Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…
I have been thinking about the “hinge” books in my life, those books that open a door in a unique way. There are hinge occasions that are not books, of course—people, events, places, movies. Books have a special niche of hinge importance, though--especially to people of my generation, who did not have access to more modern forms of input when we were in our hinge years--because they take time. If a book has hinge importance, you don’t just glimpse it, you ingest it. And you may go back to it time and again…
Here are my hinge books:
TRAMP, THE SHEEP DOG by Don Lang, pictures by Kurt Wiese.
THE PREACHER AND HIS AUDIENCE, By Webb Garrison
JESUS OF NAZARETH by Gunther Bornkamm.
MAN’S NEED AND GOD’S ACTION by Reuel Howe
IDENTITY & THE LIFE CYCLE by Erik H. Erikson
THE IMMENSE JOURNEY by Loren Eiseley
GUILT, ANGER, AND GOD by C. Fitzsimmons Allison
PROFESSION: MINISTER by James Glasse
LOVE, MEDICINE, AND MIRACLES by Bernie Siegel
JESUS, A NEW VISION by Marcus Borg
BIOGRAPHY AS THEOLOGY by Wm. McCutcheon
That is too long a list to explore at one time, so I’m going to do only one book per column. Today it is… TRAMP, THE SHEEP DOG by Don Lang, pictures by Kurt Wiese.
Animals are good story stand-ins for children, and dogs were especially good stand-ins for me when I was a child. I think almost all my childhood tears were shed for courageous dogs that sacrificed themselves for others.
I still remember the terrific, and losing effort, I made when I saw Lassie’s bloody footprints on the rocks in “Lassie, Come Home,” at the Tacoma Theater on Washington St. in Indianapolis when I was about six.
[I suspect that movie was the occasion of my appreciation of older women, via Elizabeth Taylor, who was about ten then, but she was soon replaced in my fantasies by the more age-appropriate Margaret O’Brien. That, though, is a different story.]
Tramp and Lassie set the context for the sacrificial theology and psychology that I practiced most of my life. I not only understood Jesus as a sacrifice for salvation, so that others could live, but I experienced that sacrifice. I had lived sacrifice, through Don Lang’s evocation of the noble Tramp, who was misunderstood and disrespected and actively despised by the very people he was trying to save. Tramp was “…despised and rejected by men… acquainted with sorrow… We esteemed him not…” [Isaiah 53:3] That theology became the template not only for my theology but for my own personal psychology.
In these, my latter years, I have a lot of questions and doubts about the relevance and even necessity of substitutionary atonement, but I have no doubt about the importance of Tramp to those sheep he saved, and to me.
Ralph Sockman famously said about hinges: “The hinge of history is on a stable door in Bethlehem.”