The New York Times on Christian Wiman’s Bright Abyss

It is not often that a memoir recounting an individual’s conversion to the Christian faith is hailed by the New York Times as “a daring and urgent book.” Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss appears to be that rare kind of volume in which an individual’s journey to (or back to) Christianity is expressed with universal resonance. Here’s an excerpt from Kathleen Norris’ review:

“In reflecting on the meaning of Christ’s passion for his own life, Wiman finds that it reveals that ‘the absolutely solitary and singular nature of extreme human pain is an illusion.’ It is the resolutely incarnational nature of the religion that draws him in. ‘I am, such as I am, a Christian,’ he writes, ‘because I can feel God only through physical existence, can feel his love only in the love of other people.’ His love for his wife and children, he realizes, is both human and entirely sacred. And here the poet comes to the fore, insisting on the right to embrace contradiction without shame. ‘I believe in absolute truth and absolute contingency, at the same time. And I believe that Christ is the seam soldering together these wholes that our half vision — and our entire clock-bound, logic-locked way of life — shapes as polarities.'”

Though, according to Norris, “some contemporary readers may be scandalized by Wiman’s opting to be a common Christian, relinquishing the elite status of the artist in Western culture,” Wiman seems more than relieved to have laid this down. After all, it is only at the center of Christianity that we find God himself laying aside his “elite status” to become a commoner, a criminal, and ultimately a crucified savior. As a result, we are never alone in our commonality or our suffering. Or as Wiman puts it, “The point is that God is with us, not beyond us, in suffering.”

Wiman’s My Bright Abyss is available from Amazon. And you may also be interested in a recent talk given by Wiman at Christ Church Charlottesville which is available for download over at Mockingbird.