A One-Word Controversy

hello, I have a question pertaining to, The Stuff of Stars.  I have not read it, but I just saw a posting about Ekua Holmes’ illustrator award & it brought me to some reviews. One quoted the book… “in the deep, deep dark a speck floated, invisible as thought, weighty as God,”

I thought the book was in support of the Big Bang theory, but I read the quote & wondered why God was mentioned.   I’m sure if I had the book, I’d have a better understanding.  Will you please shed some light?

Thanks!

 

Juliette

The Stuff of Stars

Dear Juliette,

Yes, I used the word God in The Stuff of Stars.  And yes, The Stuff of Stars supports scientific concepts about the way our universe came into being.  But the two are not incompatible.  Only those whose belief is so narrow that they are convinced God can’t exist unless the beautiful stories of the Bible are taken as statements of fact see science and the concept of God as incompatible.

I am not, in fact, a theist myself, but there is no word in the English language that carries more weight than the word God.  So that’s the one I chose.  “Weighty as God.”  I knew using that word would create controversy, and when my agent presented the manuscript to the editor, I had him ask her if she wanted that word to stand.  She said, “Yes.”  So the word “God” is out there, touching some readers deeply and upsetting others.  And when I go back to examine that opening line, I can’t imagine a better way to bring my readers to a feeling of awe before an unfolding universe, which is exactly what I want.

If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on this topic, check out the blogs on my website, www.mariondanebauer.com.  Scroll down through the titles of past blogs to find one called “The Stuff of Opinion.”  That touches on this same subject.

I wish you well in all ways, Juliette, and I hope this helps to answer your question.  I appreciate your taking the time to ask it.

Best,  Marion

 

I was, indeed, glad to have the question asked.  I only wish I could have answered it for a larger audience, which is why I’m bringing the discussion here.

When a book comes into the world, it takes on its own life.  Little of what happens to it or is said about it even filters back to the book’s creators.  I have had occasional hints of the hum set off by my choosing that most controversial of all words, but I have little opportunity to defend my choice.

As I said to Juliette, I am not a theist.  Much of what gets attached to the concept of God—all knowing, all powerful, judging, controlling, even loving—makes me itch.  But having grown-up in a Christian church and having once lived the better-be-quiet-about-what-you-really-believe role of a pastor’s wife, I have thought long and hard about the meaning of the word.

And I’ve come to decide, as a word person, not a theologian, that I like it.  I like it precisely because nothing has more weight in our language than the word God.  I can’t think of another that carries the same force.  Universe, when it’s used instead, doesn’t touch it.  Life force conveys the concept, but without feeling attached.

I no longer identify as Christian, but I love the Christian concept of Incarnation.  Not as a one-time event, but as an every-time event.  And I love equally Quaker theology that speaks of God in us.  The two are the same.  They tell us that human life, that all life is sacred.

These days our public schools are trying rather belatedly to maintain our constitution’s standard of the separation of church and state.  As they struggle with that task, though, I wish separation weren’t automatically equated with exclusion, with no-discussion-possible, with slam the door on all potentially “religious” words and concepts and keep it locked.  I wish The Stuff of Stars could be presented along with the question, “What do you suppose the author meant by ‘weighty as God’?  Can you think of some other comparison that would work as well?”

I can’t, but certainly others will.

And so I used the God-word in a picture book.  I used it, not being a believer myself in any traditional sense, in order to present a vision of our Universe as vital, alive, holy.

A vision that might even save our fragile existence on this planet if we only take it seriously enough.

 

4 thoughts on “A One-Word Controversy

  1. sarahsbookreflections

    Interesting comment and discussion, Marion. I just presented a brief paper entitled “Ruminations on God,” positing that one does not have to believe in a particular theology to believe that some supernatural being had a hand in developing the Universe. Sarah

    Reply
    1. Marion Dane Bauer

      Interesting, Sarah. And I would posit that we can look on the creation of the universe with reverence and awe, with or without any sense of the supernatural. Nature is itself so filled with mystery, and the deeper we go into the mystery the more mysterious it is, that I need nothing larger.

      Reply
  2. Deborah Kauffman Miller

    So beautifully and weightily defended, Marion. How true that the two concepts, Big Bang and God, are not incompatible. Not if one can think in metaphor, allegory, and simile—which I think is how The Stuff of Stars uses the God-word. The book is my new favorite gift to families of all ages, but especially those with new borns. So far it has gotten rave reviews from all my people.
    Beautiful language. Beautiful paintings. Win/Win!

    Reply

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