Friday, March 31, 2006

I'm Finally Reading Traveling Mercies

So many people I respect have said so many good things about Anne Lamott that I decided I must read Traveling Mercies as a matter of personal responsibility. I'm glad that I made this decision.

To clarify: I don't see myself becoming an Anne Lamott fan. I don't imagine that I will religiously re-read Traveling Mercies the way I would a Nick Hornby novel, one of the Harry Potter books, a good "historical Jesus" study, or something that Kurt Vonnegut wrote prior to Breakfast of Champions. Still, Lamott's popular memoir is refreshing and has given me some much needed perspective.

I had planned on writing a post on Christian soteriology, arguing that one can find support for universalism (and to a lesser extent, pluralism) in Christian Scripture and church tradition. My intent would not have been to insist that the church embrace or adopt universalism andor pluralism, but to draft a pre-emptive response to those who would consider me not-a-real-Christian for even considering such ideas. (I may yet write such a post.)

But, frankly, theology gives me a headache; and I thank Anne Lamott for being my intellectual and spiritual ibuprofin. Traveling Mercies has reminded me that faith should not simply be a matter of doctrine and exegesis, or even a matter of belief. Faith is about experiecing the divineā€”of having a relationship with God. One should not have to rationalize his or her faith because faith simply isn't rational.

Lamott, through her creative non-fiction vignettes, illustrates her intimate relationship with God: the exhileration and the anger; the hope and the frustration; the affirmation and the confusion; and the continual assurance of God's love and presence. She is aware of God working in her life during times of joy and sorrow; she is eager to thank and praise God, but doesn't hesitate to get pissed off at her creator. For Lamott, Christianity is lived rather than believed. Thus she separates herself from the fruitless debates about doctrine that I so often find myself observing or participating in, and she allows herself to fully love God and neighbor.


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