Editor's 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.

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

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