Generous Orthodoxy  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Kenneth Leech 1939-2015

I just learned that Kenneth Leech died in September, of cancer. He was two years younger than I, so I did not expect this. I was just getting ready to send him my new book The Crucifixion, because he was very supportive of my work, always answered my emails, and wrote a "blurb" for my little book The Seven Last Words.  I met him only once, in London; I went out to the East End, to St Botolphs, Aldgate, to participate in some sort of gathering to honor him. It was rather loosely organized, to say the least -- which befitted his loosely organized ministry! Although he was a political radical, he was no theological liberal. He was a great friend and colleague of Rowan Williams, formerly Archbishop of Canterbury. I admired Ken Leech very much on the strength of the two of his many books that I read: The Eye of the Storm, and We Preach Christ Crucified.  I am saddened that he is gone, and sorry that I could not send him my book, because I quote him several times. Oh, well...he did not need to know that, having been honored in so many other ways, and now joined with the saints in glory.

I was particularly interested in Ken Leech because he, somewhat like William Stringfellow (though without the Protestant cast of thought), combined fearlessness in social action with fearlessness in his critique of mushy "theology." His Anglo-Catholicism and his focus on contemplative spirituality interested me much less than his biblical orientation and his activism. Christians don't have to agree on everything as long as the essentials are in place. Anyone who could write the books I mention above is someone I would always want to be a partner with in all foundational respects.

This is a very good obituary from The Guardian, in England:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In Paris, the call goes out, "Tous au bistrot!"

When we were in Paris a year ago, we went to bistros. We noticed how, although they were glad for our patronage, it was their regular neighborhood customers that really counted.  As the evening waxed late, le patron came out and sat at the table with his regulars. La patronne lavished attention upon them and asked about their children. This is France. This is Paris. This is humanity in its richness. 

I was therefore touched when I read this:
Worried about a drop in customers, a trade union of hotels and restaurants is calling on Parisians to head to their neighborhood haunts Tuesday night to observe a minute of silence for the victims and then to support local merchants with a campaign called “Tous au Bistrot!” — meaning “everybody to the bistro!”
In this world of commerce, which the French are involved with just like everybody else, this is a note of authenticity. I seem to remember that soon after 9/11 President Bush (43) advised us to "go shopping." Not that the Parisians aren't shoppers, not that the bistrot owners don't have to make a good living, but isn't there something about "Tous au bistrot!" that speaks of a culture of humane values that trumps commerce?

And in that context, perhaps we should remember and honor the code of hospitality that distinguishes the Middle Eastern cultures. I just saw a movie in Arabic with subtitles, called Theeb. It's absorbing in every way -- plot, suspense, action, staggering scenery, Bedouins, camels, and a wonderful child actor  -- but my point in mentioning it is its close-up depiction of desert hospitality. There seemed to be zero degrees of separation from Abraham entertaining angels three thousand years ago.