Monday, July 9, 2007

The "paradise news"

In Chapter I of Part Two of Paradise News, David Lodge reveals what I think is the theological reference of his novel's title. Bernard has just returned from dinner with the woman who was driving the car that knocked his father down. He feels that he behaved clumsily and churlishly, having listened to her story but not having told her his. In a journal he has begun to keep in Hawaii, he writes, "I should have repaid her confidence. I should have told her the whole story. Something like this:
...My role [as a pastor] was clearly designated, "supernatural reassurance." They looked to the Church to provide a spiritual dimension to lives outwardly indistinguishable from those of their secular neighbours...They wanted me to marry them, to baptize their children, to comfort them in bereavement, and to relieve them from the fear of death. They wanted me to reassure them that if they were not as prosperous and successful as they might have wished, or if their spouses deserted them, or their children went off the rails, or they were stricken with fatal illnesses, it wasn't the end, it wasn't a reason to despair, there was another place, another time out of time, where everything would be compensated for, justice done, pain and loss made good, and we would all live happily ever after.
      That, after all, is what the language of the Mass promised them every Sunday....
      This has always been the basic appeal of Christianity—and no wonder. The vast majority of human lives in history have not been long, happy, and fulfilled....It explains why Christianity spread so rapidly among the poor and underprivileged, the conquered and the enslaved, in the Roman Empire of the first century....The appeal of the Gospel message, though, remains essentially the same. The Good News is news of eternal life, Paradise news...." [pp. 144, 151-153]
[More of the story Bernard would have told his friend in Hawaii will be posted tomorrow under "Bernard's personal revelation."]
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Disclaimer: I acknowledge that I don't have the right to publish long excerpts from copyrighted work (such as the novels of David Lodge). I console myself with the thought that I have so few readers—a few friends—I can hardly be said to be "publishing" anything. It's more like calling the friend over to my reading chair and saying, "Come here, look over my shoulder. What do you think of this?"

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