First of all – having a ‘to read’ label on my blog is not working. As soon as I write it down as a reading priority, I immediately find something else far more interesting so I’m just going to stick with that. Also, I have regular work now that doesn’t involve a lot of time on public transport so I’m having to find time to read at home so my progress isn’t as good as it’s been the last few months but hey ho, here we go.
This is not a perfect book. As she wanders from place to place, Garrison meets dozens and dozens of people along the way and it does get past the point where you can really take in who they all are. The short chapters which brought in a host of new characters could be confusing and I did lose a bit of the thread. Additionally, I personally didn’t feel that there was much satire. She had a few gentle digs here and there but there was a definite sense of playing it safe. Religious satire is a dangerous area, people are hyper-sensitive and all too likely to say ‘people wouldn’t be poking fun at the Muslims like that’. Garrison mentions Jonathon Swift a couple of times and to be honest I can’t think of another well known religious satirist so Garrison could really break some new ground here if she were to have the courage.
It is true that there is a lot to poke fun at in religion and unlike with politicians, people are wary to poke fun at religious leaders because it says in the Bible that we shouldn’t. While on my church-search, I was in a service where during the hymns a woman who looked to be approx. 40 got up and danced in front of the congregation. This was apparently a regular thing, she just waved her arms around and looked up at the ceiling in a ‘deep’ way. I stared around puzzled for the first few verses, trying to figure out if this was a church-wide joke but it wasn’t. It was sincere. Garrison is right that where there is sincerity, we should not mock and I can see why she does not want to be insensitive but you can’t help but feel that in her search to appeal to all Christians, she misses the opportunity to give a jolt to those who need knocking out of their Christian comfort zones.
All too often it is said that Christians are what make other people feel they do not want to follow Christ and I really liked what Garrison said in explaining her own experience as a woman in her twenties when she joined a church and all of a sudden felt she had all the answers which led her to behave in a way she now cringes at. Young Christians can be ghastly and I count myself amongst them. I worked at a Christian summer camp nearly five years ago and I remember watching the movie Saved in the middle of it, which is about a Christian high school in America, all through the film I kept thinking that this film wasn’t a comedy, it was more of a documentary. We none of us have all the answers, God is an incredible mystery and it is important to remember that our journey to know him is not one with a tangible destination. The best parts of Garrison’s book were where she talked to the Ordinary Heroes who worked quietly behind the scenes to further God’s work, it is through them that Garrison felt more of the power of Jesus’ sacrifice, not through the grandstanding American-Christian leaders who had led Garrison to feel so disaffected.
So yes, this was an enjoyable book if not exactly what I expected. I’m not usually a fan of travel writing because when people moan about where they’re staying I think they sound ungrateful and plus when they’re describing the ‘deep’ parts of the journey, it takes quite an impressive writer to bring that impression over adequately on the page. Garrison is a bit medium and she does get a bit startstruck with Ireland and then not so much with Belfast which was unfortunate since that’s one of my favourite cities in the world. I also found it hard to relate to Garrison’s experience of ‘online buddies’ – I stay in touch with friends over the interweb and I am enjoying my blogging experience but I don’t think that virtual friendships equate to the real thing, but then as the book progressed, I think Garrison realised that too.
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Published by Harper Collins on 2010
Genres: Religion, Christian Life, Spiritual Growth
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