Greg Wolfe, on 07 June 2012 - 01:08 AM, said:
I could use some help.
The Wall Street Journal has asked me to write a piece on Ray Bradbury's faith.
Any thoughts? I've found some sources for statements he made about his faith -- more of those would be good, but I'm even more interested in ways that his faith can be seen in his work.
Your suggestions would be most welcome.
Ryan mentions some great examples. A few more relevant nodes:
- "Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned" is about a priest hearing a confession from himself as a younger man.
- "And The Rock Cried Out" is a post-apocalyptic nightmare that pivots on a reference to an old spiritual. A husband and wife find themselves trapped in Mexico after a cataclysm has struck America, what happens ranks among Bradbury's darkest moments.
- "Season of Disbelief" is a set of conversations in which an old lady is trying to convince the children in her neighborhood that she was once young, and they don't believe her. I have always liked the way Bradbury frames this short story as a metaphor for faith - the end is terrifying.
- "The Messiah" is one of a constellation of stories similar to "The Man," and "The Fire Balloons." In this case a Martian appears to a priest on Mars in the form of Christ and the priest is forced to deal with the theological insanity of this manifestation. There are several stories in that collection and others that toy with this idea that the Martians visibly manifest deeply rooted human religious and emotional convictions.
-"The Wish" takes place on Christmas Eve. After a conversation about the resurrection of Christ, one of the characters wishes to see his dead father for an hour.
- "Have I Got a Chocolate Bar For You" is a about a priest hearing the confession of a man addicted to chocolate. What follows is a wonderfully confirming conversation about forgiveness, freedom, and joy. There is a lovely description of the church as a place of forgiveness in there somewhere as well.
- "The Blue Bottle" is one of the best abstractions of Bradbury's religious convictions. In the story, two men are hunting for a legendary blue bottle on Mars that contains something of great significance. No one is actually quite sure what is in the bottle - and the story pivots on the question: Are the contents of the bottle more important than the actual search for the bottle? Nifty little Percyesque koan there.
- And then there is A Chapbook For Burnt-Out Priests, Rabbis, and Ministers
which is packed with essays like "Christ on Improbable Planets." He interacts with Christ, Einstein, The Gospel of John, King of Kings,
But good luck finding a copy.
Some general comments on Bradbury and theology:
- In his entire bibliography, he conceives of stages of life as spiritual transitions. Rites of passage, the way our bodies change as we grow older, the way we appear to each other across the span of decades - Bradbury writes a lot about these experiences and translates them into metaphors for wonder, bravery, fear, and the whole complex of emotions that are part of encountering the presence or absence of the sacred.
- The Martian Chronicles are all about otherness. It sounds pat to say that, but Bradbury was the first to conduct an extended thought experiment in which space was conceived of as a place where we encounter ourselves. This is a reversal of the theme common in other sci-fi authors that space and space exploration is where humanity will be freed from ignorance.
- I was stunned by One More for The Road
in 2002. It is filled with ghosts and memories and a constructive form of dismay. I could feel the intense gravity of Bradbury's age - but also a certain sense of victory in that he tells us frequently in that volume: I am old, and I was right all along!
Edited by M. Leary, 08 June 2012 - 11:31 AM.