Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Power and the Glory

Having just finished The Power and the Glory for the second time, I think I can safely say that it is one of the most profound books of the twentieth century—especially dealing with issues of faith, sin, vocation, truth, and suffering. Graham Greene does not always lend himself to easy quotes because so much of the writing is dependent on the situations of the narrative. However, here are a few attempts:

The wall of the burial-ground had fallen in: one or two crosses had been smashed by enthusiasts: an angel had lost one of its stone wings, and what gravestones were left undamaged leant at an acute angle in the long marshy grasses. One image of the Mother of God had lost ears and arms and stood like a pagan Venus over the grave of some rich forgotten timber merchant. It was odd—this fury to deface, because, of course, you could never deface enough. If God had been like a toad, you could have rid the globe of toads, but when God was like yourself, it was no good being content with stone figures—you had to kill yourself among the graves.

This is a keen observation on what has become a culture of death (infanticide, euthanasia, non-sanctity of life) and self mutilation through piercings, tattoos, and even visual art (think of the disfiguring of the image of God in cubist paintings and subsequent “art” movements).

The following quote reveals the main character’s growing realization of the need to move beyond surface piety and into the heart of the Gospel and true faith.

That was another mystery: it sometimes seemed to him that venial sins—impatience, an unimportant lie, pride, a neglected opportunity—cut you off from grace more completely than the worst sins of all. Then, in his innocence, he had felt no love for anyone; now in his corruption he had learnt…

1 comment:

David Marsh said...

Good post. I finished reading The Power and the Glory recently as well and was struck by how perceptive Greene was in cutting to the heart of what it means to live a godly life. We so often equate godliness with avoidance of 'major sins' or, worse, with adherence to specific rules established by our particular culture. Instead, we need to continually look to our hearts and the small, seemingly insignificant sins that so easily ensnare and compromise, like pride, impatience, and ingratitude. I wonder how much more effective our witness would be if we paid more attention to addressing the 'minor' sins in our lives, and less attention to decrying the 'major' sins of others?