Elisa Gonzalez at The Point:
But Robinson’s Christianity manifests as more than a formal approach to experience—the particulars of her belief do matter, and they serve as a foundation for the representation of American racism in the Gilead novels. With John Calvin, she shares the conviction that there is “a visionary quality to all experience” and that God animates, at every moment, all of creation. This endows that creation with immanence and revelatory potential. She believes in the existence of souls, mysterious and unaccountable and equal, which profoundly influences how she engages the material reality of racist institutions and social practices. She believes, like Calvin and the contemporary Black theologian Reggie L. Williams, that each encounter with another person is an encounter with an image of God, in effect God himself, thus placing an immense weight on the treatment of others, surpassing even the Golden Rule. Even if a man is trying to kill you, “you owe him everything.” As Calvin does, she believes that each encounter with another person is a question that God is asking of you. In a recent lecture, she described one of God’s goals for creation—which, by implication, should be a human goal—as “human flourishing.” “Flourishing” is a startling word. Its pursuit demands far more than tolerance, or even civic equality: it demands a passionate devotion to others, regardless of your connections through family, country, race or religion. For her, good and evil are relational, social—not solely internal matters. Christianity, she has said, is an ethic, not an identity.