A Conversation With Madeleine L'Engle

By Heather Webb

Copyright © 1996 Mars Hill Review 4 · Winter/Spring: pgs 51-65.

Madeleine L'Engle is the author of more than thirty books and has won eight distinguished awards for her writing. Two more books are forthcoming, Penguins and Golden Calves and A Live Coal in the Sea. She is well known for her books for children (most notably A Wrinkle in Time), for young adults, and in a variety of genres for adults. She is also renowned for her writings, teachings, and seminars on faith and art, combining spirituality and creativity. She has an office at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, where she has held the position of librarian since 1966.

Not easily categorized, Madeleine speaks to a varied audience both within the without the church. She is outspoken enough to defy labels, and her writings keep her readers from clinging to a false sense of security in easy theology. As she says, "The life-giving, life-saving story is a true story that transcends facts."

Despite a ferocious blizzard, Madeleine invited me to her apartment for lunch. An energetic, gracious woman of seventy-seven years, she offered me nourishment for both body and soul. Her modern attire reflected her openness to new ideas, direction, and discoveries in the world of science and fantasy. Her rooms were warm and inviting, yet elegant with antique furniture, a grand piano, large oil paintings, and interesting decor. She had a regal air of self-assurance, and her responses to my questions were direct and crisp.

Mars Hill Review: You mentioned that you have two new books.

Madeleine L'Engle: Right now I'm not working on anything, which is very frustrating. But, yes, the two new books are coming out. I just sent in the final galleys for one, and I've got to send in the others this weekend.

Penguins and Golden Calves is about icons and idols. And the novel A Live Coal in the Sea is from William Langland, who wrote in 1400, "All the wickedness in the world that man might do or say was no more to the mercy of God than a live coal dropped in the sea." A wonderful quotation. In a world where we don't have a lot of mercy and we need lots of mercy, I think it's a good title.

I have two fiction books and a nonfiction book I want to write, so I can't wait to work. I haven't even turned the computer on!

MHR: How do you like computers?

ML: They're what we have. I think it's silly to have to do five things instead of one to do what I want. Instead of pushing five keys, I could push one. I think it's wasteful, but it's there, so I use it.

MHR: I know many people balk at having to use them.

ML: I got my first typewriter when I was ten. My father gave me his old one. I've been using one machine after another. After I'd written several novels, my agent called and asked my husband, "Can't you afford to buy Madeleine a new typewriter?" So I got an electric, then a Selectric, then a computer.

MHR: Have you heard of the new voice-activated computers? You could speak your novels.

ML: I could speak mail, but not novels. I make novels with my hands, not with my mouth.

MHR: Do the hands know more than the mouth?

ML: Very definitely. The hands don't like for us to work from the head. Particularly with fiction, it's important to get out of the brain mode and into the intuition. Hands are better at that than the mouth.

If I'm really writing, I have to get on the other side of intellect. I don't abandon it, I just get on the other side of it. The only time my mouth works really well is when I'm giving a talk or question-and-answer forum, because then I don't have time to think or go through the whole intellectual process.

MHR: Is there a difference between the creative processes you use in writing fiction and poetry?

ML: Poetry is very different. I've written very little poetry since my husband died. Last summer I was traveling in Ireland and Scotland, and I wrote twelve sonnets. They just flowed out. With a novel, I can sit down and write deliberately, but poetry sort of has to come to me. I'm not a terribly good poet.

MHR: How would you define a good poet?

ML: Most of my real poet friends putter around with each poem for weeks on end. I don't do that. When I write a poem, I just leave it there. If I've written a poem, I've written a poem.

MHR: That seems more like the definition of inspiration-it just happens.

ML: With a sonnet, you're given such a firm structure that once it's done you're not likely to change much. And I like my little sonnets. They've been my mode lately.

MHR: In Two-Part Invention you speak eloquently of your marriage. I know that many others who've struggled with losing a spouse identify with your writings. How has your grief evolved or changed?

ML: I was talking with a friend who lost her husband less than a year ago. I told her, "I miss my husband just as much today." She said, "I'm not sure I like that." I said, "Yes, you do. You don't want to stop missing him."

I spent forty years of my life with my husband. He's still a part of me. I have a very full life and a lot of good friends and a part-time apartment mate. But I very definitely still miss what I had.

