August 1, 2011
DATE: JUNE 2011
I bought this book for two dollars in a bargain bin at Chapters. The reason that I bought it was almost purely based on the advertised forward by Rob Bell. At the time of purchase I had not read any Bell but the name was familiar. (I am currently wading into Velvet Elvis.)
The premise for the book is interesting: Hemant Mehta is a self professed Atheist from a Jane background. He posts an add on eBay to "sell his soul". The soul selling was not actually part of the original deal but a magazine used it and it ended up sticking. The real deal was that Mehta offered to attend any religious service as a full participator for a fee.
A Christian group essentially bought the right to send Mehta to a handful of church services. Mehta attended the gatherings and reported his findings back to the organization in an article format that I presume they published. In this way he was acting a little bit like a secret shopper. Mehta is careful to sell himself in this way throughout the book. He presents himself as the every-atheist. It is this point that causes the book to be a little bit uninspired in my opinion.
Mehta visits a variety of churches ranging all the way from small suburban venues to Mega churches. He examines the churches based on sermon content, sermon delivery, musical talent, style, length, parking, seating etc. Although this information is very helpful for the specific churches and it is of some general interest to the Church at large I do think it is incomplete. Perhaps the most important thing that Mehta's evaluation highlights is a flaw in perspective that many Christians share with him.
Mehta is approaching the Church as a purely consumer experience. He is examining the Church as a "drop in guest" that is shopping for a place that is selling the product he wants marketed in a way he likes. The problem with this approach is that Church is a living community. Church, in my opinion, is better viewed as a family reunion rather than a Broadway show. While I can see the value in Mehtma's critiques and I sympathize with his bad experience at some more bigoted places of worship I don't think he is using the proper criteria for a true evaluation of Church success.
Mehta continually refers to himself as the "target audience" of the Churches he visits. I disagree with him on this point. Firstly, I think it is a mistake to think that the main goal of Sunday service is to attract a "target audience" with the goal of conversion. It is true that a major facet of evangelical belief is the desire to evangelize; however, I do not believe that the primary goal of Sunday service is evangelism. While I would hope that all churches would welcome non-believers to partake or observe a worship service I believe that the primary goal of the service is corporate worship with fellow believers.
I also do not believe that Mehta can claim, in any real sense, to represent all non-believers or even all atheists. In my limited experience I have met a huge variety of non-believing folks with a vast array of beliefs, personalities, and preferences. The truth is that much of what Mehta found unappealing may be very appealing to another person. This is also a good reason for Church to be thought of less as a shopping experience and more as a family function. If we only go where we like to music and the sermons than our commitment is not a religious one but a decision of entertainment. Their is much more to the Christian experience than a good show once a week.
May 28, 2011
AUTHOR: Robert Charles Wilson
DATE: April 2011
My wife and I walk down to the Moose Jaw Public library a few times a week for exercise and to browse the shelves. I was just returning Spin, which I loved, so I thought I would browse the Sci-Fi shelves. I had thought about getting Axis next but I usually find that the sequel does not measure up and I was afraid of ruining my pleasant Spin memories. Grabbed a stack of other Wilson novels, looked over the covers and read the back blurbs andChronoliths won me over. The thing that helped me decide was the excellent cover art that features a Chronolith jutting out of the surf while two tourist looking people look on dwarfed by its excess. The way the picture is rendered reminded me of the religious pamphlets that sometimes show up in the mail that always look a bit dated.
The book itself was really interesting. Basically huge monuments start showing up across the globe that memorialize the world conquests of a leader twenty years into the future. Wilson utilizes this unique situation to explore a number of avenues of life including cult worship, government, the science of time travel and so on. I loved the feel of the book. It was set in modern times but it felt a little bit the like the turmoil of the sixties(from what I have seen in film). My only criticism would be of the ending. The mystery that drives a lot of the novel is never really revealed in a satisfying way so the reader is tugged along chapter by chapter expecting a reward and is left empty handed.
After reading two books by Wilson I think I can comfortably say that he holds the top spot in my "favorite modern sci-fi writer" category. His writing is smart and interesting and he is a master at creating oddly believable landscapes and using these landscapes to explore important and interesting issues.
February 28, 2011
As I read this latest offering I felt again like Miller was speaking to my situation. I am older than I was in college, I have a career, I cut my hair and I wear dress pants and button up shirts to my office job every day. I am overweight and that bothers me and I am not totally satisfied with the life I am living. Don't get me wrong, I love my wife and my house and all of that but I deeply want my life to mean something more than average.
"A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" is a story about story. Miller frames his narrative around a movie that is in the works about himself based loosely on "Blue Like Jazz". As Don learns about the elements of a good story he sees that these elements can be applied to life itself. He begins to see that he is not living a good story. He, like me, is overweight and living a boring narrative. He begins to take steps to start living a good story, these steps involve risk and danger which any reader will tell you are essential elements in a good book. He embarks on a long and difficult hike, he joins a gym, starts a foundation, looks for his birth dad and takes a bike ride across America. And as usual Don peppers his narrative with stories about the interesting and inspiring people he has met along the way.
Don's book got me excited about life. I sometimes feel like I live in a sea of complaint and bad news. Many people around me seem unhappy with their jobs, their relationships, they fitness etc etc. The news is always about the latest tragedy, protest, murder or missing person. Millers book said that I could work toward a better story. He said I can look for ways to impact people around me in positive ways, I can get fit, I can use my time more wisely and so on. Don painted a hopeful picture of the future and he encouraged me to be an active force in changing my own stories ark.
The book is not terribly profound in any way. It does not reveal any truth that has not been said before but as usual Donald Miller was able to communicate to me on my level.
P.S. My wife and I visited Portland a year back and I also liked the few times that Miller mentioned places my wife and I had seen face to face.
February 12, 2011
For those who don't have the time to read here is a taste of dinosaur fight action. (try to imagine the T-rex wearing a red sash and speaking in proper english).