The early works of Ray Bradbury are timeless...because man, made in the image of God, tho now fallen, cannot escape when he recognizes himself truly. We love Ray's early stuff because of this. It ignited a sense of awakening long after we closed the pages of the story.
So from where came...this gift? From the likes of a Mr. Electrico? A self-proclaimed defrocked Presbyterian minister, whom Ray has written into his works, Mr. Electrico commanded young Ray, with a touch of the sword, to "Live Forever!" But at the same time was an ardent proponent of re-incarnation. Did Ray really die in his arms on a battlefield in France, so many years before?
Or was it truly a God calling upon the lad's life? Or someone with a strong authentic Christian leaning, that grabbed a hold of the Bradbury boy and shook him fully alive?
I venture to say that if someone were to ask Ray in the 1940's...if he were going to heaven when he died, he probably would have given an answer the likes not heard since the days of St. Paul before a crowd of lost sinners. Today, however, that question is followed with...silence.
I don't know how deeply Mr. Sam Weller examined the sparks of Ray's genius in his upcoming biography of Bradbury. I trust he does to some extent. But this I know: Ray has wandered. Wrong friends and dark influences? Self-centered decisions at crossroads? Who escapes these? To stay put is to diminish.
Recently, Ray claimed his greatest Christian literary effort is to be found in his poem, "Christus Apollo."
"Christus Apollo" is about 1,500 words in length. Thruout the poem, there are some wonderful, genuine thoughts presented, that move one to ponder Christ and his work. And, as well, there are things that fly in the face and grace of scripture. A number of readings of "Christus Apollo" begins to have the effect, on this reader at least, of too many religions trying to vie for space in a very small elevator.
Does God need a Saviour? It seems he does in this poem. Does God, the Creator of all things, not know what lies in the farthest ends of the cosmos? It appears unless man goes forth, God is left to stare at the endless blackness, uninformed.
In Bradbury's narration of the motion picture, "King of Kings", Ray's scenario for a new ending to the movie was also troubling. Claiming the risen Christ a ghost...is just not there in scripture. A 'glorified body' is not really ghostly. It can be touched and handled, as well as walk thru solid walls.
When we love an author so much, he is a megaphone to our hearts, our minds, our attitudes. "Christus Apollo" reminds me that Ray, thru the years, has shifted his eyes form the immortal, to the mortal, as if truth is more likely to find eternal comfort there.
As always, I enjoyed your post, and the thoughts are interesting. I don't think -- myself -- that Bradbury has shifted from the eternal so much as he has probably re-defined what that concept means to him.
I know my own religious and philsophical views have changed as I've gone through life and (hopefully) learned a few things.
Paul wrote of his religious evolution and the ongoing nature of that evolution in I Corinthians 13:11, 12 --
"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known". (NIV)
I think Paul is acknowledging the fact that our religious views, maturity and perspectives change as we go through different life experiences, trials and levels of maturity (both intellectual and moral). His comment at the end, that we only know in part in this level of existence is, in part (it seems to me), a call against excessive dogmatism. If we only know in part, how can we lay claim to a single perspective to which we expect all others to agree?
When I look at Bradbury's writing, he has always had a religious sensibility. I'm not as fluent with his current works as I should be, but when I read current interviews and video tapes, he still has a zeal for learning and the development of man.
Maybe he once held similar views to those he holds now, perhaps his views have evolved over time.
Sorry! I couldn't disagree with you more.
The part of Corinthians you spoke of is written by a much younger man, who would be responsible for condemning Christians to the arena. There they would be slaughtered for amusement. Later, he is to be struck off his horse by God, and blinded. And, as scholars note, he would spend nearly the next 10 years of his life coming to grips with what had occured on that road to Damascus, the one in which lightning struck him from his horse and God spoke to him. And in that time, no Christian trusted him.
So, I guess you could say 'Paul' went thru some changes.
With Bradbury, these are not the changes I am speaking about.
I am saying that Bradbury's view on who Jesus Christ is (as depicted in his wonderful short story, 'The Man')... is now being painted with many faces, none that I can recognize as scriptural.
But he wrote I Corinthians AFTER he was converted and reborn in Christ. I don't think he's speaking specifically of his days as a zealous persecuter of Christians, so much as the passage speaks to the evolutionary nature of the maturation of our faith. As we go through our lives, we learn things -- in many cases, we learn what is more important verses what is less important.
I think it's interesting that the passages I cited are in the great "Love" chapter where Paul talks about the place of love as being the highest law. Before his convesion, Paul was a religious zealout who manifest that zeal with a narrow-minded and externalistic definition of religion -- forcing his views on others.
As Paul matures and goes through the rebirth, works with persons in building churches/congregations, has more experience with the Holy Spirit, his faith matures (evolves) where he understands that what religion is about is faith, hope and charity -- the greatest of which is charity/love.