MHR: In Walking on Water you write: "In art . . . we are helped to remember some of the glorious things that we have forgotten and some of the terrible things we are asked to endure . . . ." How well is the church doing the latter-remembering some of the terrible things we are asked to endure-in our efforts at art?

ML: Not well at all. Actually, the church I attend is pretty good with the arts. It's a very young church. A lot of the people coming in are young people who are trying to break into theater or dance or art of some kind. There are a lot of artists involved, so we have regular exhibitions and evening performances. The arts are thought of fairly kindly.

This is very liberating for a number of the young people, because many have come from evangelical backgrounds where art is considered to be non-Christian and wicked. Did you know that in this century an actor could not be buried in consecrated ground? I think that changed with World War I. Actors were always considered immoral. No nice person had anything to do with the theater.

MHR: Has that improved with time?

ML: It has improved in a sense. When I was married, I was removed from the social register because I married an actor. Actors are in the social register today, but that wasn't true in 1946. In the evangelical world, art is being discovered. In the fundamentalist world, it's still seen as wicked. That's such a loss.

MHR: In regard to some of the directions our society is moving, art seems the only medium left to reach people with truth in a novel way.

ML: Out of three plays I saw this week, two were revivals. More than half the plays on Broadway are revivals. What's wrong?

I saw Racing Demon, which is a British play about the Church of England. I want to tell you, for anyone to make that subject fascinating is a triumph. But the play is also very depressing. It doesn't give you much hope for the Church of England.

MHR: Could you speak a bit about beauty as it directs us to God and to love others?

ML: I'm so lucky when I come home to be able to look out the window and see the river. There's a glorious sunset here. And I'm more aware of my responsibility toward other people because it is beautiful. If I lived in an apartment that had no view, it would cut off what I have to share. A lot of people in New York have a view that only looks out onto another building.

The Cathedral library is an island on the island, a beautiful place. It's gorgeous today in the snow. In the spring, there are literally hundreds of thousand of bulbs, and it's beautiful. I like it best in winter. In the summer, when the trees are leafed, I can't see it.

So, I'm in two nice spaces. I'm very lucky.

MHR: They sound like sanctuaries.

ML: When we moved into this apartment with eight rooms, four baths, and fourteen closets, it was $218. It was a rent-controlled building. We all voluntarily decontrolled, because we wanted a doorman and hot water. Then we bought the building. So it's a tenant-owned and -run building. And because we're a nonprofit organization, we're a government experiment in solar heating. Our hot water comes from the sun, which is no small perk.

MHR: That's a wonderful cooperative effort in the city.

ML: And you get to know people.

MHR: So you have neighbors-something few people have anywhere today.

ML: Yes, and particularly in the cities.

MHR: They seem a hard place to reach in many ways.

ML: That's basically why I go to church. I want the community.

MHR: And church is good at that?

ML: Almost everybody going to church is searching for something. I don't think the church is very good at handling our biggest issues. But if we don't go there, we can't make it work from the outside.

MHR: We need to be a part of what's changing the inside.

ML: We need to be there. For instance, a woman came to me after her twenty-seven-year-old son had died. She told me, "I can't pray. My friends think I'm terrible because I can't pray."

I said, "You don't have to pray. We're praying for you. That's what the body of Christ is all about." That's one thing we're good about in my church, although it does tend to be more to the right theologically than I am and than most people are.

This same woman told me at another time, "People think I'm terrible because I'm angry at God." I said, "Of course, you're angry-why not? Go ahead and be angry. Don't fret about it. Get on the other side of it. You can't avoid it, you can't go around it, so just go through it."

We need to be more honest with people about anger and all those things we're not "supposed" to feel. I don't know why people think we're not supposed to feel them.

MHR: In some ways we have more liberty to feel them, because we know that God can handle them and that there may be a purpose to all of it.

ML: When I wrote the book about my mother's last summer, one of the most prevalent responses I received was, "I didn't know I was allowed to be angry." And the biggest response to A Circle of Quiet was, "I didn't know I was allowed to doubt." All these are things we're told not to do. I never went to Sunday School, so I was spared a lot of the garbage.

MHR: You didn't have to unlearn those lessons. But were there still things to unlearn?

ML: There were still things to unlearn, although not as many. By the time I went back to church, I was more able to sort and sift, to have my own opinion and not feel guilty about it. I saw or read something recently in which one of the characters says, "The only reason anything gets done is guilt." We feel guilty, and then we try to do something about it.

