catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 23 :: 2006.12.15 — 2006.12.29


Born in a barn

When I first read the title Sensual Orthodoxy, I was doing a little initial researching for the 2006 Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing.  I was planning on bringing a few students with me, and wanted to give them and myself a few titles to review before our trip out there.  Although I was pretty excited to see a title as seemingly risque as Debbie Blue's first book, I was a little loathe to talk it up to the high school juniors and seniors who would be accompanying me.

While the title first attracted me, one of the quotes I saw on Powell's website before I held the book in my hands really excited me: "Though religion often abstracts, the story of Christ is the opposite.  God becomes physical.  God is made human in the womb of Mary and born through the birth canal."  Blue's book flies in the face of such Christian holiday staples as "Silent Night".  It's a book that finds its greatest significance during the Christmas season, one that is pharisaically sanitized by far too many Christian churches.  While her attitude toward scripture texts is not exactly delicate, her perspective is refreshing despite (and maybe because) of how visceral it is.

Each chapter is a sermon based on a lectionary text.  Blue offers a familiar Bible passage before taking a unique slant on each to showcase the physicality of Christ—his life, his stories, his final redemptive act and his kingdom.

Good artists are capable of shedding new light on old topics.  An item as “mundane” as a leaf can become an object of beauty.  A simple scale can turn into a theme that runs through an entire symphony.  For Blue, her muse is a list of stories that have, all-too-often, become cliché: Jesus walking on the water, calming the storm, or telling the parable of the unmerciful servant or the workers in the vineyard.  Her book takes dry bones, gives them flesh and breathes life into them.  

During a season that holds the power of “God with us”, but that is frequently reduced to so many cheesy lawn ornaments or Walmart crèche scenes, Sensual Orthodoxy pulls the Christian back into the physical, the altogether remarkable concept of tabernacle—of real, tangible redemption. 

To purchase Sensual Orthodoxy, visit Cathedral Hill Press.

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