Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I came across quite a nice edition of the Engligh translation of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis last month, with all four of the original French volumes combined into one. The author-artist is a schoolgirl in 1979 when history turns culture upside down. I found myself thinking of The Unbearable Lightness of Being fast-forwarded to Iran, with updated enemies and really outstanding comic-book drawing. Once through, though, it had no staying power, and I passed the book on to another beachgoer. I haven't seen the movie; I suspect that I might really like it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Generous Orthodoxy

I'll admit it: sometimes I can be stubborn. I don't always want to read the cool, hip, trendy books, especially the cool, hip, trendy books about spirituality or Christianity. That's why it's taken me so long to pick up Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy.

At this point, I've only read John Franke's Foreword, the Introduction, Chapter 0, and Chapter 1. So I'm cheating in reviewing this book before even finishing it. I just got so excited at what I've learned from this book so far that I needed to say something about it.

As my novice class approached the end of our fall term of study, we engaged in a discussion about orthodoxy and heresy. This was a difficult conversation, which became heated at times when we seemed to be unable to hear each other, and talking past each other. It felt a little to me like the issue was with crossing the chasm between liberals and conservatives, but at the same time, I saw plenty of places where we were bridging this gap successfully. But after reading the Preface to this book, which has some clear working definitions, I could see where the issue lay. It wasn't a liberal/conservative thing, and it wasn't a catholic/evangelical thing. It was a modern/postmodern split... and I was on the postmodern side.

I was a little chagrined to learn this. Postmodernism and the Emerging Church movement seem to be getting all the buzz lately -- and for some years now -- and now I find out that I'm part of it. So much for avoiding the trendy stuff! It does come as a great relief and blessing for me to learn more about this school of thought and its movement. The characteristics that define postmodernism, according to Mr. Franke's Foreword include
  • strong ecumenical interests
  • a desire to move beyond the liberal/conservative divide
  • a willingness to think through old questions in new ways that foster the pursuit of truth, the unity of the church, and the gracious character of the gospel.
And these characteristics, among others, describe wounds I have experienced in the Church. In my embrace of these ideals, I have found more than once in my journey that the other Christians around me did not share these interests, and that they could not understand why I would even want to. I would then feel left out, abandoned by the Church I love. But now that I'm a couple chapters into this book, I look at those old wounds and see them closed, the scar tissue healing nicely. I have words for my frustrations now. I understand what made my approach seem so strange and different, and I think I'm better equipped for the conversations.

I still haven't quite come to terms with the concepts of orthodoxy and heresy, and I suspect that will be a lifelong pursuit. But now I know why that conversation in my novice class was so difficult, and that little bit of knowledge is powerful stuff.