Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Church Book Club


Our church book club is reading Ladder of Years, by Anne Tyler. We'll be discussing it next Thursday. I'm not as far on it as I would like to be. Sometimes I have trouble pacing myself. Also, (and I don't know if anyone else has this problem) I often have too many books going at the same time. I am also working on a lovely little book called God's Echo, by Sandy Sasso. It's all about reading Scripture with the help of Midrash. I highly recommend it. I'm also re-reading some of George Herbert's poetry. And Three Cups of Tea. You see the problem.


Our book club has read other books by Anne Tyler. We really enjoyed Saint Maybe, a few years ago. We are a church book club, but we don't just read religious books. We don't even mostly read religious books. We did read Walter Wangerin's book Paul a few years ago, and we get off on Anne Lamott, but being a "religious book" is not a requirement of our church book club. My feeling is, if a book is at all good, there will be some intersection with issues of faith: ethical issues or issues of forgiveness and reconciliation, human evil, grace.


The woman who chose this month's book is a new member of our group. She's a lovely woman, and really excited to see the selections we have chosen in the past. After she picked this one, though, she called me up just to make sure it was ok. "Why?" I asked. Seems a friend had asked her what a "church book club" was doing reading a book "like that." Not to give away the plot, but the main character leaves her family not too far into the book. "Runs away from home," might be one way of putting it. It just didn't seem like a very Christian thing to do.


I'm not sure I could be a member of a "church book club" that only read "churchy" books. The Bible, properly read, is the least "churchy" book of all. None of the juicy parts are edited out. David with his adultery, Solomon with his idolatry, all the evil kings and the weird prophets. Abraham and Sarah and Hagar -- depending on which part of the story you read, they are saints or victims or sinners. It's too bad that the Bible is so daunting. There are parts of it that are actually hair-raising.


I'm sure that we'll find traces of God as we read Ladder of Years this month. We'll find estrangement and forgiveness, sin and redemption, the complicated dances of relationships that Anne Tyler does so well.


And I'm sure that we'll find traces of God in our lives as well... not just the hour or so we spend in church, or even the numerous volunteer hours we put in, for those who are so inclined. But even in our non-church lives, in our everyday, working, serving, playing lives, we'll find estrangement and forgiveness, sin and redemption, the webs of destruction we so often weave, and even Grace.

4 comments:

mompriest said...

And the woman from your congregation will learn that her church is willing and able to engage in the messiness of life, even if it's through reading a "secular" book. These opportunites provide a wonderful foray into real life stuff and as a result trust grows. On some level, don't you think, church community needs to be "normal" and not overly pious, "churchy," or righteous? sigh... and as you point out, we have scripture to get us there...and what do we learn - that God loves us anyway and a real relationship forms from our vulnerability and God's constancy...

Diane said...

Yeah, one of the problems I have with more "religious" literature is that it usually wraps things up a little too neatly. Also, mostly religious books aren't "literature", and I'm a little snobby that way.

Jan said...

I facilitate a reading group called The Wisdom Class at my Episcopal Church each week, so I guess it's a "book club." We just finished "The Rock is Higher: Story as Truth" by Madeiline L'Engle, which seemed "too light" to several members of the group, so they didn't attend during the months of discussion of this book. This was good for me, because I have been snobby about books in my life, too, and these weeks of discussion have enriched me about life and faith. I lived being with the community in conversation and learned how necessary that is. I need to remember this, though I'm not sure I could be open to some of the fundamentalist women's studies that are around. . . .
Our next book is "Testament of Devotion" by Thomas Kelly. Such a lovely book.

Diane said...

"story as truth" sounds like a good read to me, and not lowbrow at all!