A friend of mine gave me a box full of Evelyn Waugh books about a two months ago. I brought them home, reached deep into the musty box and pulled out Brideshead Revisited. I had never read the book. My only previous exposure was the movie poster at the local Borders books.
From the opening page I was captivated. I must admit that, at times, my somewhat redneck sensibilities were shaken… what is with this bunch of flaming homosexuals?! But the plot continued to draw me into its impressive unfolding of God’s grace amidst hard providences. This is not evangelical happy-clappy. I was floored by the eucatastrophe, the transcendent mix of sorrow and joy which inspires us to tears as we consider the greater glory of our heavenly inheritance, even against the competing claims of various earthly allegiances, some noble (family, inheritance, tradition, aristocracy) some vain (the pleasures of the bottle, the flesh, and the “new”.
Where is the body of Protestant literature that grasps the deep, biblical piety that Waugh expresses in Brideshead Revisited? Could it be that evangelical culture cannot stand to much reality? Although Reformed Protestants embrace our Augustinian heritage, do we embrace the tragic implications of earthly loves inextricably tied to the fortunes of the city of man even as we struggle to reorient our hearts toward our higher allegiance to the Heavenly City? Where is the literary proof? Where is the Protestant sense of the tragic?
Brideshead begins and ends amidst the wasteland. World War II with all its centralizing destructions was shredding the very fabric of the world that protagonist Charles Ryder finds himself to drawn toward and repulsed by. But the wasteland is not only the product of the external forces of war and modernity, but spiritual rebellion and the excess of our baser desires. The world is broken. Our lives are broken. Even great families fall. Great estates are lost. Even our most noble earthly loves are fixed upon things passing away. All is vanity. Everything is dust. BUT… even in the midst of wasteland, God grace shines forth and Christ’s rule over tragic providences is affirmed. He will fix all that is now broken.
Good stuff. Read the book.