A Romp Through Divinity School
By Elizabeth Carroll Trang
"Trang’s debut memoir relates her four years at Yale Divinity School, where she examined the sacraments, sacrifice and sex within the tenets of Christianity.
Writing from “the perspective of someone sitting in the classroom,” Trang intends her story for not only religious scholars and pastors behind the pulpit, but for lay and nonreligious readers as well. With effortless grace and delicious humor, the book traces the author’s course load and the exchanges she has with her professors, whom she affectionately renames after desserts—Professors PoundCake, BakedAlaska, GingerSnap, RhubarbCrumble, etc. But Trang is ever serious and respectful in her desire “to learn to think..., to pray..., to live like these people.” Trang enters Yale with big questions about the efficacy of a priest committing himself to a life of celibacy and the outrageousness of a sacrament where a priest stands for Christ at the altar and says, “This is my body..., This is my blood....” And then there is the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit problem,” a space of being “in-between” the “already and the not yet”—not unlike that of the sexual act and the bearing of a child. As Trang enthusiastically yet steadily works her way through the catechism of the Catholic Church, Holy Scripture and Aristotle’s Poetics...her knowledge organically coalesces, unravels, reassembles, expands and contracts. Struggling with the tedious, vast and complex puzzle of faith and often finding God dwelling in her fellow humans, Trang’s spirit never wavers while investigating the curiosities and delights of her faith.
A refreshingly rebellious exploration of Christianity that is well-written, thoughtful and totally unpretentious." -Kirkus Reviews
It takes a leap of faith for a forty-something suburban mother to head back to school in search of answers to questions that have long vexed theologians and philosophers. Matriculating into an Ivy League university only heightens the challenge, but through tenacious commitment, audacious ideas, a sense of humor and prayer, this fledgling scholar learns to navigate her way amongst the students and scholars of Yale Divinity School.
Drawing upon course work, assigned readings, submitted papers, and exams, this entertaining and educational book brings to life the experience and curriculum associated with earning a master of arts in religion. Accentuated by anecdotes from the classroom, commentary, and personal correspondence, the text is laced with scenes of family life that intersect with profound observations on sacred scripture, the timelessness of religious metaphors, and the power of ideas to resonate across cultures and centuries.
Unsatisfied by the historical-critical approach to Biblical studies, the author searches for professors and methods that speak to her own sensibility. By a pleasantly providential stroke of luck, she happens upon Aristotle’s Poetics and her faith is turned upside down. Join this spirited woman as she moves back in time and finds herself in conversation with the Gospels through Aristotelian eyes. Come along as she proposes that Christianity is about sex, sacrifice, and sacrament and that the Roman Catholic Church, through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, sustains a primordial balance between the sexes.
Anyone interested in exploring Christianity by occasionally wresting scholarship away from the ivory tower and the pulpit will enjoy this remarkable and surprising memoir.
Elizabeth Carroll Trang has a master’s degree in religion and a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language and literature. Her interests include the fourth commandment (honor your father and mother), filial piety, ancestors, the sense of touch, intuition, and the Holy Eucharist. She and her husband have two children and live in Tampa, Florida and Bethany Beach, Delaware.
About Elizabeth Carroll Trang
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Published October 12, 2012
by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Religion & Spirituality.