Tanya and Wendell were generous hosts who made myself and my two companions - Kaya Oakes and my wife Kim - feel very welcome (I arranged the meeting with Wendell Berry because Kaya shares a publisher with him, and she was in town to teach a class for the M.A. in Spirituality program, which I direct). Our conversation revolved around the state of higher education, farming, marriage, publishing, and Kentucky. And after I mentioned to him that I use his novel, Jayber Crow, in my introductory theology class, we ended up having what I hope was a mutually enriching conversation about the Trinity and the importance of having a truly incarnational theology. "Are you an incarnational theologian?" he asked me, and when I said that I was, I saw a glimmer of relief in his eyes. His concern was that I, as a theologian, might bear some resemblance to the beauty-in-the-world-denying preachers about whom he so frequently rails. Indeed, when I was later briefly out of the room, Wendell looked over at Kim and said, "Well, I'm enjoying this quite a bit more than I thought I would." I was not one of those theologians!
Many others like myself understand Wendell Berry to be a theologian himself, and our conversation about the Trinity revolved around the theological insights found in Jayber Crow. What I said to him about his book is essentially what I wrote on this blog in 2012, so I'll conclude by cutting and pasting my previous thoughts:
Jayber Crow community known
“I imagined that the right name [for God] might be Father, and I imagined all that that name would imply: the love, the compassion, the taking offense, the disappointment, the anger, the bearing of wounds, the weeping of tears, the forgiveness, the suffering unto death. If love could force my own thoughts over the edge of the world and out of time, then could I not see how even divine omnipotence might by the force of its love be swayed down into the world? Could I not see how it might, because it could know its creatures only by compassion, put on moral flesh, become a man, and walk among us, assume our nature and our fate, suffer our faults and our death?
Yes. And I could imagine a Father who is yet like a mother hen spreading her wings before the storm or in the dusk before the dark night for the little ones of Port William to come in under, some of whom do, and some do not. I could imagine Port William riding its humble wave through time under the sky, its little flames of wakefulness lighting and going out, its lives passing through birth, pleasure, suffering, and death. I could imagine God looking down upon it, its lives living by His spirit, breathing by His breath, knowing by His light, but each life living also (inescapably) by its own will - His own body given to be broken."