MHR: That shouldn't be the way we're driven, but it often is, wouldn't you say?

ML: Yes, it is.

MHR: What I love about your work is that you've been able to speak to a whole realm of people, both within and without the Christian fold. I know that has caused you to have your share of critics. But your work still seems to have an appeal that isn't tied to just one group.

ML: People are still reaching for something. I receive over a hundred letters a week, and maybe only ten of them are from kids. Most of them are from older people who tell me their life stories. Sometimes they've gone through horrible things.

I don't write for a Christian audience. My understanding of the good news is that you're supposed to spread it, not keep it for those who already have it. Get it out there-it's okay to be angry, to doubt. It's fun!

MHR: It must feel somewhat strange to be a spiritual mentor-that people see you as someone who can direct them from afar.

ML: Yes, it does. The only way I can handle it is to answer a letter quickly, mail it, and let it go. Then forget it. I very deliberately forget it, because these are burdens I don't need to carry. Once I've answered the letter, I've done what I'm supposed to do.

MHR: Do you end up being able to answer all of those letters?

ML: I dictate them. There's no other way I can do it. A few of them I answer by hand, but mostly I dictate them.

I also write what I call my general epistles about every six weeks or so. They tell what's going on in my life, what books I'm writing, where I've been traveling-things I would normally tell. Why should I have to do it over and over again?

The epistles are never more than a page. A page's worth is all anybody ever wants to absorb.

MHR: In a sense, you have shepherded some of the flock who have found their way to you.

ML: I'm going back to Smith College again this year to speak to the students. I spoke there once to the kids whose mothers had read A Wrinkle in Time as little girls. Now this was the next generation, and that was very exciting. I'm old enough now to appear as a wise old woman, and that's a plus.

MHR: Obviously, people have been drawn to you in that capacity, as the wise elder or mentor. Do you disciple a few writers, or do you have time for that?

ML: I do a writers' workshop here in New York. It's one night a week for six consecutive weeks. Something absolutely wonderful came out of that. After the first workshop, which was about six or seven years ago, the writers didn't want to stop meeting, so they started meeting without me. Out of these groups there are now eight or nine small writers' groups, which meet regularly all the time. They've had stories published and they've done well and supported each other.

Every February we have a party for all the writers' groups. Now we're getting to the point where I don't think we can keep doing it, simply because there are too many people. Last year, if everybody had come there would've been a hundred people there. We have a date for this year, but we'll see what happens. I've made some really good friends from these groups. They're not just my students-they've become my friends.

MHR: The workshops seem to have been a way of passing down your art.

ML: Yes, and I do a couple of other workshops-one in a convent and one in a monastery. These are three-day, mini-writers' workshops, from Wednesday lunch through Friday lunch, followed by a retreat on the weekend. It's a nice rhythm to go from sound into silence.

I like doing all these workshops because they keep me aware of techniques that I might let slip if I weren't thinking about them for other people. I would have loved having something like that available when I was a young writer, but I didn't. So it's something I can offer.

MHR: Are the workshops open to the public?

ML: Yes. And not everyone involved is a Christian or even a theist. They come because they want to learn something about writing. Yet it's amazing-the writing is better in a Christian workshop context than in a secular one.

MHR: Why do you suppose that is?

ML: I don't know. I think people feel freer somehow. Also, I tend to use the Bible. I tend to say, "Take a woman in the Old Testament in a time of conflict and decision, and write a story about it." Most students don't know the Old Testament at all.

So they start off writing, and the next day I'll say, "Hand your story to the person on your left. Now, with a new story in each of your hands, rewrite that story from the point of view of somebody else in it." That gives the story point of view, which is one of the most difficult things for the beginning writer to be consistent with. They often slide in and out of point of view. But we've had some wonderful stories.

MHR: Do you usually read them at the end?

ML: We read them aloud. I try to make short assignments, so that eventually we can get around to everyone's story in the group. I no longer take the stories to bed with me at night. We read them aloud in class, and that's it. Like the mail I receive, I have to let a lot of them go.

One time a woman handed me a story she had written about her rather interesting childhood, a kid's story. I read it and said, "It's very interesting. But now I'd like you to rewrite it-only not for children this time. Write it for the people here in this group." She gave it to me the next morning. I told her, "That's how you write for children-not the way you first handed it to me." People think they need to write differently when they write for children. But they don't.

MHR: Often children can understand even more imaginative concepts than adults can.

