If Eliot was a Christian, that does not make Christianity either true or
false; Eliot's (or anyone else's) religious beliefs tell us nothing of the
truth or falsity of the given religion. Brecht's communism tells us nothing
about the validity or invalidity of communism. And argument over whether
Eliot was or was not a Christian is not an argument over the truth or
falsity of Christianity; it is an argument about the coherence of a text.
Now, an atheist might use Ash Wednesday or Burnt Norton to _illustrate_ what
she feels is wrong with religion; A Christian might use those poems to
illustrate what he thought was a false expression of Christian faith. Et
cetera ete cetera.
No poem, as such, has a truth value.
For example of using a poem in one context to grasp a feeling in another
My love is of a birth so rare
It was begotten of despair
Upon impossibility. . .
(Quoted from memory)
O.K. Marvell was Christian; whether this is a Christian poem or not I do not
know nor much care. Nor is it important for my present purposes what "love"
means in this context, because I 'use' these lines as a way of grasping for
myself my own relation to my political convictions. Crudely, I sort of
substitute "goal" for "love." With Rosa Luxemburg, I see the possible
futures as freedom or barbarism, and only the destruction of capitalist
relations of production will make possible (but not by any means certain)
the achievement of freedom. A stanza from Guthrie almost catches the
Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit --
To fall like dry leaves, to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except deportees?
The _probable_ answer to these questions is Yes; barbarism is with us to
stay. Nevertheless we must struggle to achieve the impossible answer of No:
We will find a better way: begotten by despair.
But of course neither Marvell's lines nor Guthrie's have ontological force:
they do not discover or prove anything, and their "application" depends on
the use any reader may choose to give to them.