Saturday, May 8, 2010

New stories and Old Stories

Hi, readers. Although the semester is ended, I am still swamped, but luckily now I have the time to Recommend some things to you. I know you need it. I know I do too.

Today's recommendation is Susan Campbell's provocative memoir Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl. (n.b.: that's an Amazon link; good thing the FTC is persecuting bloggers instead of those poor victimized bankers).

The book describes Campbell's childhood and "relationship" with Jesus (get the title?), set against her theological interpretations of the Bible and Christianity. I found the book while waiting around for something in the campus union (where there is conveniently located a corporate-owned store that sells books and every kind of cluttery crap imaginable that can be painted with the university logo). Anyway, so I was in there and picked this up, intrigued by the title. The first chapter - a confessional account of a childhood baptism - so entranced and charmed me that I bought the book (whereas usually I spend weeks waffling and finally decide on a cheap copy online, which inevitably ends up smelling funny).

I have complicated feelings about this book, especially considering that I was not raised in any specific religious tradition, am not religious, and have no real insider knowledge of American Fundamentalism. Because of that, I find the book fascinating: it's a totally foreign world to me. Especially when Campbell describes her childhood, this is a funny, provocative read. When Campbell is telling childhood stories, she's really at her best because the description of this sub/culture is unforced and told without condescension.

However, the latter half of the book is a bit dull unless you are seriously interested in theology, in which case it's merely polemical, and, I suspect, unlikely to change hearts or minds. This is not inherently a problem - I just wish she had stuck with the trope of the Jesus "relationship" as it pertained to her childhood within a very specific culture.

Despite this, Dating Jesus is a fascinating look into a world that most of us sinful heathen book-readers will never access, and it manages to present this world in a compassionate way (more than I can do, I guess). If you're into the theology even the last part will be useful and interesting.

1 comment:

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