ML: I think children can imagine much more difficult concepts. For instance, kids now have grown up in the post-Newtonian physics, and they're not afraid of it.

MHR: Are adults the ones who shy away?

ML: It's very hard to leave the Newtonian, deterministic universe, which Einstein bought. That's where he had his problems-he couldn't get out of determinism and into a universe where things are not set. Things are fluid. Things are like weather-you can't predict them, and they're going to change on you.

I think one of the worst things the media has done is to make people think that normal is nice. Normal is not nice. Normal is like the weather-it's unpredictable, it changes, it has ups and downs and ins and outs. But it's not nice.

MHR: You've written of being more needful of the structure of Bach and Mozart than the lush romanticism of Wagner, because ". . . when the world is in chaos an affirmation of cosmos becomes essential." How would you characterize the world right now, and your world-more in terms of chaos or cosmos?

ML: My own world, I hope, is more in terms of cosmos. I suppose the world around me is not the most chaotic it's ever been. But it is the most chaotic it's been in half a dozen generations. It started before I was born, with World War I. That broke the backbone of the century right away, in the beginning.

This is a very unpopular theory of mine, but-we dropped two atom bombs and we've never come to terms with that. We've never said it was wrong-we've never said we were sorry. And now everything has been going downward for us.

Whenever something went wrong in my family, whoever caused it said they were sorry, and reconciliation happened, and everyone had a wonderful dinner. But when nobody said they were sorry, we'd sit at the dinner table with long faces.

We should have apologized to Japan. We should have said we were sorry. That's been bad for the American soul.

MHR: It's been consequential for every American.

ML: I was at a conference in Texas last year at a place I'm very fond of. On Saturday night a man raised his hand and asked me, "This may be an unfair question, but if you were Harry Truman and you had to make the decision about the bomb, what would you do?"

I answered, "I'm not Harry Truman, and I didn't have the decision. So it is an unfair question. And I wouldn't have done it."

That's not what he wanted to hear-he wanted justification. He was very angry. A lot of people there were very angry. Possibly, you could justify the first bomb being dropped. But there is no way you could justify the second one.

MHR: It's interesting that a man asked you that question. Do you think women have a different understanding of what's involved in the taking of human life?

ML: Of course.

MHR: In what respect?

ML: For one thing, we give birth. Men can't do that. We nurture an infant for nine months and then we give birth. Human babies are the only ones born as fetuses. Otherwise they'd tear us apart at birth if they grew to an age inside us where, like a pony, they could immediately stagger to their feet. Then we have to nurture these little, helpless things. So we are in the business of life.

It's only been within my generation-mine was the first, I think-that the husband began to be helpful, to change diapers and so on. My husband was wonderful. He really did his full share. But before that it really wasn't being done.

I also believe that women have been allowed through the centuries to remain in touch with the intuition, the nurturing, the numinous, the tender. Men have been forced by society to restrict themselves to reason and to practical money-making. They've cut themselves off in many ways from the arts and, really, from religion.

It didn't surprise me that vestries used to be all male, because they're the ones that deal with money. I'm on the vestry now because I don't think I want to deal with money. I think we need to deal with some other things too.

MHR: Do you think women approach God and the Bible differently from the way men do?

ML: I don't think it's very different in the rigid, fundamentalist-evangelical world. If you're going to take it literally, then you're going to take it literally, and that means you have to shut down your mind. But if you're allowed to think about the Bible, then women would see it more in terms of what it really is, which is a great storybook. It's not a book of laws and morals-it's a book of stories, about ordinary, unqualified people doing extraordinary things. I think women are better able to see the story.

I have to say, though, that one of the best stories I ever read in my workshops was from a man. The assignment was about the woman in the Old Testament in the time of decision. This man wrote a four-point story-from the point of view of Eli the priest, of the spoiled little brat Samuel, of Elkanah, and finally of an angel.

The angel said, "God, don't send me back there! You know you can't do anything with those people. It's just dreadful. You know how awful they are. Please don't send me back there. Oh-I don't have to go? Oh thank you, thank you! What? You're going?"

That's one of the best stories I've ever read in a workshop. It's really good theology. It's wonderful how people somehow get freed to expand their theology when they're working from a figure in Scripture.

MHR: They can see from new perspectives.

ML: Yes. And they're no longer limited. How anyone ever took the Bible literally, I'm not quite sure. You can't have an IQ of even +2 and take it literally. It just doesn't work.

