Thursday, January 3, 2008

Miracle Fiction?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've decided to have a go at The Song of Bernadette. It's another one of those books that I've always heard of but have never actually read. Since I'm on a tight budget, I borrowed a copy from the public library. They had the 1989 edition from St. Martin's Press. According to the introduction, it was the first book to be published in their new "Religious Miracle Fiction Series."

Naturally I was intrigued. Most of what passes for religious fiction is very badly done. But I'm always on the look-out for the rare exception. This series was to consist of "reissued classic books that bring back the well-known works of popular religious writers of the twentieth century." So what other novels had they published under this imprint? Possibly none -- since both Amazon and Google searches turned up no references except to Song of Bernadette. (If anyone does know of further books in the series, please let me know.)

Why did they attempt this series?

According to the editor, the approach of the new millennium would see both a revived belief in eschatology and "a fervent faith in the arrival and occurrence of religious miracles" which he defines as "often totally inexplicable events, that will be interpreted as saving us from our rational, destructive selves." Huh? Our rational selves are destructive? I thought that was the job of our irrational selves. He also seems to be buying into the assumption that religion and reason have nothing in common. Okay, Mr. Editor, I can tell right now that we are not simpatico.

I'm in the same camp with G.K. Chesterton who says, in the person of Father Brown in "The Blue Cross, "I know that people charge the Church with lowering reason, but it is just the other way. Alone on earth, the Church makes reason really supreme. Alone on earth, the Church affirms that God himself is bound by reason." That's how Father Brown unmasks the thief Flambeau who has been masquerading as a priest. "'You attacked reason, ' said Father Brown. 'It's bad theolgy.'"

Not counting the brief Y2K frenzy, did either of the editor's predicitons of emerging religious themes come true? I don't think so.

Oh, wait a minute. Didn't those Left Behind novels come out around 1995? Shoot! Not that I ever read them. I tried to read the first chapter of one while standing in front of the book display in Costco, but I just couldn't manage it. It was soooo badly written. (And not my cuppa theology, either.) Their popularity boggles the mind. But I suppose that if you really like a novel's message, you'll forgive a lot in the way of bad writing.* Which is probably, as I said earlier, why most religious fiction is so badly done.

I'm two thirds of the way through Song of Bernadette. So far my response to it is fairly positive -- with one major reservation. More details when I'm finished.

*Is that why Da Vinci Code did so well?

1 comment:

Bernadette said...


I just found your blog and have been greatly enjoying reading some of your posts.

May I ask you what was your major reservation with Werfel's "The Song of Bernadette?" I haven't been able to find a later post where you mention what it was. :)

Best regards!