After reading the first three pages, I looked up our module schedule again, to make sure, that I didn’t order the wrong book by accident.
I assumed, that the book I was reading was not on the reading list for our doctor of ministry program. (Especially after reading Charles Taylors challenging magnus opus “A Secular Age” last week).
But it was right…
Described by genre I would call it an advice guidebook. It is part of this new wave of counseling and self-help literature, which flood our bookshops.
But it is no pure “How-to” guidebook. Macy and Johnstone start off with thoughts about the climate change, which lead to Apollo 8 and bulimia in Fidji.
It is astonishing how the big challenges and obstacles for our society can be linked in just a few chapters and connected to a larger image.
The book seeks to change peoples life and also to have an impact on the shift and transformation on society in general. This is archived by us and done by the four steps in the spiral the reader has to reflect on: Coming from gratitude, honoring our pain in the world, seeing with new eyes and going forth.
I remember a newpaper article I read some years ago. The author Ursula März writes about the focus in our society on crisis and our yearning for advice of overcome that state. She writes about the boom of self-help literature to manage personal setbacks and also the multitude of coaching TV-Shows like debt counselors and restaurant coaches for chefs.
The book by Macy and Johnstone didn’t really touch me.
But in this book and also in newspaper articles like the one in ZEIT by Ursula März I discover a similar phenomenon that stimulates me.
What do they say about our society? Is it a yearning to manage the crisis and chaos? Our modern answer to the theodicy problem?
Is it the overestimation of one’s own capabilities to safe the world?
In her article, Ursula März ended with a reference to the new testament. She states that the success of all the advice books to overcome the crisis are bought with a big lie. The time of crisis, Jesus endured in the desert, lasted 40 days. He spend them quarreling with his faith, wrestling with the temptations of the devil. Those stories are the basis of the tradition of lent and this is also the Christian model of crises, especially faith crises. A limited purgatory, that needs to be crossed and suffered to be able to face one self, the world and God in a new way. The modern theology nowadays has a different concept: A theory of a crisis in faith, which is no episodic challenge, but more a steady and ongoing exposure to constant and enduring doubts.
Reading this and having read the book, I ask myself, if we tend to be out of rhythm. Do we focus on challenges and crises as something WE need to get rid of; and by assuming this becoming overwhelmed by the task (this is why we need so many “how-to-” and “XY for dummies” books).
At dawn of the beginning time of lent, lets just focus on the rhythm God provides: A rhythm between times of desert and times of resurrection. At lets be clear about his work clearly differentiate is from our tasks.