The Wall Street Journal to the rescue! Several readers have written me about my comments on Serrano’s photograph, so it was with some comfort that I read Christopher Levenick’s review of Philip Jenkins’ The New Faces of Christianity in yesterday’s Journal .
"The Bible informs much of Western civilization, to be sure, and is deeply ingrained in its philosophy, art and ethics. For precisely that reason, however, in the West the Scriptures have lost much of their capacity to astonish. Not so in Uganda or India or China, where eager catechumens read the Bible with fresh eyes."
Astonish, shock, just about the same thing. The Scriptures can still astonish Americans and Germans and Danes and Mexicans, but it takes some imagination. And here’s a quick and dirty list of some works that I think fit the bill (it’s a somewhat contemporary list because, like Liza Doolittle’s outbursts, what astounds one generation becomes a tradition in the next). I’m sure that readers can suggest more, or disagree with my favorites.
Olivier Messiaen’s opera Saint François d’Assise
Krzysztof Penderecki’s "Auschwitz Oratorio"
Frederick Buechner’s Godric
C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces (of course, the Narnia Chronicles and the Trilogy, too, but I look more sophisticated just mentioning Faces )
Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia (to realize just how pathetic the National Cathedral in D.C. is, look at it with Gaudi’s church in mind, or even Giles Scott’s Anglican cathedral in Liverpool)
Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge
Kenneth E. Bailey’s Poet and Peasant (for a study of just how astonishing the parables in Luke were)
(Access contributors’ biographies by clicking here .)