Paul is still a religious zealot; but his focus is now love, rather than a self-righteous arrogance in terms of thinking he has the right to dictate religous terms to others. He now "reasons from scripture" and "speaks in love".
The fact that we only see "through a glass, darkly" means that we are not in a position where we are able to dictate religious terms with the kind of confidence where we can enforce those views. Why? I would suggest two of the reasons come from these two verses I cited above: (1) Our faith matures and evolves as we get older (this is part of what keeps faith a living faith, rather than a dead faith), (2) We DON'T know everything, so we need to approach things with humility -- there will always be more things to learn, and more religious experiences to be had.
You either know Christ, or you don't know Christ. You don't...'kinda' know Christ.
Seeing thru a glass darkly...means we are still in the earthly body. We are still sinners. This does not mean we cannot see. ' It will take ALL of eternity to reveal Christ. That's a relationship. But it begins with 'someone', not just an 'idea' of someone.
Without' Christ ...you cannot see even thru a glass darkly.! Paul is saying this...not then...but now. Late in life. With Christ, with the Holy Spirit...he sees thru a glass darkly. But later...face to face! In a glorified body. Without sin. After physical death!
I read ''Christus Apollo'', Ray's greatest Christian work. Show me how this poem is greater than his short story, 'The Man', written many years before?
Also, I leave the post, above, as is. I'm not looking to start defending it. We all love Ray. Some more, some less. We become both dissappointed and elated with our loves as we do with ourselves. Sometimes less, sometimes more.
As I understand, Ray was a regular churchgoer, Sunday School every week until age 13. As a teenager he became at least an agnostic and possibly an atheist. (Details should emerge more clearly, as you said, when the biography appears.) Years later, he began to explore different possibilities regarding religion. "The Man" is likely a product of this time.
He has never displayed, through his characters, a solid scriptural depiction of an afterlife. Notice "The Man" doesn't go into the concept of afterlife AT ALL, only the effect of a Christlike character on the lives of people. Bradbury's people either expect to return as someone else ("The Swan"), continue in their original bodies presumably in an undead state ("There Was an Old Woman,") or just float off into nothingness or near-nothingness ("The Leavetaking" and fill in the blank.) Any of them ever seriously say, "So long for now, see you up yonder"? Not in any of his work that I can name! In fact, your best chance for immortality in his universe is to hook up with a really intelligent robot! ("I Sing the Body Electric!") Christ offers, promises, points to, eternal life, which Bradbury seems to have hoped for but ignored the means of obtaining. If immortality is gained through accomplishments here on earth, that does nothing to address the great unfairness of so many people who die so very young--before the age when they'd even THINK about life's work or accomplishments!
Dandelion: Enjoyed your post!!
Nard: As always, a thought provoking post. I just don't see things as either/or as you do here. Peter and Paul both went through changes. Those changes, in my mind, show the evolutionary nature of faith. Faith, by definition, is not certainty -- it is a kind of trust that what we hope for is true. By biblical definition, faith is a belief in something that is unseen (non-empirically verifiable) but that IS true. God knows that it's true, we have to rely on faith.
Peter on the water is a real example to me. Christ calls him to walk on the water, Peter, buoyed by Christ's invitation, begins to walk on the water. But as he sees the waves around him (the vissectitudes of life) his faith wavers, and Christ reaches out, takes his hand, and helps him into the ship. The man who's son is sick and who the disciples could not heal, turned to Christ. When Christ arrived, he said he could save his son if he had faith. The man's prayer was "help thou mine unbelief".
I think Bradbury, in his writing, sees faith as less certain, more malleable, and less definable than you want it to be. The fact that he doesn't define a future life in his stories (as Dandelion points out) may mean that he focuses his efforts on a kind of moral life in the here and now. Thoreau, on his death bed, commented that he takes one life at a time. That does not mean that he denied an afterlife -- he was a bit agnostic about it.
In Christianity, there are those who focus on salvation in a next life, and there are those who focus on obtaining the presence of God through Christ in this one -- and don't worry much about a next life.
I think it is clear, as you say, Nard, that Bradbury is not a christian in an orthodox or traditional way. But he uses Christian sympolism to speak to themes in life that are important to him.
[This message has been edited by Mr. Dark (edited 03-04-2005).]
Let's put it this way: I heartily agree with the last sentence of your post, just above.
(But, at the same time, you are being utterly kind in many other aspects!)
Is a little bit of Bradbury to be found in all sorts of writings, thru all the deacades and decades past, from all kinds of authors? I think so. What makes Bradbury unique in this time of publishing history, is that there have been so many of those instances of awe, in such a very compact amount of time.
I really agree with a lot that dandelion said up there, a few floor ups. Take all the previous posts that we have done, you, me, dandelion, so many others, as well as these here pertaining to this particular topic, and I think we've managed to pretty much cover Ray's beliefs. Hey! This has been no small feat.
Very interesting postings on this topic. Thanks to all.
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