Tag Archives: Literature

A Review of Fall to Grace

Jay Bakker’s new book Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self and Society explores the meaning of grace and how to live out the idea that God loves us unconditionally.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with what Christians mean by the word grace: think of it as being loved, honoured and favoured by someone without doing anything to make them feel that way about you. Usually, but not always, that someone is God.

To be honest I spent the first half of this book waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve known more than one Christian who segues from talking about the gift of grace to sharing their list of rules that need to be followed in order to keep it. Jay never does this which was intriguing and surprising.

The best part of the book by far were the grace notes, interludes written by people Jay knows who have lived through difficult experiences.  True stories have always been my favourite part of reading books about theology or ethics. There is something about learning what another human being has been through and what he or she has discovered as a result that is a thousand times more informative and instructive than reading a hundred pages of even the most well-written ideas.

This book focuses heavily on the application of grace as it is related to one particular issue. I would have preferred to hear how Jay’s ideas about grace impact his reaction on a wider variety of topics. Too often conversations about grace whittles down to the same subjects over and over again and his message would have been been more effective had its arguments drawn from multiple examples.

I’d recommend this book for Christians who are interested in taking a second look at how they think about God and live out their beliefs. Most of the arguments and Bible stories that are used as examples in this can be easily understood by someone who isn’t already familiar with them but it isn’t written specifically for non-Christians. It’s sort of like visiting a family in the middle of a (good-natured) debate. Those of us outside of the family listen to various points of view but we don’t have a personal stake in how it is all sorted out.

Note: I received this book for free through the viral blogging program at www.theooze.com.



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Every Mind Boggles

Today I wanted to talk about a few things that boggle my mind.

Thing One

The Land of Painted Caves was released last week. I’ve been reading and rereading this series for over 15 years and am looking forward to it finally being wrapped up.

What originally drew me into the story was its exploration of the tension between personal autonomy and belonging to a community. Being part of a group requires certain compromises over time. Some are mild, others utterly life-changing.

I wonder, though, if someone born and raised in a collectivistic society would struggle with this the way those of us who live in individualistic cultures do at times? My best guess: no.

It’s impossible to think about this without applying my cultural conditioning or values to it, though. I can’t imagine what it would be like to spend an entire lifetime believing that the common good or the needs of the group were always more important than what I wanted or needed.

(This does not mean that I think there’s anything wrong with collectivist societies. It’s simply so far removed from how I grew up that my brain struggles to understand the how and why of what they value most.)

Thing Two

If one wants to make wisecracks about his or her own disability, rape, impending death or how he or she narrowly escaped the latest natural disaster I’ll still fail to see the humour in it but won’t be offended.

Making fun of other people’s suffering, though, is the fastest way to enrage me (especially when object of the “joke” is someone vulnerable.)

Thing Three

Ostensibly serious news organizations that report on what celebrities are wearing, eating, saying or doing.


What boggles your mind?

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The Care and Feeding of Ideas

Every September there is a fantastic book festival here called Word on the Street.  Everyone who values knowledge and the free exchange of ideas belongs there, regardless of age, background or worldview. Imagine a city park filled with booths promoting graphic novels, children’s stories, magazines, literary journals, literacy foundations, religious groups like Muslims and a spattering of neopagan and new age gurus, and even some authors promoting books that I think were self-published.

In the middle of the park one can find poetry and dramatic readings, special speakers on a variety of social and ethical topics, political debates, and Q&A sessions with a wide variety of publishers, authors, and bloggers. Many of the views represented each year are contradictory. It doesn’t matter, though, because this is a festival of curiosity, wonder at the world around us, and the cross-pollination of ideas.

Ideas rot from the inside out if we never test them, share them with others, or listen the views of people who see the world in a different way. It doesn’t matter what the idea is, isolation breeds extremist views that can do much more harm than good.

Think of what would happen if a small group of people were secluded from the outside world.  Sooner or later, their descendants will become inbred and if new members are not at least occasionally introduced the community could easily die out altogether. Relying on the same gene pool (or way of looking at the world) year after year increases the chances that recessive genes (or  really, really bad ideas) will pop up.

This is why I love Word on the Street. Yes, the food is delicious. Yes, it is wonderful to discover new authors, listen to discussions about e-books and blogging, or pick up free bookmarks or magazine samples at the booths. The exchange of  ideas, though, is where the magic happens. Even in a large city like Toronto people tend to drift to other people who think, act and believe like them. This may be a diverse city comprised of  many different communities but these communities still look and act like a small town in both positive and negative ways. A close-knit community can be fantastic support system; it can also be unbelievably suffocatingfor anyone who cannot fit the mold of who or what someone in that community is supposed to be.

Slowly I have been accumulating friends who value the art of conversation, who don’t expect anyone to change his or her mind or for any sort of consensus to be agreed upon. I just wish I knew how to stumble upon them more quickly!


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