Friday, June 14, 2013

In the Name of Jesus, part two

Okay so, if i'm being honest? I kind of hated this book. Honestly, i don't even have things i can point to and say, "Here! This is why it is bad! Bad theology! Bad writing! Bad sexism!" or anything like that. It's an extraordinarily mild and inoffensive book. It sort of reminds me of Velveeta: not a lot of flavor, not a lot of substance, and you can't really explain why you hate it (aside from all the chemicals and sodium and whatnot). I don't think this book is wrong. I don't think it's dangerous or offensive. I just think it's really boring.

Two things i will comment on,  however. First, the conclusion:

Nouwen has spent this whole book telling us that it is important for ministry to be communal, that we must find ministry partners and let go of the temptation to be relevant or powerful or a rock star. He has also spent a large chunk of the book talking about the huge change in his thinking and attitude when he started living and working with the disabled. And then he concludes with a story about going to a conference where he was supposed to give a talk with another person. The other person that had been assigned to him was Bill, one of the residents of the home for the disabled. When Nouwen was preparing his presentation, he prepared it alone, and he assumed he would be giving it alone. This despite the fact that it was composed largely of ideas and theories and teachings that he had already presented and worked through in the home; in other words, material that Bill was already familiar with. In fact, he was surprised when they got to the conference and Bill joined him on stage with every expectation of being an equal part of the presentation.

Because he hadn't prepared anything for Bill, or asked Bill to prepare anything for himself, or even considered the possibility that Bill might be an active participant in the presentation, Bill's role ended up being this: he helped Nouwen turn the pages of his notes and collect the ones he was done with, and he occasionally threw in interjections like, "I've heard that before!" Afterwards, he took the microphone and told the group that he was glad to be there with them.

Bill was selected by the community to be Nouwen's partner in ministry for this conference. The community clearly thought he had something to offer. Yet Nouwen did not approach this as a group presentation, but as a solo event. And his whole attitude seems to be, "Hey, look how neat it is that Bill found his own special snowflake way to participate!" rather than, "Wow, I'm an idiot. I should have prepared WITH him."

Seems like Nouwen still has some growing to do.

The second thing? The book is a small paperback, just over a hundred pages, with wide margins and a ton of white space. Each new chapter/section starts about halfway down the page, and every few pages there is a blank page with a small illustration and a quote pulled from this very book. It is a very small book, and doesn't really have a whole lot of text in it, is what i am saying.

It is $14.95.

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