some, unnerved by its unbridled sensuality, have […]

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The Lord Is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want

Spiritual Sunday This past Sunday in our Episcopal Church, the 23rd psalm, it seems, was everywhere. We read the psalm itself aloud and sang two or three hymns that were versions of it. The gospel lesson dealt with the parable of the lost sheep, a comforting passage given its assertion that “the good shepherd” loves […]

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Barack and Huck, Babo, Hamlet, etc.

I’m fascinated by the way that literature has helped shape and guide different American president, a subject I’ve written about in the past. Thus I was thrilled to stumble across a Barack Obama reading list compiled shortly after his inauguration. I don’t know how I missed it. According to the website The Curious Autodidact (great […]

Also posted in Augustine, Doctorow (E. L.), Hughes (Langston), Jefferson (Thomas), Malcolm X, Melville (Herman), Nietzsche (Friedrich), Twain (Mark), Uris (Leon), Warren (Robert Penn) | Tagged , , | Comments closed

The Favorite Books of American Presidents

I’ve had fun discussing the reading of Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas over the last couple of days, and while I’ve come up dry on further posts about the Supreme Court and literature, it has given me the idea of periodically dipping into reading stories of other political figures. I’ll start a list here, beginning […]

Also posted in Alexander (Elizabeth), Angelou (Maya), Camus (Albert), Carle (Eric), Dickey (James), Fleming (Ian), Frost (Robert), Marquez (Gabriel Garcia), Morrison (Toni), O'Neill (Joseph), Robinson (Edward Arlington), Service (Robert), Sheridan (Richard), Stendahl, Tolstoy (Leo), Twain (Mark) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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