Well, a few months ago a commented here about my tendency to take stuff just because it was free, and I said I would try and not do it so much.
Well, I've slipped a little on that. The end result being that I've got two book reviews for Thomas Nelson Publishers/Booksneeze that are due today. Typically, there aren't due dates, but special books and book releases come along, and those have due dates. Then, of course, I just moved. In fact, I only found one of the books due for review today. Fortunately, I read it before the move. This is not that review though.
This is a review for this book: Anne Jackson's Permission to Speak Freely. Cover image, with handy Amazon link if you want to buy it: (yep, that is an affiliate link. If you click that link, buy the book, you will generate the first money I have ever made blogging. I'll get like 5 cents for sharing my 2 cents worth, which is a 3 cent profit!)
|Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace|
Anyway, what about this book?
First of all, though I have previously reviewed Mrs. Jackson's Mad Church Disease, and, to be honest, was a little harsh about it, I take what she has to say seriously. Why? Well, she's a pastor's daughter from rural Baptist churches, and I happen to be raising 2 of those. As much as I am committed to being the best pastor I can be, more than that I am committed to being the best husband and father I can be. I see Anne's story as perhaps a little like the "Watch for Falling Rock" signs in the mountains: if you see warning signs and get smacked with a rock, you were warned. If I see, based on her retrospect, some warning signs in my family, I should watch for that rock.
Now, as to the book: this book is not for the faint of heart. Really, it's not. This is not one to hand to certain people in your church to help them be willing to open up. It will scare the living daylights out of them. Mrs. Jackson is honest about growing up in ministry, drifting, and returning to actively practicing her faith in God. It's been a messy road so far, and she's younger than I am!
However, while there are some details here that might be ugly, it's shared well and to make a good point: where can we share our hurts, as Christians, if not in church? And if you can't quite handle it in a book, you won't be ready for that much trouble in person. The truth is, though, that many people will never be ready for it. Most people in church aren't ready for this type of discussion in church.
I'd suggest, though, that the reader would be wise to seek people within their church body that they can speak freely with. Build strong relationships through openness, and build them with people that you are unified in faith with.
If you understand that sometimes people in church aren't perfect, which you should, this book will hopefully be a help to you as you realize that, hey, neither are you perfect. That collective realization, that the church is made up of redeemed sinners, and that sometimes we're not so good at showing the redeemed part, is necessary these days. We need to talk about it.
Yet permission to speak, freedom to speak, doesn't always mean it's a good idea. I'm reminded of the old Lewis Grizzard story about the church meeting where the preacher had gotten everyone revved up to testify about their sin, confess and move on. Different people said different things, to which the preacher responded "Tell it all, brother, tell it all." Then, one person popped up with something insane. The preacher's response? "I don't believe I'd have told that!"
As Christians, we're called to be honest with one another, and to bear one another's burdens. Sometimes, the burden we need to bear is that not everyone needs to hear everything. That's why I'd take away from Mrs. Jackson's book that we should seek out and build relationships that allow us to speak freely, rather than expect everyone to listen. Not everyone can handle it, and, if we're serious about wanting others to honor our right to be weak, we should honor their right as well.
In all, read this book, especially if you're in church leadership. However, I'd love to see this book studied side-by-side with something like Kevin DeYoung's Why We Love the Church. It's too easy to read Anne Jackson and get bitter and flee from church altogether. Let's not forget that it is possible to have a flourishing relationship with God and with a church. It's just not always automatic. (Kind of like learning and school: they should go together, but often don't.)
And read Disclosures! so that you are well aware that I buy very few books, because I get free ones like this for offering my honest opinion in reviews. And those reviews are supposed to be shorter than this.