Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two Books

My Sunday School class is doing another one of those books studies on a recently popular Christian title "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. I find the book depressing, and a few times I have found myself feeling as if there is no way I can be good enough to measure up, so why bother.

In antidote, I have reached into my bookshelf for another book purported to be on the same subject: God's enormous love for us, and our response to it. "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning.

This morning I found this mighty example of God's grace: In "Crazy Love" Chapter 4 is titled ' Profile of the Luke-Warm' and tells all about how badly we Christians act toward God - because we don't love him enough to rely on Him, and that because of this we are obviously luke-warm and will be spat out of His mouth. Chapter 4 in "The Ragamuffin Gospel" is titled ' Tilted Halos' and describes how we poor in spirit people, who love God with all of our broken and sinful hearts, are nonetheless treasured in our imperfections by a God who is understanding and accepting of the foibles and baby-steps of His children.

The two chapters cover the same topic. One writer tells me that I don't measure up and it's my fault, and I should fix it or I will not be acceptable. The other writer tells me that I'm messed up and it's my fault, and I should fix it - but that God understands my heart, and loves me anyhow.

It might be the difference in the lives of the authors before they wrote the books. Francis Chan went from highschool to Bible college to Seminary to the teaching pastor possition at a church. Brennan Manning went from difficult home to the US Marines to the gutter and back before attending seminary and becoming an evangelist. A big difference is also evident in the pictures of the Authors on the covers. Mr. Chan is an attractive young man, and Mr. Manning is an older man with much life evident on his face.

It might be the difference in the audience the books are meant for. The back of The Ragmuffin Gospel headlines "Are you bedraggled, beat-up and burnt out?" and Crazy Love : " Have you ever wondered if you're missing it?" Is it the dichotomy of 'comfort the afflicted but afflict the comfortable?' I don't know.

It does, however, reinforce my prejudice against Pop Christian Books and love of the old (mostly dead) authors of generations before. My feeling is that The Ragamuffin Gospel will be read for years to come and that Crazy Love will be one of those books that will fade into obscurity as soon as the next flash-in-the-pan Christian Thing comes along.

But I've been wrong before. ~M.E.


vxbush said...

I think you're on to something. Books that make us feel bad, even well-intentioned, aren't going to end up on the history-making charts. Yes, the gospel can convict us, but the Spirit does that. Man does not need to help.

I haven't read the Ragamuffin Gospel, but it sounds worthwhile. However, my current stack of books to read is about to topple over, so perhaps I should wait.

Kate said...

The one comment on 4/21 makes me think about this post, about getting breaks vs year round. I think CRAZY LOVE is year round whereas RAGAMUFFIN is breaks. There's something for everyone and we may just all be in different places...I recognize the "pop" style we're reading. It reminds me of the praise songs in the contemporary services. Still, I go and I hope I go for the right reasons: praise, worship, love, a connection with God.