Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How To Be Good

I don't wish to be melodramatic: I know I have not lived a bad life. But nor do I think that this crime sheet amounts to nothing: believe me, it amounts to something. Look at it. Adultery. The casual exploitation of friends. Disrespect for parents who have done nothing apart from attempt to stay close to me. I mean, that's two of the ten commandments broken already, and given that – what, three, four? - of the ten are all about Sunday working hours and graven images, stuff that no longer applies in early-twenty-first-century Holloway, I'm looking at a thirty-three percent strike rate, and that, to me, is too high...When I look at my sins (and if I think they're sins, then they are sins), I can see the appeal of born-again Christianity. I suspect that it's not the Christianity that is so alluring; it's the rebirth. Because who wouldn't wish to start all over again?

Nick Hornby, How To Be Good, 226-227

I grew up as a Christian, and sometimes it is difficult for me to understand the mindset of people outside an upbringing in church. It's not for lack of trying – it's just that a non-Christ-centric worldview is outside of my experience, and it requires me to shift paradigms to be able to comprehend what that life is like. This is not meant to be elitist – it's an honest admission of a difficulty I face. But I am glad that I have authors and musicians and artists who can help me understand that perspective through their work. One of the recent examples I read was Nick Hornby's novel How To Be Good, which is written from the perspective of a woman, Katie Carr, who has a failing marriage and increasing dissatisfaction with life while her husband undergoes a spiritual – not Christian – awakening and attempts to drastically alter his lifestyle. Part of what I really appreciated about this novel is that Katie, after much frustration, does turn to the church as a possibility, and she does so in a way that I can imagine many non-churchgoers would – with some skepticism, some earnestness, and a lot of confusion. I think that people who are in the church – whether they have grown up with the culture or not, and whether they have deconstructed church in an emergent environment or whatever – often do not realize how distinctly foreign most of the church experience is to a majority of people. And I think a lot of people outside of the church, like Katie, actually want to like Christianity; they just don't know how. Just like I don't quite understand the mindset of people outside the church, they don't fully understand my mindset, and how even being “good” is not enough. I guess I'm just glad for authors like Hornby who can help give voice to one of these points of view, and that I can get at least some idea of what people think about how to be good.

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