A Tale of Two Books

Way back in the beginning of summer, during the four days of 90+ temperatures, I wanted to write a post on light Catholic reading, perfect for days when the brain is too fried to take in anything substantial.  The Kenneth Howell firing (thankfully now re-instated) and various constraints on my blogging time delayed that.

Then an acquaintance lent me two books (one print; one an audiobook), both on the topic of searching for God. With so many good Catholic books to read, why am I writing about two books from authors who aren’t even interested in Christianity? Because apparently, a lot of people who are searching for God are reading them, that’s why.

Eat  Pray  Love

Eat Pray Love (Elizabeth Gilbert) was on the New York Times Bestseller list for more than 155 weeks. In many ways, that’s understandable.   Gilbert is an excellent writer, often quite funny, and with a knack for imagery that you remember long after you stop reading. The book has makings of classic chick lit: relationships (marital breakup, deepening of relationship with her mother and sister, and

*spoiler alert* a new relationship at the end of the book*end spoiler alert.* 

Distinguishing this book from regular chick lit is that it also contains classic moments of the spiritual journey both in general and Catholicism in particular. At the beginning of the book, Gilbert decides on celibacy during her year-long search.  Her description of her first six weeks at a “yoga camp” has a Benedictine quality of “ora et labora.”  Initially, her prayer time is characterized by distracting thoughts and talking rather than listening, both of which are familiar to Catholics beginning contemplative prayer.

As much as I enjoyed the section on Italy, I did stop reading in the India section. Why read about praying with oneself when you can have the real deal, the Real Presence, Jesus in person? Still in all, a lot of people are reading this book first published in 2006. Because I was lent the audiobook, I thought to read the print edition – only to find that every copy in the library system is checked out.  Perhaps that has to do with the opening of the film version today (August 13).

At some point, I’ll go back and read through the rest of the book, if only to know what others have read.

Book titled “Conversations with God”

Not so for Conversations With God (Neale Donald Walsch).  This is a guy who not only claims God spoke to him, but through him, to also the reader.  On page 62, he says,

If there were such a thing as sin, this would be it: to allow yourself to become what you are because of the experience of others.

So the author says to never take another’s word as authority, yet expects the reader to take him at his word.   That lack of logic lost me right away.

The biggest red flag is in the first chapter:

…as I scribbled out the last of my bitter, unanswerable questions and  prepared to toss my pen aside, my had remained poised over the paper, as if held there by some invisible force.  Abruptly, the pen began moving on its own.  I had no idea what I was about to write … Before I knew it, I had begun a conversation … and I was not writing so much as taking dictation.

Emphases are the author’s.  That description is should warn off anyone. Anyone’s hand who moves not of his own volition is not of God.

Having read that, I was greatly surprised to read that the book (the first of three) had been on the NY Times Bestseller list for 137 weeks.  It’s also a caution to those who consider outward success as the sole criterion of a person being in God’s will.

The author would appear to be against all religion, but clearly he’s attacking the Judeo-Christian faith, particularly Christianity:

Waschle:  Leaders, ministers, rabbis, priests, books, the Bible, for heaven’s sake,

supposed deity: Those are not authoritative sources. (p.8)

On prayer (p.11), the author says prayer should not be supplication, but gratitude.  Now it’s true that we’re to give thanks always, but the statement is a big pfffft to Jesus, who when asked how to pray answered with the Our Father with all its petitions. 

On God’s plan (p.61)

For God’s plan is for you to create anything – everything – whatever you want…evil is what you call evil.

 Not surprisingly, the author has some “fact malfunctions,” including misquoting Scripture.  I’ll have to check the page on that, but he misquotes both Moses asking, “Who shall I say” and replaces “I AM” with the Word of God. Slippery and misleading for those who don’t know their Scripture or Christian faith. 

It’s the first time I’ve heard Freud referred to as a philosopher when he identifies others as psychiatrists.

And this biggie: You are three beings in one, whether you call it mind, body, spirit or Father, Son, Holy Ghost or id, ego, superego.  (p. 91, perhaps not in that order)

There’s much more, all in the same vein.

Bottom line: there’s much work to do.  Lots of people looking for God in all the wrong places.

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