Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 48 - Feb 17th

These are the three books I was reading currently (I always read more than one at a time). I finished Anne Rice's book last night. I'll talk briefly about the other two before moving on to Rice's book. This is going to be a long post. And, once it replicates from my blog to Facebook, I may lose a friend or two over it. If they read this, that is.

Grave Matters is a fascinating book on the modern funeral industry and the alternatives out there. I've always been a bit uncomfortable with how removed American's are from the death process, but the first couple of chapters blew my mind. I highly recommend this book AND I highly recommend EVERYONE, regardless of age, share with your loved ones what you want to happen to your body after your death. Jill's parents did this and I think it was a wonderful thing.

The Spartacus War I got after watching the first two episodes of StarZ Spartacus: Blood and Sand online. Sadly, I don't believe the subsequent episodes will be free because I thoroughly enjoyed the first two! Not for kids or the lighthearted, oh no, no, no. Think 300 but more of everything. Anyway, this book is fascinating because it covers the real gladiators - not the hollywood version. The matches were a lot more structured and similar to modern boxing/UFC matches ... just with the possibility of death. Plus I just so thoroughly enjoy history.

OK, on to Anne Rice's book, Called Out of Darkness. I'm going to talk about religion and politics, two areas I've usually avoided in my blog. I live my life, I have my beliefs and in general I do not try to project them on others - especially since my beliefs seem to run counter to BOTH what Christians and non-Christians practice today. And this book was simply superb. The last several chapters captured my feelings on Christianity almost to a "T" albeit from a Catholic perspective rather than a Protestant one, but that difference was rendered nearly invisible.

First the author. I've always enjoyed, and still do, Anne Rice's books. I've read roughly half of them (including all her pen name books) and really engage with her more visual and auditory rather than literary style. Her struggles transcend the metaphysical world her pre-Christian phase encompassed. They reflected the eternal struggle between existence and greatness, between love and loathing, between frantic and languid. She writes, oftentimes, like I think. Making leaps in continuity, stream of consciousness, organized chaos resulting in seemingly opposing yet concurrent thoughts.

Now this book. And a revelation. Jill and I became "born again" Christians in 1992 - approximately one year after my sisters death at the hands of a drunk driver. That's an intensely personal story that I'm not willing to write down yet, but will tell in person if I am asked. We joined a large mega-church and for a while embraced the rather conservative, evangelical line that is well known in the country. But I always had uncomfortable moments with it. We have gay family members and we have gay and bisexual friends. We have "liberal" friends and family. We know single moms, some of whom never married. And the love of Christianity that is resplendent throughout the gospels was often sorely lacking in the church when it came to these people. Would an "outed" gay, bisexual or liberal person be allowed to actively participate in any conservative church? I cannot see it.

As time has moved on, I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the standard conservative lineup. I still believe in some items, but the rampant and often unintentional embracing of Friedman economics, the "hinge" issue of abortion (by that I mean that if anyone does not unilaterally oppose abortion then their entire platform is meaningless), the hypocrisy of all politicians and many religious leaders, the continued sense of inequality amongst all fellow humans and many more have slowly driven a wedge between myself and blind obedience to a party line.

Especially when I compare it all to the gospels. I see no support for big business and disdain from government or social issue in the gospels - rather I see a sense of community and sharing. Jesus treated men, women and children of all stripes equally. Did he condemn? Certainly - oftentimes hypocritical religious leaders were a target. Acts 2: 44-45 and Acts 4:34-37 have been used to support socialism, although I think that is taking it a bit far. In the gospels, I see Love. With a capital L. I see a savior who lays his palm lovingly on the cheeks of anyone who seeks him, regardless of their circumstances, their lifestyles, their gender. And I don't often see that in the Church setting. That has driven a wedge - not between me and God but rather between me and churches. That is why I seek out churches that use expository teaching - that's what I love and that's what feeds me spiritually.

Anne Rice says it so much more eloquently than I. The first two thirds of her book are her growing up as a Catholic girl then losing her faith and living for decades as a committed atheist. Then the last third is her "conversion" back and her journey since. It's a remarkable book and the last couple chapters are her thoughts on Christianity and it's place in our lives and relationship with people. I simply cannot recommend it enough - her thoughts are how I think of Christianity. All I can say is if you are not rigid in your beliefs, read it. Plow through the book if you must. And if you wish, let me know your thoughts.

There is more I could say, but I feel it would be belaboring the point. I've been considering how to write this post for a long time, but each time I compose it in my head it was different, so I just wrote it. And now I shall stop.

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