Monday, July 22, 2013

"Sex, Mom & God," a fan puts me on to Frank Schaeffer

As I reported in my previous post, I had a great conversation this week with a fan of our book from Austin, Texas, Daniel Butler. One highlight: Daniel put me on to Frank Schaeffer, author of this book:

"Sex, Mom, & God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics - and How I learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway"Sex, Mom and God Cover

In this video clip about the book, ex-Evangelical leader Frank Schaeffer talks about his mother, evangelical writer Edith Schaeffer, and his reconsideration of his family's impact on the Christian right and conservative politics.

Some reviewers call it hilarious venom, and others call it graceful redemption. The San Francisco Book Review said
"This memoir/diatribe on organized religion is so shockingly bold and intimately revealing that it will spin your head around whiplash-quick, and cause you to double check to make sure you read the words correctly… Schaeffer comes to a jarring conclusion for fundamentalists, Roman Catholics, Jews, and Muslims alike, that if we don't set aside our dogma and start making a serious effort at getting along, we will end up destroying ourselves and everything we thought we believed in."
I guess I'll have to read it to judge for myself.

Daniel and I actually talked more about Schaeffer's previous book: Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism), as reported in this previous post.

The Fire of God: Love or Hate?

Daniel Butler
I received a thoughtful, 8-page letter from a fan of our book in Austin, Texas, and got to meet the sender, Daniel Butler, an ex-evangelical who loves the lack of dogma and the social action in his Unitarian church but misses the sense of the sacred. We discussed all my favorite topics over coffee while his family vacationed in DC last week.

We are fans of all the same thinkers: Wilber, Haidt, Pirsig, Cayce, Tillich,and McLaren. He introduced me to the work of Hank Schaeffer, whose Sex, Mom, and God I'll write about next.

I ran him out to Highview to get an autograph from my co-author Bishop Thomas. Daniel thanked us for the example we set of being able to discuss contentious topics openly and affably.
Daniel Butler and Bishop Phil Thomas at Highview Christian Fellowship

"Teri was great to dialogue with, she just never got the part about God having a stern side as well as a nice side," Bishop said, referring to our chapter, "Learning to Love the Wrath of God."

"Oh I get it now," I said.

Daniel responded by telling us how Frank Schaeffer talks about the fire of God in his book, "Patience with God: Faith for People who Don't Like Religion or Atheism." Whipping out his Kindle, Daniel quoted a poetic passage about how some people could experience the fire or energy of God as terrifying while others could experience the same energy as radiating love.

Other topics from Daniel's letter that I may follow up on later:
  • New Thought as less flaky than he thought
  • Postmodern moral flatland
  • Christ consciousness
  • Three Faces of God
  • How to tell right from wrong
  • Polarities
  • Parallels between Evolutionary Enlightenment and fundamentalism 
  • Libertarianism
  • Homosexuality
  • Sex with sheep
His letter ends sweetly with this:
I like to think truth is a both/and dialectic where as you say, "Being and doing, faith and works, heaven and earth, conservation and progress, union with God and communion,"dance (awkwardly, but nonetheless, dance) together. I want to thank you and the Bishop for this glorious ride.

Daniel Butler, Teri Murphy, Phil Thomas

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?"

I was hooked on the first page of, "Does This Church Make Me Look Fat," and by the end of chapter one, I forced myself to stop in order to draw out the pleasure I anticipate. The last time I got so excited by the first page of a book was for "36 Arguments for the Existence of God," which I eventually threw across the room feeling hoodwinked--despite its one scene wholly fulfilling its implied promise of reintegrating the divine in postmodern life.

This second memoir by Rhoda Janzen was just given me as a birthday present by my friend Laurie Moison--previously a powerhouse in the Evangelical women's movement (yes!) and now landing with a glorious splash in New Thought.

Reviews on the back cover say
"Snort-up-your-coffee funny, breezy yet profound....Too much spiritual writing these days claims that religious practice is about healing or developing the self. But Rhoda Janzen sets out on a path to become more loving, grateful, and helpful to others. This is particularly impressive given that she's writing about a period in her life when she's got a scary, life-threatening illness and a brand-new family."

I sense that Janzen's journey may parallel aspects of my own joyride through goodness at a Black  church as told in my book, The Bishop and the Seeker. Here's an excerpt from the first pages of "Does This Church Make me Look Fat?"
"Having divorced after a fifteen-year marriage, and having returned in a scattershot way to the dating scene, I naturally had limited faith in my judgment. So when I found myself falling for a Jesus-nail-necklace-wearing manly man, the kind whose hands were so huge they ripped his jeans pockets, I thought my common sense was all a-pother. 
Working against me was the fact that I am an egghead intellectual. Have you noticed that sometimes scholars do one tiny thing really well, but at the expense of more important things?  For instance, I can diagram any sentence from the late fiction of Henry James. Why anybody would want me to is a mystery, but you'd be surprised at how many requests I get. We're talking about sentences that march on and on, to and fro, like a bewildered Energizer bunny. I have limited life-management skills, yet I can diagram these sentences with the speed of an idiot savant. Why is it necessary to diagram any sentence? you ask. Good Question.... 
My new boyfriend's vocabulary could have passed muster with toddlers and kittens... He caricatured the impossible male physique--chest like a scenic vista, cannon arms, a waist that disappeared into his jeans like a genie into a bottle... Put him in a suit, he looks like Secret Service. When you put other men in suits, they look like accountants or limo drivers."
So what could possibly persuade such a man to consider wearing green sequined panties?

The answer in the first chapter took my breath away. I'm hooked.