Scott Cairns: Words lead you to ideas
I was born into a fairly fundamentalist Baptist group, very conservative, and I guess was oblivious to the alternatives.
Then when I went away to college, I started reading a little more and meeting other people and my world grew a little, and I found that sort of cranky faith untenable and found a little more generous version of it among the Presbyterians.
In time, I became more interested in sacramental theology and a sense of the world as being worthy of our attention and of our care. This was concurrent with my having discovered rabbinic genres of text — in particular, midrashim.
I was awakened to a different attitude toward words; the words themselves became stuff, and not just names for stuff.
Q: That would be appealing to someone who is a poet.
Right. And so there was a time period, a brief period, when I was actually visiting with my rabbi to study Judaism as if I might actually convert. It seemed to me that this understanding of words was true — a much truer understanding of how words worked, what words are, than the sort of referential activity that I had just assumed that words were limited to doing.
But then about that time I came upon Syriac Christianity, which is also Semitic in its understanding of words. So here we have a Christian community, Orthodox community since the earliest centuries of the church who also shared this Semitic understanding of how words are things and do things.
Their own readerly habits of opening texts, scriptural texts in particular, was more nearly that of the rabbis, and so I found a kind of meeting place for my two loves — language and Christ
The whole interview is excellent: Read it here…