When the head and heart are divided

06.14.2016 | Guest

Robert A. Rees is a visiting professor of religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He announces today’s release of Thomas F. Rogers’s Let Your Hearts and Minds Expand, a spiritually and intellectually stimulating collection of essays, articles, letters, poetry, and art exploring faith, reason, charity, and beauty. The latest in the Maxwell Institute’s Living Faith book series is now available at LDS book retailers and Amazon
EXPAND-cover-finalIn a world (and sometimes the church itself) in which the head and the heart are often divided, Thomas F. Rogers has sought his entire life to unify and harmonize his own and others’ hearts and minds through his teaching, writing, and devoted service to Christ. Tom has been a blessing and a gift to me. There is no better way to summarize his life. His marvelous new collection of essays, letters, and lectures—Let Your Hearts and Minds Expand: Reflections on Faith, Reason, Charity, and Beauty—is also a blessing and a gift. In 2001 when I edited Why I Stay: The Challenges of Discipleship for Contemporary Mormons I placed Tom’s essay “It Satisfies My Restless Mind” at the beginning. It seemed not only to capsulize what I hoped the volume would accomplish (give thoughtful expression to deep devotion), but to set the tone for the entire collection. I’m pleased to see it included in this collection along with other inspiring personal expressions of Tom’s thinking and believing I’d not encountered before, divided into four themes: faith, reason, charity, and beauty, each of them informing the others. The Maxwell Institute has also published a companion website to the book featuring the collected plays of Thomas F. Rogers. Let Your Hearts and Minds Expand reveals what a rare modern disciple Tom is—a man who is as rigorous in his pursuit of the life of the mind as he is in his devotion to the riches and wonders of the spirit, and a disciple who is as comfortable with his liberal politics as he is with his conservative community. Like Joseph Smith, Tom has sought truth by being willing to “prove contraries.” What has impressed me about Tom as much as anything over the years of our friendship is his erudition—the sophistication of his religious, scholarly, and creative mind. Tom reads widely and deeply, which is also how he thinks—and believes. In fact, this collection is an education in the humanities—a discipline so easily denigrated in contemporary culture despite being essential to our survival as a civilization by encouraging responsible critical and speculative inquiry. Just as the humanities are often coupled with the arts because they are so complementary, so are they in Tom’s life. As a creative artist (a playwright, poet, and painter) Tom shows in Expand that it is possible to celebrate the imagination as well as the mind—to create beauty and meaning as complements to faith and reason. It brims with intelligence, personal candor, honesty, and openness. Perhaps it is Tom’s role as a teacher (and, as with all good teachers, perpetual student) that comes through most in these essays. Out of so many excellent pieces in Expand, it is not possible to select only one. But the following quote is among my favorites, not only because it epitomizes Tom’s thinking but because he exemplifies it in his life—a life of balanced devotion to faith, reason, charity, and beauty:
The urge to take an extreme position in either direction for the sake of the certainty we would all naturally prefer may be the greatest failing of our race.”
Humility—intellectual and spiritual—is a hallmark of Tom’s work and his life as a disciple of Christ. In his epigraph on the humanist Sir Thomas More, the poet J. V. Cunningham, wrote:
Friend, on this scaffold Thomas More lies dead  Who would not cut the Body from the Head.
Fortunately, Tom Rogers—who also would not cut the body or heart from the head—is very much with us still. What’s more, his insights will live on in this valuable collection to the blessing of younger generations of readers. May he continue to thrive and bless us with his many gifts for years to come!