Saturday, August 29, 2009

Anne Lamott

When an acquaintance lent me 'traveling mercies,' it was with the caveat that 'this is not for the easily offended, typical uptight christian.' i assumed that was my ticket into the in crowd. after all, i don't think you get much more irreverent and un-churchy than me. Five pages into the book, i was already rolling my eyes and gagging. Half way through, and I was outraged and deeply offended. For the next 5 years, I could barely restrain the string of expletives whenever I heard her name mentioned. Unfortunately, many of my favorite writers openly adore her. (rob bell, donald miller...what IS it with her?)

There are 3 things that bother me about anne lamott. First, and least important, her writing style smacks of 12th grade creative writing class. All the fragments, the 'stream of consciousness', breathy delivery. You can almost hear her cliched 'I'm an artist and a poet' voice drawling out the words while you read. So obnoxious. Anyone can do that. Second, her soft opinion on abortion. It's hard for me to admire anyone who is so ambivalent about the birth of her own child. Last, her smug descriptions of having sex with other women's husbands.
I don't think I've ever worked harder on anything than on my marriage. It offends and terrifies me that someone like Anne is out there, splurging on her pet sin from time to time, and then chalking it up to her tragically flawed human nature. Remorse? I don't think it's in her vocabulary. Self loathing is just another form of self worship, Anne. At least she knows she's a narcissist. (She mentions it often.) It's so annoying to have someone ignoring the rules, and bragging about it, as if she's advertising grace.

Ok, that's off my chest. I truly don't know if she really knows Jesus. I have trouble wrapping my head around what comes off to me as a total lack of repentance. It feels like bragging to me.

That being said, I have wondered for so long why this woman can inspire Christians. I've found her writing so...hopeless. I've felt infuriated at her apparent lack of desire to change. Her total acceptance of miserable failure to perform even the basics of what's considered standard to being good, let alone spiritually mature. I hated her for that. I hated her for being able to inspire others. I want to get better. Doesn't everyone else?

Two years ago, I accidentally loaded her audio book (Grace:Thoughts On Faith) onto my ipod, after borrowing it from the Public Library. Now, when I'm out jogging, I keep getting bits of Ann Lamott thrown in with my Killers and Pixies and Keane. Somewhere along the lines, I've realized that something changed. Her obnoxious reading voice still sounds just exactly like my 12th grade creative writing teacher (I just knew it would), and I'm still totally baffled by her easy proclivity with politics that don't seem to match any rendering of the Bible that I can see, but...I no longer find her hopelessness offensive.

I think this last couple of years has seen the beginning of the death of my perfectionism. I don't want to get my hopes up, here, people, but I think I've finally made peace with some of my own personal failures. Maybe even some of those of my friends and loved ones. Where Ann used to whip me up into a rage of 'Pull-Yourself-Up-By-The-Boot-Straps redoubling of my efforts inclined fervor to never give up the fight to Fix Me,', I just hang my head and laugh. Or sigh. Some things die so hard. Others take sooooo long to change. And still more parts of me may just be broken forever. And God still likes me. I think, if anything, Ann and I could toast to that.


The last book in the Bible is called Revelations. I've never read it. Not until this year. Granted, my step dad read us through the entire Bible as kids during morning "devos" (short for devotionals, a term which I find just as ambiguous. A term for a Christian's daily reading and meditation on the Bible), at least twice. But I don't remember it. And I've steered completely clear of it for most of my adult life primarily because of what I'll call End Times Enthusiast who want to fight about their pet theological time line...and the crazy person I've met in nearly each and every church I've been in who lives and breathes tales of 'The Beast,' 'The Rapture,' and the Left Behind book series. So when both my husband (the pastor), and the Community Bible Study group I'm involved with three towns away both announced last spring that we would be studying Revelation this year, I felt a measure of relief.

CBS, or, Community Bible Study, has been one of the most fair minded interdenominational groups I've ever been a part of. I'm constantly amazed at how objective and inclusive the commentaries are, and how few theological fights break out, though we're around the table with Catholics, Baptists, Calvanists and Pentacostals. I trust them to deal soberly with Revelations.

My husband, too, is not one to dabble in wild eyes speculation when it comes to Scripture. Wait, that is not true at all. He lives for wild eyed speculation of scripture. But at least he knows, and acknowledges it when he's dong it, rather than bending and warping the Bible around his favorite whipping boy topics. (Honestly, I'm sure we all do that in some respect, because we can't help it, but I appreciate Jason keeping us all informed when he is forming an unprecedented conclusion.)