Monday, May 26, 2008

God Girl's Sin Boldly: A book snuck into the mix.

Zondervan is releasing a book by the religion writer at the Chicago Sun-times, Cathleen Falsani.  

Falsani is the pop-culture-eclectic Wheaton grad that some how landed a job at the tabloid mag Times  ("somehow" not because of her skills but because of her pedigree). 

First I should say that I enjoy the Sun-times.  As my father-in-law pointed out to me years ago, all cities should print at least one paper like this -- it is so much easier to read while walking down the street or standing on the el!  I have also enjoyed reading Falsani who passes the "is she really an evangelical?" test the way Bono passes the "is he really a Christian test?": hopefully but with one foot conspicuously out of bounds. 

Falsani's book made me think about a recent argument made by Tim Keller that religion advocates typically are so disconnected from disbelievers that they caricature one another in argument, find no common ground, and  therefore have meaningless conversations that are more attack than discussion.  Keller would like her I think. . .

Falsani presents a series of short chapters sharing quite personally from her life's quest to find grace in the nitty-gritty, ebbs and flows of life.  She is quite atypical for an evangelical in that she finds comfort in realizing her own failings and eagerness to discover lessons on grace from pop culture, foreign countries, an odd nun, sexist African tour guide and other places.    

The chapter reciting her quasi-obituary  for Jerry Falwell (she was honest about her embarrassment about Falwell's fundamentalist ranting and pleasure not to have to explain him anymore as a fellow "evangelical") and the section in which she explains her testimony that doesn't fit the prescribed order both had me chuckling over my wet burrito at La Cantina Grill. 

I found Falsani to be someone who approached things the way Keller would appreciate; avoiding antagonism, asking questions, looking for truth.  I also read her as someone who finds joy inhabiting my urban world -- not in the inner city sense of my community, but a Chi-town evangelical institution grad (her at Wheaton, me at MBI -- both weirdly, grudgingly respected institutions in beer-drinking  brat-eatin Chicaaago) who is is most comfortable being whatever kind of Christian is the opposite of loud-mouthed and predictable.  She rocks out to my favorite radio station, gets spiritual insight from Lin Brehmer (local old school rock dj-philosopher) and quotes U2, Martin Luther (for the title) and many others.    

My initial thought was that this is a good leave-it-by-the-pot book.  You know what I mean; the kind of book you read a few pages in a sitting, chuckle, give it a little thought and forget about it.  But once I read past the first few chapters I found the connections between her various trips (memphis, Africa, Ireland, Rome, etc...) enough to string me along for the ride.  

Reading this book will not give you a complex theological definition for grace, but it will give you some implicit encouragement to see the hand of God at work, as grace, woven into the fabric of urban pop culture life.  That is always a welcome encouragement in the city. 

Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace
Cathleen Falsani. Zondervan, $19.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-310-27947-1 

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