Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Ragamuffin Gospel

This book was recommended to me many months ago and I wish it had been years ago. The author served God through ministry for forty-five years before his death in 2013. He is a former Franciscan priest, author of twenty books, and an alcoholic. 

He has been denounced publicly and privately as a heretic, schismatic, universalist, and cockeyed optimist. He has been labeled “unbalanced”, “spiritually immature”, and “intellectually unhinged”. A newspaper article in California challenged his doctrinal purity and moral rectitude.

I suppose this book scandalized many. I found his “cockeyed optimism” refreshing. I found his message encouraging, frank, and backed by a solid interpretation of Scripture. I probably marked more passages and put more sticky notes in this book than any I have read in many years, possibly ever. I can see where purists can find fault with some of his conclusions, but I found his interpretations and beliefs life-changing for myself and thoroughly well-founded.

Manning addresses fundamental questions most of us ask such as, “Is life absurd or does it have a purpose?  Does God intervene in human affairs to make it abundantly clear what that purpose is?” 

He quotes many religious scholars and authors as diverse as Flannery O’Connor, Erma Bombeck, and Sue Monk Kidd. I did not necessarily agree with all his conclusions, but I found the narrative easy to read and convincing.  One of many quotes that I liked: Philosopher Jacques Maritain—“The culmination of knowledge is not conceptual but experiential—I feel God.”  

Manning punctuates his quotes with stories, even jokes. Everyone should read this book to at least learn if they are ragamuffins.

No comments: