Lamott is a talented and polished writer. Entertaining. Witty. This comment is on the inside flap of the book jacket, “Wise and irreverent, poignant and funny.” And she is.
But the topic is faith.
Wise is good. Irreverent not so much, and poignant a gift. Funny is always a tight-rope walk between humorous observation and heresy.
The thoughts on faith expressed throughout are strictly the author’s. Period. Not her interpretation of God’s Word or comparing Christianity with other religions. This is the truth according to Anne Lamott. Her faith in her truth.
The book isn’t a story per se, but a compilation of (mostly) prepublished essays, connected because they’re personal. Everyone will see something of themselves in at least one of her stories.
I did. Yet I wouldn’t draw the same conclusions.
Lamott’s Jesus is a Failure
To Lamott, Jesus was a failure in many ways. And a rotten teenager. But passionate about ecology and social justice.
I read the first 128 pages without a pencil. My highlighter saw a little action, but nothing was egregious or profound enough to rebut or note in the margins. Until page 129.
“God sent Jesus to join the human experience, which means to make a lot of mistakes. He had the same prejudices as the rest of his tribe. If he hadn’t, the Incarnation would mean nothing.”
“You’ve got to wonder what Jesus was like at seventeen. They don’t even talk about it in the Bible, he was apparently so awful.”
Lamott had issues with her seventeen year old son. That’s pretty normal, But I guess it’s easy to excuse a kid’s bad behavior and your part in it if Jesus was just as bad.
You guessed it, the pencil came out on that one, too.
The Los Angeles Times Book Review wrote, these “essays … are howlingly funny mini-sermons, reminding us of what’s important in life… For readers trying to live a kind of faith that’s centered on social justice.”
I get the social justice part. True.
I don’t agree on howlingly funny.
Humorous at times, yes. Self-deprecation sparring with self-justification, also yes.
Lamott’s ability to view herself is no more objective than anyone else’s. What’s important is the standard used for comparison. And whether we intend to change, or challenge God to accept us as we are. In several instances, the author admits she has no intention of changing.
She hates George W. Bush and anything connected with him. Bush obviously bugged the tar out of her because she uses him as the whipping boy for most social, national, and global ills.
Unexpected in a self-described liberal, Lamott profiles people based on the way they look. She met a man dressed in black while hiking and worried that he might have killed someone. Because he looked like the type.
That kind of honesty is refreshing. Unless it’s bookended with rants against conservatives, fundamentalists, and people who believe that abortion is wrong.
Lamott is passionate about abortion.
Lamott attempts to justify her two abortions (though she might not read it that way), yet still pens these beautiful words about Jacob’s Ladder, “… in the junction between heaven and earth, between the quick and the dead and the not yet born, the invisible beings here to help, moving to and fro, coming to help others move to and fro.”
About her non-aborted child she writes, “I thought about him every few minutes during my pregnancy, talked to him, imagined our conversations as he grew, and lived for his arrival.”
Good and evil are more universal than many believe. Anne Lamott and I would agree on most everything – until we discussed how to proceed on the fix.
In one less than half-hearted attempt to create change, Lamott writes about those,
“turning in their graves with horror about contemporary life in their beloved America. They were passionate in their fight against fascism, Joseph McCarthy, and litterbugs. The were committed to civil rights, to libraries, and to good manners. They raised their children to be polite, as honest as we could manage, and to live as if the word fair meant something, which all sounds a little Amish now. A renewal of these values would be the major plank of this revolution.”
I’m on board! Although our idea of who is or is not a fascist would differ. And that children aren’t accountable to be as honest as they can manage, but to lie, cheat, and steal NOT.
Lamott believes people shouldn’t be hassled about rules. And that lying is a reasonable method to escape responsibility for doing what you know is illegal or wrong.
Unless it’s her kid in her house. That’s different. This curious inconsistency runs throughout the book. Which makes it human.
Lamott shares her experience with a dear friend with a terminal illness. She offers to help him die. Eventually he accepts. She researches the method and obtains the controlled substances to accomplish the act. Prepares and administers the drug. And would do it again.
I’ll let you consider that without comment.
Accountability is Obscene?
In the world of faith according to Lamott, holding people accountable is victimization. In some instances she considers it “obscene.” And the fault of George W. Bush. I kid you not.
“George W. Bush and John Ashcroft had tried for years to create a country the East German state could only dream about.”
Throughout the book, Lamott professes a great love for Jesus Christ. Which Jesus? It’s a mystery to me.
But then, faith is a mystery. Faith in the one Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. No one knows the true relationship between another human and his or her Maker.
But I’d skip the book. I hoped to glean something from it, and perhaps I did. I am reminded to check my opinions against God’s Word before offering them. There is much about Lamott that’s appealing, but on matters of faith? Open God’s Word instead.
Delusion and rationalization are rampant today. And sometimes they’re best-sellers.
Published in 2007.