MHR: Because it's too constricting?

ML: Well, no-it doesn't work! Think of all the different contradictions. There are several versions of different stories. And Paul dies two totally different deaths. There are two creation stories. Which one are you going to choose if you take it literally?

Besides, if you take it literally, you can prove anything. If you want to hate somebody, you may say there's justification for it in the Bible. Well, I have a retort for that. I'll say, "You make me very angry, too, and that's a sin. So I'm going to get a leg of lamb (only because I can't get a whole sheep) and take it to church on Sunday. I'll ask our priest to burn it on the altar, and he must remember to dab blood on his right earlobe and on his right big toe-because that's what it says we're to do in the Bible." And it does.

MHR: What is the response to that?

ML: Blank. Also, fundamentalists don't laugh. But I don't like to hear myself speaking of "them." That's not good, either. Yet I do think I'm more comfortable with an observing Jew than I am with a fundamentalist Christian. We're more on the same wavelength.

MHR: Why is that?

ML: Mostly the observing Jews I've been close to have been Reformed-certainly not Orthodox or one of the more fundamentalist kinds of people. They're interested in story and mystery and in being mystics-and, of course, mysticism and meditation are bad words for a fundamentalist. They mean New Age.

I say to people, "Tell me about this New Age you think I belong to. What is it?" They answer, "Well, the rainbow is a sign of the New Age." I tell them, "Wait just a minute! The rainbow is God's covenant with his people. What are you doing giving Christian symbolism to the New Agers? They can't have it unless you let go of it." It's very strange.

MHR: I love the fact that you have unicorns. Unicorns are in the Bible, right?

ML: Yes, the Bible is full of unicorns, in the Psalms and Leviticus. I checked them out at one point. They're in several places, and they're not to be feared.

What bothers me is the fear that becomes so acute it turns into hate. Why do we have to hate what we fear? Christianity was not meant to be a fearful religion. It was supposed to be affirmative, showing that everybody matters. It wasn't supposed to be about picking and choosing who is good or who is bad.

MHR: So, it isn't up to us to do that?

ML: No, it is not. I get particularly upset when anybody restricts the Lord's table in any way. It's God table-what gives us a right to check over the guest list? I don't like it when someone says, "All baptized Christians are welcome." Why are you restricting it? Maybe unbaptized Christians are the ones who need it! What it really indicates is that you don't believe in the power of the sacraments if you want to restrict them.

When I go to the Eucharist, I'm eating of that first primordial substance which opened up to create everything. We're all made of the same stuff as stars. We all come from that little tiny speck of nothing out of which came everything.

Somebody once asked me in a college setting what I thought about creationism versus evolution. I said, "I can't get very excited about it. There's only one question that's worth asking, and that is, did God make it? If the answer is yes, then why get so excited about how?"

As far as I can see, evolution seems to be more logical at this point. I really don't think God put fish and skeletons of fish in the mountains of Nepal to test our faith (which is what's being taught in some places). But if I should find out tomorrow that it was neither creationism nor evolution, that wouldn't affect my faith because it's a peripheral issue. The main issue is, did God create it? That's all that matters. We keep arguing over peripheral things, and that's how we divide into different denominations.

MHR: It's not a united voice, but a very divided voice.

ML: I'm always a little concerned about missionaries. I mean, how can we be good missionaries when we're such a divided body? The Presbyterian missionaries here, the Baptist missionaries here, and the Catholic missionaries here are all doing their own thing. We need to get down to one message.

MHR: Do you have hope for that as we approach the twenty-first century?

ML: Yes. I have hope because I'm receiving more letters with questions, questions, questions, asking, "What does this mean?"

MHR: In a way, we've moved beyond simple answers as the message becomes less familiar. People are more able to come back to it with new questions.

ML: People are no longer satisfied with, "It was God's will that this person died," or, "God wanted this child with him in heaven," or any of those answers. People no longer accept that kind of stuff.

MHR: When you talk with an unbelieving friend or acquaintance about your faith, what things do you most want them to comprehend about God that you believe?

ML: I don't talk about it. If they see that I'm happy in a genuine way and that my life is full and rich, and they want to ask questions about it, that's fine. But I don't bring it up, because I think that's a dead end. People are already blocked against it.

