Introductory Note:

Oh Dorothy Sayers, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways! Or, rather, let us just share with you once again at Renovaré so others can count along.

If you can get your hands on a copy (it is out of print), do try to pick up the essay collection The Whimsical Christian by Ms. Sayers. It will surely make you grin a heap, and you’ll come away from each visit with her sparkling prose refreshed, renewed, and ready to dig deep into dogma. Yes, dogma!

In today’s excerpt, Dorothy ponders the way that average Christians have made a less-than-stellar impression of Christianity on the world at large by, as she writes elsewhere, “efficiently paring the claws of the Lion of Judah, certifying him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommending him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies” (14). What we need, she avers, is not to hide or change or camouflage or deny our common tenants, but to live them out in the full drama—the “terrifying” drama—of God’s magnificent story.

Renovaré Team

Per­haps we are not fol­low­ing Christ all the way or in quite the right spir­it. We are like­ly, for exam­ple, to be a lit­tle spar­ing of the palms and hosan­nas. We are chary of wield­ing the scourge of small cords, lest we should offend some­body or inter­fere with trade. We do not fur­nish up our wits to dis­en­tan­gle knot­ty ques­tions about Sun­day obser­vance or trib­ute mon­ey, nor has­ten to sit at the feet of the doc­tors, both hear­ing them and ask­ing them ques­tions. We pass hasti­ly over dis­qui­et­ing jests about mak­ing friends with the mam­mon of unright­eous­ness and alarm­ing obser­va­tions about bring­ing not peace but a sword; nor do we dis­tin­guish our­selves by the gra­cious­ness with which we sit at meat with pub­li­cans and sin­ners. Some­how or oth­er, and with the best inten­tions, we have shown the world the typ­i­cal Chris­t­ian in the like­ness of a crash­ing and rather ill-natured bore — and this in the name of one who assured­ly nev­er bored a soul in those thir­ty-three years dur­ing which he passed through the world like a flame.

Let us, in heav­en’s name, drag out the divine dra­ma from under the dread­ful accu­mu­la­tion of slip­shod think­ing and trashy sen­ti­ment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to star­tle the world into some sort of vig­or­ous reac­tion. If the pious are the first to be shocked, so much the worse for the pious — oth­ers will pass into the king­dom of heav­en before them. If all men are offend­ed because of Christ, let them be offend­ed; but where is the sense of their being offend­ed at some­thing that is not Christ and is noth­ing like him? We do him sin­gu­lar­ly lit­tle hon­or by water­ing down his per­son­al­i­ty till it could not offend a fly. Sure­ly it is not the busi­ness of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ.

It is the dog­ma that is the dra­ma — not beau­ti­ful phras­es, nor com­fort­ing sen­ti­ments, nor vague aspi­ra­tions to lov­ingkind­ness and uplift, nor the promise of some­thing nice after death — but the ter­ri­fy­ing asser­tion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the hea­then, and they may not believe it; but at least they may real­ize that here is some­thing that a man might be glad to believe.

Say­ers, Dorothy L. The Whim­si­cal Chris­t­ian: 18 Essays, pp. 27 – 28. Col­lier Books, 1978.

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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