Feb 25, 2008

The Shack, Take This Bread

I've been swamped with my own writing that I haven't done much for recreation. I saw only one Oscar nominated film: Juno, the night before the awards. I haven't read much either. But a few months ago, a writer friend gave me a copy of The Shack. He said that the writing was rough in patches but the message was a knock out. So I read it, trying to keep my literary snobbery in check.

The premise is this: A man's young daughter is abducted and murdered. A few years later God writes the man a letter, inviting him to meet God at the shack where the murder took place. "Mac" goes, and has a weekend-long conversation with God about love, evil, and some very hard questions. Some moments are goofy. Like Mac notices that the coffee God brewed never grows cold. But if I hadn't read onward I would have missed a great story. The writer tackles some very difficult questions. Mac has an encounter with his deceased father who had abused him when he was alive. At another point, Mac asks the very welcoming and inclusive Jesus, "Are you saying all roads lead to God?" Jesus answers well: No, but there's no telling how far down any road I'll travel just to meet them." A great answer. Silence your critic and read The Shack.

Here's a memoir I loved: "Take This Bread, by Sara Miles. Subtitled: A radical conversion, the Spiritual Memoir of a 21st Century Christian. A self-proclaimed “secular intellectual, lesbian, left-wing journalist with a habit of skepticism,” Miles wandered into a church, took communion, and her life changed. “I became a Christian, claiming a faith that many of my fellow believers want to exclude me from; following a God my unbelieving friends see as archaic superstition.”

Miles new faith prompts a vision: to start a food bank at the church where she first had communion. She goes on to help organize food pantries all over her city. Miles confronts the politics that dumps tons of usable food to prop up prices, the recalcitrance of parishioners who'd rather keep Sundays for Bach than feed bums. And Miles totally owns up to her own character flaws: her fear, prejudice, bossiness. She's terrific. Her writing is unsentimental, rich, detailed, and fun. Her faith is full of real longing, flaws, and desire for God. She just keeps barreling forward. I got to interview Miles for Burnside Writers Collective. Here's a snippet of that interview:

To those who are on the edge of faith but afraid to step into the subculture, what would you say to them, what word of caution or encouragement? To the conservative Christians who are wary of you, what would you say to bridge the gap?

For anyone who’s on the “edge of faith,” remember that the “whole subculture,” or even the mainstream culture of Christianity, isn’t the point. The point is your desire for God, and you don’t have to give that up based on what churches do or don’t do. Trust your desire, and let it lead you. For conservative Christians wary of me, I ask them to pray for me.

Read the entire Burnside Interview here.

Enough about other people's books. back to my own.

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