Received an email from my friend, Steve Froehlich, the just retired pastor of New Life Presbyterian (Ithaca, NY) and author of a wonderfully biblical essay on gender dysphoria I published in Critique. This time he called my attention to an essay, “Christianity and Poetry” in First Things by Dana Gioia, writer, poet, and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Dana Gioia’s essay on poetry in the life and liturgy of the Christian faith is worth reading,” Steve wrote, “he offers a sweeping historical documentary of poetry’s essential role in scripture, worship, and theology.”
Poetry is not merely important to Christianity. It is an essential, inextricable, and necessary aspect of religious faith and practice. The fact that most Christians would consider that assertion absurd does not invalidate it. Their disagreement only demonstrates how remote the contemporary Church has become from its own origins. It also suggests that sacred poetry is so interwoven into the fabric of Scripture and worship as to become invisible. At the risk of offending most believers, it is necessary to state a simple but unacknowledged truth: It is impossible to understand the full glory of Christianity without understanding its poetry.
As usual, Steve is exactly correct in his recommendation—Gioia’s piece is thoughtful, significant in how it opens to us the deeper glories of poetry, liturgy, faith, and scripture, and begs to be discussed.
You can read Dana Gioia’s essay in First Things here. Please read it. It will strengthen your faith, help you read Scripture with greater insight, and stimulate your mind, your imagination, and your faith.
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