Stick To Fiction?

by Dish Staff

Paul Seaton pans novelist Marilynne Robinson’s political commentary, claiming that her “high intelligence and humane sensibility seem to flee her when she looks to her right”:

In literary terms, Marilynne Robinson is a national treasure. In political terms, not so much. “When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid,” as the nursery rhyme has it. Robinson might not even mind my saying that, by the way. As an essayist she deliberately tries to make countercultural moves, intellectually and spiritually.

Unfortunately, Robinson’s political views as expressed in her latest collection, When I Was a Child I Read Books, are far from countercultural if by that we mean unusual. They’re off-the-shelf liberal. Like her hero, President Obama, she is disinclined to be fair to those who disagree with her—social conservatives, Tea Partiers, Republicans, the Right. Social conservative concerns for the moral standards and social fabric of the country, reasonable apprehensions about entitlements, the national debt, the injustice of burdening following generations because of our shirking of responsibility, and serious concerns about constitutional infidelity, become distorted by her into ungenerosity and rank partisanship.

Carl Scott adds:

Robinson, a Calvinist, is arguably a product of an earlier time, but it remains significant that our liberal churches provide a religious home for people like her. It is out of such churches, I dare to hope, that there may come the leaders necessary to reform/moderate/cleanse the Democratic Party, or at least one wing of it, if the hour for that long-needed movement ever arrives. And she is of course right that there is a deep connection between modern democracy and Calvinism, as our Ralph Hancock has explored.

Peter Lawler also offers measured appreciation for some of her ideas:

Robinson’s narrative is about the authentically Puritanical American Left, which wouldn’t, of course, be embraced by most of our liberals today. I wish more of today’s Christian leftists would at least join her battle against scientism, against those who deny the real existence of the wondrous love that’s at the foundation of the truth about human exceptionalism. The ”social justice” emphasis of our liberal churches these days gives little to no attention to the actual theology she’s recovered that once justified generous political progressivism.