Thursday, January 29, 2009

I just finished reading a novel by Frank Schaeffer, "Baby Jack". It's so well written. The author is the son of a prominent evangelical intellectual, Francis Schaeffer, which is why i was interested in it in the first place. The writing did not disappoint, but rather revealed the author to be a very thoughtful observer of human nature and spiritual truths.

During the course of the novel, one of the characters dies. He continues to narrate and is able to be anywhere and read the feelings and thoughts of people he chooses to follow. He tells us about his family and friends, but also about God, and how God responds to things. The way this is described is full of surprises. Sometimes God uses language that most of us would find un-God-like. Sometimes God doesn't want to answer people's requests, tells them to forget it, then changes his mind. Other times he gets mad and uses the f-word.

The characterization God gets in this book could be called irreverent, but I ended up finding it incredibly challenging.

"Why did you create humans?" I ask God.
"The Brooklyn Botanic Garden."
"That's it?!"
"And I like William Wegman's large format Polaroids of his dogs."

'...that sinking feeling all religious fanatics get as soon as it hits them that they've more or less wasted their lives trying to please God and he not only doesn't give a sh*t but doesn't even like them.
It's a really nasty surprise to wake up and find you're in paradise with a bunch of infidels and they got here without even trying. The born-again Christians get that same sinking feeling. Eternal life turns out to be such a disappointment for true believers.
Sometimes the dead are so bummed they even argue theology with God. A few days ago a newly arrived Southern Baptist was so shocked by God's profanity that he told God that he thought God needed to repent and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal savior.'

'God doesn't give a rat's ass one way or another, at least not about the things people think are a big deal, destiny, the rise and fall of nations, and all. To God, countries, nations, peoples and tribes come and go, are no more important than leaves swirling on a driveway. He does have likes and dislikes, though, but it's nothing to do with any rules. With God it's all personal. Take Gaughin. God is very angry about how he treated Van Gogh. He says Gaughin "drove Van Gogh to suicide" and he says Gaughin is overrated. "Muddy" is how God describes his paintings.'

The idea that after people die, they are able to see the thoughts and experiences, both past and present, of the people they knew and interacted with in life--this really challenged me.

I believe that my thoughts are known to God, but for some reason thinking about other people knowing my thoughts jolted me a little more. Memories of thinking nasty thoughts about people, sometimes even people who have not harmed me. I can be very critical.

The novel goes on to describe a person that many of the dead, as well as God, love to spend time around. And this person was not a religious leader, but rather a marine drill instructor. A person without guile.

Damn, I thought. Does God like to spend time around me? Probably not. I am boringly obsessed with organizing my stuff, washing dishes, and crossing things off my to-do list. Somewhere along the line, it seems that my concept of what is important must have gotten skewed.

Could I be inspired to be a more honest, kind person? A person of warmth and truth, of integrity and compassion? Someone who people would choose to spend time with, even if they knew my thoughts?

Another observation:

'The amazing thing about Jessica is that what she says and what she's thinking is usually the same thing. With most people there's an internal conversation that's different than what they're saying. Swimming in them [observing them] is like watching a 3-D movie without the glasses. Thoughts and words overlap but not exactly. But with Jessica her thoughts and words are in sync.'

I can't do this book justice, or even really give you a good sense of it but it's a gem, and I really look forward to reading more from this author.


nicole said...

I absolutely love him. I found his political posts at the huffington post to be some of the most important ones during the election cycle.

I can't tell you enough how much I enjoy your blog. xx

Wikkid Person said...

Just about finished "Crazy For God," and I've only had it since noon. Thanks!