Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Viral Jesus and right-brained language


Apologies to those for whom a third book review is too much intrusion into our normally film-based fare. I promised a review for a book which was a little different than I expected and which triggered an interesting blend of thoughts. At least if you continue reading, you'll hear what I hope are interesting thoughts about right and left-brained faith.

Viral Jesus is an anecdote-filled guide to unleashing a house church movement that is unfettered by hierarchies and institutionalism. So far, I'm onboard, being somewhat critical of hierarchies and institutional church myself. The key, it seems, is harnessing the energy and dynamic of new believers. We're too afraid of messes, and this author is very willing to encourage messiness which more mature and responsible leaders can eventually guide and clean up. Still good. 

Where my interesting blend of reaction comes is to the very charismatic language and assumptions of the book. Having a long and conflicted relationship with the charismatic wing of the church, it is no surprise that this triggers mixed feelings in me. Like usual, there is something about it I like and something about it that frustrates me to no end. Having just completed Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary which comprehensively surveys research on the right and left hemispheres of the brain, I will use that grid to comment on this ambivalence. 

I believe we are desperately in need of powerful right-brained language. Educated, progressive believers may have the most trouble with this because they are so afraid of sounding like those who believe in a literal seven day creation or those who see demons as little creatures with horns. In other words, once we've come to know that right-brained language is meant to be understood as metaphor, those who take it all too literally can be a little, well, embarrassing. And I felt that embarrassment reading this book. I'm not sure if this is my problem or the author's or both. 

 It seems to me that many of those who write anecdotally about charismatic faith experience tend to write with arrogance - usually a kind of innocent arrogance, just very frustrating because it is so blind. All of the assumptions that are being made in order to maintain such faithful enthusiasm are ignored or even belittled. Everyone should get on board. And I'm embarrassed and conflicted because I feel the right-brained appeal while my left brain is offended. Like Rohde, we need to be able to speak a confident right-brained language to really engage with life, but I so wish it could be done with language that is less religious (in the sense of Charismat-ese) and filled with scary assumptions. One thing that keeps me humble in the face of this critique is that I suspect I could have had this reaction to Jesus at least some of the time. 

(Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book through the Speakeasy review network.)

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