Monday, February 2, 2015

Jesus Calling?

It caught my eye because it was the single best selling Christian book this last year, racking up a whopping ten million sales.

Jesus Calling, it's titled, and it's a yearlong journey of daily devotionals written by a Christian missionary.  It's an...interesting book.  The author, having maintained a journal of her daily spiritual reflections, decided to write them out as words from Jesus.  Meaning, the book is intended to be not her words, but the words she has received directly from Jesus, every day.

Like I said, interesting.  Interesting enough that I snagged an ebook version of it...it's checked out of every library in the county.  Or, rather, I snagged a sample, meaning the introduction and the first month of the devotional.  

Enough, I think, to have gotten the flavor of it.

Working my way through the introduction, it felt accessible and straightforward.  I learned the author had attended Wellesley, and gotten her masters from Tufts, which surprised me a wee bit.

Then it began getting odd.  Familiar, but odd.  After her conversion experience, she began working with evangelical and charismatic missions in Australia, and specifically counseling women in a Christian counseling center.  It is at this point that she begins encountering what she describes as spiritual assault, engaging in spiritual warfare with powers that were threatened by her ministry.

And then she starts talking about how important her spirituality was in helping her to work with a client who was recovering from both incest and...satanic ritual abuse.

"This form of Satan worship involves subjecting victims (who are often very young children) to incredibly evil, degrading tortures," she shares, in a matter of fact sort of way.

What and the what?  This, in the bestselling Christian book in America in 2014?  Satanic ritual abuse?  My gracious, we really aren't at Wellesley any more, are we, Toto?

This was a big thing back in the 1980s and 1990s, sure.  Much of charismatic evangelical Christianity was in full panic mode about a vast global conspiracy of Satanists, who did horrific things in secretly monstrous rituals.  Which would have been horrible, sure.  Had it actually happened.  

Which, it, um, didn't.

It was a panic, a collective delusion, born of paranoia and a hyper-spiritual worldview that had folded in on itself and divorced itself from the reality of God's creation.  Victims recounted stories of abuse that, upon actual examination, proved to be what amounted to implanted memories, embedded in damaged souls by "counselors" who were so eager to find abuse that they found it everywhere they looked.

So the book begins with, among other things, an uncritical recounting of a discredited fabrication?  Lord ha' mercy.

I read on, working through that first month with the taste of several grains of salt in my mouth.

And despite that really, really awkward and jarring note at the beginning, it wasn't terrible, or evil.  Sort of pleasant, in an encouraging, uplifting sort of way.  Sure, it didn't sound all that much like the Jesus I know.  There weren't parables, or stories, or complex explications of the interwoven nature of our identities and that our Creator.

Just words of encouragement and support, mingled in with an inspirational passage or three each day.

Was it Jesus talking?  Well, no, not technically, not in the unmediated-direct-line-to-Jesus sense of it.  I just don't buy that, any more than I buy any assertion without critically assessing it.

But was it morally or ethically antithetical to the teachings of Jesus?  No.  No it wasn't.

So, the way I figure it, it sort of is Jesus, in the way that every one of us who follows him is Jesus.  Taken that way, it wasn't half bad.  Not really my cup of tea, but so it goes.

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