Sunday, August 19, 2007

An afternoon with my friend Anne

I first encountered Anne Lamott in a writing class in college, where my professor had assigned us Bird by Bird, her book on writing. Since then, I've read one of her novels, Blue Shoe and her books on religion: Traveling Mercies,Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith and, just yesterday, the one BF bought me for my birthday, Grace, Eventually.

To me, her books have become as enjoyable for her insights and sense of humor as for the chance just to see what's up with her. It's like hanging out with an old friend: How's your son Sam doing? How's your pastor Veronica? And what have you been doing since we saw each other last? (I'm not going to tell you how Sam and Veronica are doing; you go get caught up yourself!)

I visit a blog that is occasionally about atheism, and I've been struck that many of those who comment on the blog seem to object less to the idea of God than to the things that have been done in his name. Even if you don't take the long view, the increasing right-wing Christian intolerance of the past 15 years is enough to turn any reasonable person off of religion forever. But it's OK. Anne Lamott writes for what seems to be a dying breed, but judging from the success of her books is probably more like a silent majority. She writes for what I call the "real" Christians: people who live their faith instead of just preaching it, who focus on the loving and healing aspects of religion instead of the judging ones, and are more interested in going to heaven rather than merely avoiding hell. She writes for the ones who oppose war and poverty, and who reach out (as she herself has done) to those in prison, to the elderly, to the developmentally disabled, to others in need of help.

She also writes for the Christians who aren't perfect. Anne Lamott herself has a colorful past, and although she's sobered up, she still has a colorful present. You probably won't see this many swear words in most books in religion, for instance, even those that print lists of words you're not supposed to say or even think. She is very real with her readers. She talks about the times she's given in to the most petty emotions humans feel, and times when she's strayed badly from her path, and how faith has helped her through these times.

She's not preachy or judgmental, she's just kind of saying: "This has worked for me, this is how I personally get through the tough times and through daily life, this is how I've found meaning in my life." These books do belong in the "Inspiration" section, in the truest sense of that word. They always inspire me to do something, whether it's become more active in my community, or to find a new outlook on life. Try one, and let me know if they inspire you too.

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