Stevie Smith And Christianity Essay Research Paper

Stevie Smith And Christianity Essay, Research Paper

Detecting the kernel of Christianity is excessively varied and diverse a subject for anyone to trap to entirely one definition. How one approaches the subject of Christianity is frequently in conformity to their personal foundations of spiritual belief. Sometimes these beliefs are profoundly seeded during childhood so, as kids mature into grownups, they seldom uncertainty that which has been taught to them for so many old ages. English poet, Florence Margaret Smith, was non one of these persons. Smith, more popularly known by her moniker? Stevie? , was raised in and around the Catholic faith and Christian tradition for many old ages but still grappled with many issues environing the Christian church and the heralded divinity they called Lord. Stevie Smith wrote theologically inspired poesy because she was an existential philosopher who was trying to understand the Christian environment while Christianity had shifted from the existential philosopher? s point of position.

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To be an ontological existential philosopher, one must? take part in a state of affairs, particularly a cognitive state of affairs, with the whole of one? s being? , harmonizing to Paul Tillich, German philosopher, theologian, and writer of Courage to Be ( 124 ) . Operating within this definition, Smith would be obligated to interact within the substructure of Christianity. She would hold to go to church on Sunday forenoons, visit with aged adult females at sociables after the service, and passionately immerse herself in at least one Bible survey class offered within the? House of the Lord? , for a important sum of clip. However, Tillich does non merely province one must go physically involved in any given state of affairs to be marked as an existential philosopher, but become involved? with the whole of one? s being? in a? cognitive state of affairs? . Smith is required at this point to wholly environ herself, physically and mentally with the Christian tradition and all it represents to her and for others.

Historically, Smith was rather involved both cognitively and physically with the Christian kingdom of the universe from her baptism as an baby straight through to her funeral in the Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity. She did non look to hold scurried off from the Christian universe and divinities that surrounded this faith? s character. Smith was cognizant of the presence of the Christian tradition and even the being of a holy omnipotent someplace beyond where mortal eyes can see. She had cognition of that presence. Tillich stated, ? An experiential cognition is a cognition in which these elements, and hence the whole being of him who knows, take part? ( 124 ) . Smith had cognition of her milieus within a Christian society and was deriving bravery to be as herself within that environment.

She was unsure, nevertheless, of where she fit into a brave function of being staunchly independent and openly proud to be who she was. For at the same clip she had discovered experiential cognition was a cardinal to understanding if she could merely acquire involved within its construction. Soon she would larn a disheartening truth. ? In all experiential cognition, both topic and object are transformed by the really act of cognizing? ( 124 ) . She discovered the one truth she could ever trust on. This was that by looking for the truth, one ever unwittingly changes it. By seeking for replies within the substructure, the merchandise merely dampened her liquors.

Therefore she began coping within her poesy sing the thought that we? are able to exceed, in cognition and life, the finiteness, alienation, and the ambiguities of human being? ( 125 ) . She focused many of her poetic subjects towards the credence of Death toward her place in life. ? Come Death? and? Tender Merely to One? are both graphic illustrations of how Smith seemed to dislike life and twit Death to get at her doorsill and take her off from this universe and the confusing Christian Lord.

She lyrically proclaims in? Come Death? , a verse form within the New Selected Poems of Stevie Smith, ? Ah me, sweet Death, you are the lone God / Who comes as a retainer when he is called, you know / Listen so to this sound I make, it is crisp, / Come Death. Make non be slow? ( Smith 146 ) . Smith is imploring the hastiness of Death to her bedside in an effort to get the better of the mortal restraints Christians suffer when seeking to understand who God is. By ask foring Death, she entirely took comfort in the one invariable everyone on Earth will hold upon, which is the fact death is the one thing every homo has in common. As opposed to seting her religion in a debated theory, Smith turned to the dependability of the Reaper. However, Smith could ne’er wholly turn a deaf ear to the topic of God and His affect on her life.

A longtime personal friend of Smith? s, Reverend Gerald Irvine, declared, ? One could state she did non like the God of Christian orthodoxy, but she could non ignore Him or of all time rather conveying herself to discredit in Him? ( MacGibbon 9 ) . In that mode of thought, Smith was non on a congruous page as the Lord of Christian orthodoxy, but apparently she was congruent at some point in her younger life. Thus it is reasonably obvious either Smith or the Church altered their waies so as to go non-congruent.

