Friday, July 30, 2010

Anne Rice leaving the Church again...or is she?

Anne Rice, the author of the popular VAMPIRE CHRONICLES series as well as her current (and excellent) CHRIST THE LORD series, has announced she is "leaving Christianity". This was surprising to me, especially in light of her much-publicized return to the Catholic Church after decades of atheism.

From CNN
"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian ... It's simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."

The next day she clarified with the following:
"My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me...But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become."

Being a revert to the faith, I certainly can empathize with her struggles - she seems a bit torn, in my opinion. And it certainly would be a shame if she did not continue the CHRIST THE LORD series; her portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth and 1st century Judea is just astounding. I had been looking forward to her 2008 book which documented her return to the Church, CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS: A SPIRITUAL CONFESSION. I'm wondering what the read will be like in light of Ms. Rice's current spiritual struggles.

I can't pretend to know her thinking and reasons for leaving Christianity (although she remains a follower of Jesus). I can only continue to admire her writing, and to pray she finds her spiritual home, wherever that might turn out to be. God speed, Anne.

Daily Mass Readings
Jeremiah 26:1-9
Psalm 69:5,8-10,14
Matthew 13:54-58

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Review of THE SHACK, by Wm. Paul Young

"Forgiveness isn't about is about letting go of another person's throat." - Papa

THE SHACK is a tome about the forgiveness and redemption of Mackenzie Allen Phillips, a father whose 6 year old daughter was abducted from a campsite and presumed dead. This causes a "Great Sadness" in Mack, which he struggles with for four years. He finally receives a cryptic note - apparently from God - inviting him for a weekend-long meeting. The meeting will take place at the shack...the same shack where Missy's bloodied dress was found four years ago.

I found this book to be striking, and not for my usual reasons.

To start with, I wasn't particularly fond of Mr. Young's writing style. I was jolted out of the story numerous times by Mack's squeaky-clean exclamations a la "Oh boys", "Wows", "Whoas" ( I half expected a 'gee-willerkers' in there). I've probably read too many Stephen King books, because I would have expected cursing instead. Some/most of the other characters (the mortal ones, anyway) are 2 dimensional at best. This bothered me at first - I enjoy understanding and getting into the mind of the characters, see what makes them tick. As I read, I realized that they were not really integral to the plot. This was Mack's story, from Mack's perspective. The entire book is either heading to or coming from the weekend meeting with God at the Shack. The rest of the cast are essentially placeholders to this end.

Also, there was an level of "preaching" in places where it was not needed. The redemptive nature story stands on its own merit. You could almost put "Author's note" in these places, again jolting me out of the story.

As a father, I was mightily disturbed by the disappearance of Missy. It was powerful. As we are following Mack's account (second-hand through his friend Willie), we don't see the abduction, we don't learn any details of what happened to her. We do share Mack's transition from unease, to concern to full blown panic to resignation and the ultimate despair as the search party finding his Missy's blood-soaked dress - but not Missy - at the Shack of the title.

Mack does meet with God- unlike any God I've ever imagined before, yet completely recognizable in a Christian context. I won't give it away, but there's no trace of the blond blue-eyed Christ we're all used to in Western art and literature.

I guess what intrigued me most about this yarn is that Mack's struggles and questions with God, his "wrestling with angels", mirror my own in many aspects. Particularly insightful was God's explantion of why suffering occurs; I'd never really seen the free-will argument in fiction before...especially set up as an actual argument!

In the end this book is essentially a parable about redemption, acceptance, closure, love, and trust in God. A message our world sorely needs these days.

Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne
Daily Mass Readings
Jeremiah 13:1-11
Deuteronomy 32:18-21
Matthew 13:31-35