Magazine article The Christian Century

The Glory of the Mundane

Magazine article The Christian Century

The Glory of the Mundane

Article excerpt

JOHN UPDIKE, who died January 27 at age 76, was one of the literary giants of our time. As I mentioned in my column in the February 10 issue (written before Updike's death), I have read as much as I could of his work--ever since I saw him interviewed on television and heard him respond to a question about why religion and clergy appear so frequently in his writing. He said that he was a believer, that he sat in a church pew on Sunday mornings, and that he admired and was interested in the clergy because week after week they try to help people deal with ultimate questions. And indeed, Updike served on the building committee for a Congregational church in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts.

There was little that Updike was not interested in, but religion and theology were among his major concerns. The theologian Karl Barth in particular interested him. One of Updike's poems includes these lines: "Did you know / that four-fifths of the body's intake goes merely to maintain our temperatures of 98.6[degrees]? / Or that Karl Barth, addressing prisoners, said the prayer for stronger faith is the one / prayer that has never been denied?"

My admiration for Updike has not been without complications. …

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