The only way I can spread the good news is by being good news. If anyone asks me, "Are you a Christian?" I think it's a little like asking, "Was your sex life with your husband good?" It's a private question-it's in who we are. Phillips Brooks, a great preacher in the nineteenth century, was asked, "Why are you a Christian?" He answered very seriously, "I think I am a Christian because of my aunt who lives in Teaneck, New Jersey." Or, as my friend Pat says, "A Christian is someone who's met one."

MHR: So something can be transferred without words or oral communication?

ML: I who live by words think that some things are done better without words. I tend to tune out when people talk to me about how I should believe. That is private.

MHR: But it's different when you receive a letter with those questions?

ML: Yes-because the questions are very honest and real. They sometimes come out of real pain. And they are very intense to the person asking them.

MHR: When you think of metaphor in your life and in your writing, does it have any special significance?

ML: A metaphor is in a sense an icon. A simile is, "This is like something." And a metaphor is, "This is something." I don't think the icons in windows are icons. I think that's a blasphemy. It's a very trivial, shallow, stupid use of it. It annoys me.

MHR: You mean, when a church has icons that are supposed to be representations?

ML: No. More broadly, we are iconic people. We live by icons. And the first icon most people have ever had is the "blankie"-the blanket we carry around as an affirmation of "all rightness" in a world we know is not all right. When it's time to let the blankie go, the blankie is usually gone. There's nothing left of it.

That's an icon, because it's an affirmation that we can manage in this life. An icon is not just a picture painted on the wall, which is the classic definition. Rather, it's anything that's an open window to God.

Now, the icons on my Windows program are not open windows to God. They are open windows to frustration, bad language, and wishing for my old electronic typewriter back! A true icon is an "enlarger." If it's an open window to God, it's going to make me see more vividly, more clearly, more widely, more fruitfully, and less narrowly, less judgmentally.

MHR: So, icons would lead us to God because they somehow draw us into the beauty that speaks of Him?

ML: Certainly different art appeals to different people. Rouault's Clowns were obviously Jesus, in his mind. They're so what they are-not like the horrible, wimpy Jesus we so often see. They are iconic to me, but they may not be iconic to someone else.

I have some classical icons, and each is a time breaker. One is a King David. He's sitting on his royal throne, with one arm around his golden harp and the other around the Christ child, who is sitting in his lap. What does that do to chronology? It knocks it for a loop.

Then I saw a painting at the Prado in Madrid. It was of Saint Francis and Saint Andrew talking, with a cross between them mediating the centuries. Again, another chronology breaker. And then there's one of Elijah sitting in the wilderness, having been alone for forty days, looking fierce and being fed by a big, black bird. In this icon the bird is coming toward him with food-but what he has in his mouth is a round, white wafer of the Host. Again, it knocks chronology for a loop.

We're too hung up on chronology. We no longer truly value it. We no longer look for wisdom in older people, which is where it's going to be found, because it takes a lot of experience to acquire any wisdom. I mean, I was not wise when I was in my twenties. I may have been interesting, but I was not wise.

MHR: So, on the one hand, chronology in terms of a respect for time is good. But on the other hand, story-at least the Christian story-is, in a sense, time breaking.

ML: Yes, chronology is valuable. But it's no longer important in the sense that we have to say, "This is good and that is bad"-as we tend to do.

MHR: Who are you currently drawn to in your own personal reading?

ML: Right now I've been over-scheduled and tired, and I haven't been writing. So I've been reading murder mysteries.

MHR: Murder mysteries! I've heard those are wonderful ways of understanding the human soul.

ML: They are. They're usually fairly literate, and they have an honorable point of view. I don't like the hard-boiled, cynical stuff. These, on the other hand, are usually about people who care about decency, finding out why people do awful things. They're something I can get interested in. One is called The End of Physics, which concerns the move from classical physics to particle physics and chaos theory. I've also been reading fairly light fiction, which I have no objection to, like Barbara Kingsolver.

I read very widely. I have friends who send me the magazine Discover and scientific articles they think I'll be interested in. So I'm able to keep up with what's going in the world of physics and particle physics, which to me is theology. These people are dealing with the nature of being-which to me is theology much more than that of the theologians, who argue about peripheral things.

Theologians and scientists seem surprised that they work together. It's not that much of a surprise to me. I've always seen the discoveries of science as a way of finding out more about God, more about the universe. I don't see why it's ever a threat. But it's always been a terrible threat to some people, who wish their religion was static and whose theology doesn't have any elbow room.