Sunday, June 03, 2012

Two Indispensable Books

I am currently reading two spiritual books.  John Piper's Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die is a must-read.  I should buy dozens of copies to give them away.  It is such a deep exploration of the cross.  Today I read, "Christianity has no geographical center like Islam and Judaism . . . Jesus changes the categories entirely.   [We worship] not in this mountain or in that city, but in spirit and in truth. He came into the world to explode geographical limitation . . . When Christ died, the old temple was replaced by he globally accessible (and I would add racially inclusive) Christ." (p. 69)

The second is Ann Voskamps's One Thousand Gifts. Her prose is so rich, so fulsome, one cannot read it very fast.  Her thesis is that thankfulness is the basis of everything in the Christian experience.  I am not sure I fully agree with it, but she makes a good argument.  Her website it inspiring, also.

I like her because unlike most Christian women writers she isn't presenting herself as the superwoman we should emulate, but mostly I like that she writes of an embodied life.  She is thankful for jam on toast, not just spiritual realities.  I was thankful to see the full moon rise out of a cloud tonight.  I was thankful for the horses we get to see when I walk Nala.  I was thankful to eat lunch with friends and eat a portobello mushroom sandwich (a more exotic one than I usually eat!).  I was thankful that it wasn't hot in June, only 83 degrees today.

Now, I have read critiques of her work, but I have to wonder if some of it is due to the fact that a woman is writing.  I am not so naive as to think there is not sexism in the church.

Yet, there is a reverse sexism in the so-called feminist world.  A woman on NPR today was talking about how her voice was not heard in meetings because the men did not want to hear the emotion and heart of a woman's voice.  But some of us women do not speak with a voice of emotion and heart just because we are women, and it's not because we have succumbed to the male voice.  And some men speak the voice of emotion and heart better than some women.

But back to Voskamp.  She comes today (in my reading) to brush up against a deeper question.  It is one thing to notice, see, and look into the physical joys of life and write them down on a list.  Jam on toast, wind-whipped laundry.  This is a poet seeing, and she is a poet, thinking in images and metaphor.  I can practice this. But it's a next, big step to be thankful for the abstract and then the physical that is not picturesque, warm and fuzzy.  Unemployment.  Mental illness.  A genetic condition.  Terminal illness in friends and family.  That so much of the world suffers from food insecurity.  That people are gunned down in the streets.  That fellow Christians are jailed and martyred just for being who they are.

So while I can appreciate the transforming power of thankfulness, and that it is foundational, where then does prayer come in?  In praying for physical, political, spiritual change, are we inherently unthankful?  Are we not taught to be pray to be delivered from the evil one?

We will, I think, live in this tension.  I can be fully thankful that I can see the moonrise in all its luminous splendor, but Christians don't get a pass on awareness of how people live on the other side of the world just because I can enjoy the moon right now and be thankful for it. 

However, in even saying this I am living what she says, "Long, I am woman who speaks but one language, the language of the fall--discontentment and self-condemnation, . . . the never satisfied."

Anyway, I recommend these two books.  They will clean out bad doctrines and bad feelings.

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