Stevie Smith appears to hold attempted to divide but became ensnared in a web of religion, God, and Christianity. In an effort to extricate these three rubrics, she became a baffled and at bay adult female in bonds of theological theory and scriptural reading, which wound around her weaponries and legs, drawing her toward a cognitive imprisonment. In the existential philosopher? s point of position, with respects to the Fall of Man as described in the Old Testament, adult male had fallen out of favour with God and had hence going something other that what he had been created as. Plato stated, ? Man is separated from what he basically is in the conceptual universe? ( Tillich 127 ) . Experiential divinity interprets this act as to intend adult male is basically good due to the fact the indispensable nature of adult male was good at the clip of the godly creative activity. Stevie Smith, believing as an existential philosopher, would besides believe humanity is by and large good in their Black Marias and non meriting of a fire and native sulfur infinity of snake pit and damnation.

John Mahoney, writer of Sing Into the Life of Thingss: Essaies on Religion and Literature, thought Smith was unhappy with the manner people had begun to see God in the context of faith and religion. ? Stevie bemoans what work forces and adult females have made of God, how they have shaped institutional constellations that belie the pureness of the message, how they have twisted God? s words into Byzantine and austere credos of good and evil, heaven and snake pit, wagess and penalties, into a ban, otherworldly asceticism? ( Mahoney 324 ) . Smith had made a differentiation between a God who had created the Earth and the God that was worshipped in the church edifices on Sunday forenoons by flocks of Christians.

Stevie Smith responds to this type of worship in a verse form she wrote entitled, ? Our Bog is Dood? . Within this verse form, the talker tells a narrative of meeting a group of indigens who believe blindly there Bog is dood? because we wish it so / That is adequate, they cried. . . And if you do non believe it so / You shall be crucified? ( Smith, 58 ) . She inquiries their commitment to this divinity and leaves them confused in their definitions of goodness and their God, upon which they ne’er agreed. The talker slyly rejoinders, ? Oh sweet it was to go forth them so / And sweeter non to see / And sweetest of all to walk entirely / Beside the infringing sea / The sea that shortly should submerge them all / That ne’er yet drowned me? ( 59 ) . Without any effort to aide these persons in coming to some kind of decision or realisation about their God, the talker at leisure exits the scenario to walk by the side of the impending crestless wave of the sea that has proved to make nil more than envelope those who are nescient of the secret the talker implies to possess.

Although it is non needfully a good thought to read every piece of literature as a narrative voice straight reflective of the writer, in this case, Smith? s personal history tends to back up this stylistic comparing. The indigens are most surely representative of the Christians Stevie Smith has met along her journeys in life who have naively accepted

the? goodness? of God without inquiring what that genuinely means to their beliefs and how such a belief survives in the universe they live in mundane. This was an imperfectness of the church as an establishment, which is something Stevie came to acknowledge as no longer portion of God, but as portion of adult male who had tainted his message of love and credence.

Sanford Sternlicht, professor at Syracuse University and writer of Stevie Smith, noted, ? She was increasingly disillusioned by Christianity. She saw dishonesty in the churches, and disagreed with the conventional concept of God as demeaning, vain, covetous, vindictive, ( or ) tidal bore to give the inexperienced person? ( Sternlicht 106 ) . This easy developed antipathy for Christianity did non come out of her incredulity in God, merely in the God who was presented to her by those involved in a peculiar faith. Smith was non an atheist, and she even one time mentioned to a friend, ? how really imperfect an agnostic I am? ( Barbera 214 ) . However, as an imperfect agnostic and a non-atheist, one is merely left the option that she is a Christian, which is besides a term she chose non to tie in herself with really frequently at all.

As a affair of fact, Smith was so abhorred by the confounding thoughts adopted and supported by Christian religion that she created a verse form, for which she has become known, entitled? Oh Christianity Christianity? . This verse form features multiple inquiries posed to God that He does non reply. Smith ponders, ? How could he take our wickednesss upon Him? / . . . Was he atrocious? Did he experience guilty? / ( because if he was ) Man without wickedness? Perfect Man without wickedness is non what we are? ( Smith 102 ) . These inquiries Smith brought up trade to a great extent with wickedness and decease and the rewards thereof and how Jesus, the perfect boy of God and Son of Man, was able to take on mortal wickednesss and live as a mortal homo.

Once once more, existential philosophy has polluted this state of affairs because one time Jesus became a knowing single wholly cognitively entranced in His state of affairs, he changed the fortunes from what they were. Thus is the logic of the existential philosopher. For Jesus to hold come down to Earth and behaved as though He were mortal, Smith would reason He needed to non be informed who is Father was. No mortal boasted familial blood from the venas of the Lord of the Universe so this gave Jesus an unjust advantage to being a person over others on Earth.

