Writer ruminates on being caught between Updike and Moses

David Heddendorf’s “Updike or Moses?” was published in the Lent 2019 issue of The Cresset: A review of literature, the arts, and public affairs, in which he writes,

“Updike and [Muriel] Spark professed their Christian faith openly, but spent most of their time, by all accounts, with other famous authors. They wrote for The New Yorker, went to swanky parties, enjoyed the pastimes their wealth and celebrity allowed. They squeezed church into the margins of their glamorous lives, when they went at all. They discussed Christianity in interviews, and sometimes dealt with theological issues in their books, but faith didn’t help determine their circle of acquaintance the way it does for me and many people I know. They soared high above the tacky music, the trite poetry, the innocently insulting questions.”

He quotes Updike (“I enjoyed the anti-bohemian gesture of my deadpan churchgoing,” with its “less than half-hearted” emotional involvement) and summarizes,

“Moses and Updike frame the dilemma I’ve confronted all my life—a dilemma I suspect many Christian artists and intellectuals share. We can fulfill, like Updike, the demands of our art or research, keeping among like-minded peers and neglecting the fellowship of believers. Or we can identify with the people of God, many of whom don’t understand or even respect what we [writers] do. Achievement and gratification apart from the Christian community, or an embrace of that community while living with the mediocrity and a kind of exile—is this the choice we face?”

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