A number of years ago, when I began to suspect that some of my problems with the pastor were wrapped around his secret homosexual identity, a friend suggested I read Leanne Payne's books. My friend had turned from a lesbian orientation, joined YWAM and pointed to THE BROKEN IMAGE, and CRISIS IN MASCULINITY as books that had aided her healing. A year or two later Payne's THE HEALING PRESENCE came out; the best book I read all that year. Along with gaining an understanding of how deep prayer counseling can work, I appreciated the book's delineation of Jung's gifts to psychology, both his positive attributes and his clear departures from Christian rationale.
One of Leanne Payne's books draws outrage like a magnet. Baldly titled HEALING THE HOMOSEXUAL, this slim volume has caused me more trouble than any other book... with the possible exception of Harry Potter. Because of it I have been distinctly uninvited to a couple of Episcopal events. "What is THIS?" one man shrieked, ignoring some 50 other books on the booktable that he might agree with, in order to vent his spleen at this one.
While there is something rather funny about being excluded in the name of inclusivity, it is sad to see that knee jerk prejudice is now clearly on the other foot; successfully blocking candid dialogue and determinedly damming up the healing streams that flow through the Body of Christ.
A closed mind is like a closed book: just a block of wood. -Chinese Proverb
I found HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG by Andre Dubus on my back desk with a note from Joanne, "This is the most upsetting book I've ever read. See what you think."
I called her and asked, "If this was the most upsetting book you've ever read, why would I want to read it?"
"Because it's well written, compelling, too easily true."
It was a National Book Award finalist. I read it. A page turner all right. But a downward spiral of sin's entanglements compounded by cultural differences. No light at the end of the tunnel. A movie is soon to be released. I have to grudgingly admit that it is a good book. It will be back on our steals shelf soon, unless you email me that you want it.
More upsetting to me was Shusaku Endo's SILENCE. Yancy mentioned this Japanese author in SOUL SURVIVOR: HOW MY FAITH SURVIVED THE CHURCH. I had never heard of him before, so when SILENCE showed up, I brought it home. Graham Greene says that it is one of the finest novels of our time. It's the story of a seventeenth century Portuguese priest in Japan at the height of the fearful persecution of Christians. I haven't yet figured out how to read torture scenes with my eyes shut, but I will say the light in this book is worth the decent into darkness.
Speaking of Missionaries, I just culled our Missions shelf, removing books that have been there for over five years. I was sad to see lots more good books in the take away pile than there've been from some of the other sections I've culled. One reason is because the Missions shelf is at knee level. People don't look DOWN. The other reason may be that our collective GUILT keeps us from wanting to read about less fortunate folk. It's too bad. Missionary stories are often great adventures, full of humor, intrigue and the surprising hand of God at work on behalf of his people. Come grab a few of the take-outs, a dollar each.
THE SACRED DIARY OF ADRIAN PLASS is one of the funniest books on Christian life that I've read. I had it in my guest room for a while and could have sold bunches of copies if I could just find an American distributor for this English book. The good news is that a sequel of sorts is due out by Zondervan in April. Meanwhile I read Plass's GHOSTS, a novel about a man whose wife recently died. He is dragged to a reunion of his church youth group: a sort of Christian BIG CHILL. GHOSTS isn't as zany as the SACRED DIARY, but deals well with various issues of the faith bringing humor and a depth of insight that never deals out schmaltzy pat answers. I'm going to put it on my Halloween Display...next to MacNutt's DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL SPIRITS.
I also read Scott Peck's IN HEAVEN AS ON EARTH. This vision of the afterlife is entertaining and brings a psychologist's insight to issues like why people would chose to live in a garbage can. Reminiscent of C.S. Lewis's THE GREAT DIVORCE, the book's value is not so much in a biblically accurate view of heaven, but in looking at the fearsome gift of freedom, and why people choose to avoid it.
That is undoubtedly enough books for any one month, but I want to mention Jesse-Penn Lewis's THE SPIRITUAL WARFARE. A small gem, by a woman writing at the beginning of the 1900s, THE SPIRITUAL WARFARE shines light on the difference between the passivity which invites demonic intrusion and the active surrender that Christians give through love to their Lord. If you have (like me) a negative gut reaction to some folk's harangue on 'submission' and 'obedience,' this book may be of great help. (If God wanted robots, he could have made them!) $5.99 new. $3 used to the first one out of the box.
On Tuesday, October 21 we'll have the first of a series of Author's nights. Fr. Meletios Webber will discuss "Winning through Surrender." A Greek Orthodox Priest, Mel wrote STEPS OF TRANSFORMATION, which looks at the inner life of an addict through the lens of the 12 steps from AA. You are invited to join us at The Word Shop at 7:15.
If there are enough takers, I'll teach a six week short story writing class beginning Friday, October 10 at 1:00. The idea is to complete a story in that time frame. We'll use "Focusing," an interesting psychological technique, to get up and going. This is an experiment. It may or may not work. The cost is $20 for those who can afford it. If anyone wants to tag along via the Internet, you're welcome to do so. Let me know. (Hit reply, write words.)
No man can be called friendless when he has God and the companionship of good books. -Elizabeth Barret Browning, poet (1806-1861)