Smith hosts multiple sums of inquiries about Christianity and the churches and why no 1 within the church answers her inquiries. The reply to that lies in the reaction of churches in the last century. Many churches have easy veered off from the word of the Lord as set Forth in the Bible, leting them to be governed by a political office as opposed to the Old and New Testaments. Smith? s ailment with the church was its? continual separation from the Lord and perusal of the Word as opposed to a more breakaway impression back uping the revelatory instructions of Revelation and the snake pit that can be sent down my God to strike down those who doubt God.

In the same manner Stevie Smith took some clip to acquire to cognize herself and hold the bravery to be herself, it is likewise that manner with those who are coming to the Lord. Smith struggles with constructs of the Lord because she does non cognize the Lord and it is virtually impossible to keep one on one conversation with Him so as to acquire to cognize who He is and what His program for us is. Smith must trust on the instructions of the priests and reverends in the churches she disagrees with due to the stuff and rather non-existential attitude hosted by the churches during her life-time.

Stevie Smith is endeavoring to happen the truth in a universe where it is better to be safe than truthful. Harmonizing to Paul Tillich, ? Christian divinity should make up one’s mind for truth against safety, even if safety is consecrated and supported by the churches? ( Tillich 141 ) . Some faiths have strayed from the thought of relaying God? s word to crowding others to one cardinal church location and Smith feels as though God is acquiring left behind in the native sulfur and damnation addresss utilized to pull crowds and convey the multitudes to church.

So this poet tried to pass on with the God of the Christian orthodox somewhat otherwise. She wrote verse form after verse form naming upon Him, demanding he talk, even talking for Him one time. Michael Tathum, writer of That One Must Speak Lightly, quoted Smith as holding said her end as? a poet was to prolong a duologue with God in which there was no pretence that a comfy response was possible? ( Tathum 323-4 ) . Speak she did, legion times in legion ways, each clip expecting a possible response other than the soiled looks she received from Christians on the church church benchs who were appalled she would even try to inquiry God.

In response to negative reactions Smith received from Christians, Paul Tillich stated, ? One does non experience spiritually threatened by something which is non an component of oneself? ( Tillich 141 ) . Stating that were true, so each Christian Stevie Smith met besides harbored their uncertainties about the church organisation or about Christianity itself. Smith does non look to nor is there any grounds to back up that she does non believe in God wholly. Likewise, those who felt threatened by her comfort of ego and willingness to inquiry were non instantly doomed persons who did non believe in God, they merely desired to research another avenue of Godhead analysis. Smith did non want to analyse whether or non God existed, instead why He did what He chose to make and why we as His people seem to be losing what our intent is here on Earth.

French republics Spalding, writer of Stevie Smith, argues Stevie was nearing subjects with a scheme, ? confined within the countries of rational discourse? sing capable affairs, ? that belong in the linguistic communication of religion? ( Spalding 242 ) . Possibly Spalding is right. Possibly Smith is knifing indiscriminately into the dark to seek to do sense of the Christianity, God, and the function of the two in her life either together or separate. However, Smith was most likely intelligent plenty to hold been familiar with the analogy of comparing apples to oranges and she knew better than to set affairs of religion into sound logistical replies and vice-versa. Stevie Smith was merely seeking to do sense of a universe easy going devoid of church and God in the lone manner she knew how. Her existentialist positions are no longer applicable to the successful shelf life of a church fold.

Smith believed humanity was full of by and large good persons. She believed God was a by and large good God, who desired to assist and non ache those who were made in His image at the clip of the godly creative activity. She did non believe that the church was the most appropriate locale for distributing God? s word due to their clang of presentation manners, she being an existential philosopher and many churches shying off from that signifier of prophesying manner today.

By oppugning the motivations of God and the grounds as to why something has been done on Earth, Stevie Smith came across to many readers as an atheist without any involvement in the Christian God. Stevie Smith dared to look beyond what was handed to her. She pressed the bounds of what was socially acceptable within her category and position, declining to accept what was handed to her and accept it on the footing that everyone else was. She refused to be a native intonation that her God was good without truly cognizing if He was. She refused to jump into an ocean that had consumed so many others without cognizing whether or non she desired to be at that place in the first topographic point. As an existential philosopher, she knew who she was and what she believed in and refused to compromise her beliefs for anyone or anything irrespective of how unacceptable her action seemed to be.

Barbera, Jack and William McBrien. STEVIE. New York: Oxford University Press,


Mahoney, John L. Seeing Into the Life of Thingss: Essaies on Religion and Literature.

New York: Fordham University Press, 1998.

Smith, Stevie. New Selected Poems of Stevie Smith. New York: New Directions

Printing Company, 1937.

Spalding, Frances. Stevie Smith. New York: W.W. Norton & A ; Company, 1988.

Sternlicht, Sanford. Stevie Smith. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.


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