So I’ve been struggling trying to come up with what to write for a final post. I mentioned to a majority of you in class that I am interested in writing on Morrison’s discourse on religion. This made me decide to go on a hunt to see if I could find Bible references that correspond with Morrison’s works, as her works clearly focus on western religion.
The first thing I thought of were the eyebrows in both Morrison’s Paradise and Dante’s Paradiso. The only mention of eyebrows i found in the Bible was in Deuteronomy 14:1: “You are the children of the LORD your God: you shall not cut yourselves, nor make any bald place on your foreheads for the dead” (NKJV). We see that not only did the eyebrows gain special attention in the works we read, but even Jewish law forbade the shaving of them, as if they are sacred.
I then got curious about what verses might have influenced both Dante and Morrison in their mutual theme of judgement. One of the best fitting verses was Proverbs 21:1:
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the LORD weighs the hearts” (NKJV).
Dante’s journey is a list of people who defend their morality, Morrison’s characters, particularly in Paradise fight for their interpretation of the phrase on the Oven’s meaning. However, both novels assure us that no mortal can be fully sure of whether their beliefs are more sound than another’s. Just as the Jesus himself warns, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1 NKJV).
I also became curious on what verses I could find to parallel Pulliam and Misner’s debate on love in “Divine.” Pulliam asserts that “Love is not a gift. It is a diploma” (Morrison 141). You can only gain the love of God by being righteous and following the rules. This parallels Jesus’ words in John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (NKJV). Pulliam also exclaims that “Couples that […] are not willing to get right with the real love of God cannot thrive” (Morrison 142). That you cannot be successful as a married couple without this righteous love of God. The writer of 1 Corinthians 7 goes even further, saying that being married will negatively affect your ability to follow God.
When Misner chooses to hold the cross in front of the congregation, he silently parallels a recurring theme in the new testament that Jesus is the ultimate example of love. 1 John 3:16 asserts, “By this we know love, because He [Jesus] laid down His life for us” (NKJV). Misner notes to himself that without the cross Christians are “a population of supplicants begging respite from begrudging authority” and that his simple holding of the cross “made it possible to respect—freely, not in fear—one’s self and one another” (Morrison 146). We see this thinking paralleled in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (NKJV). What we see is the idea that love is antithetical to fear.
While this post really only covers the parallels between Paradise and the Bible, we easily could continue this pattern to talk about themes throughout the other novels we read. Western religion has been in the subtext of so much that we read in a way that exceeds the parallels between Dante. But throughout it all, Morrison is more concerned with the choice of individuals over the ideals of one religion over another. As she closes A Mercy: “It was not a miracle. Bestowed by God. It was a mercy. Offered by a human” (Morrison 271).