Saturday, October 31, 2009

Book Review: Snarky but Spiritual

Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir by Susan E. Isaacs


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered Susan Isaacs when I googled her name, expecting to find the web site of the novelist Susan Isaacs (not the same one). Instead I stumbled upon Isaacs' great blog (Gray Matter). She is one funny and snarky Christian.

At the church I attend (which is a Lutheran-Catholic community, one of a kind in the world as far as we know), we like to joke about the fact that Catholics are not the only ones who experience guilt. Susan Isaacs' "snarky but authentic spiritual memoir" proves that point. Isaacs was raised as a Lutheran and over her adulthood sampled a wide variety of Christian flavors, which in the end turned her off to Christianity, at least for a time.

The book cleverly intersperses Isaacs' accounting of her childhood (including that awful Kirsten in her Lutheran school who made her life a misery!) and subsequent life trying to make it as an actress and writer, with her "marriage counseling" sessions with God (the Father), and the saintly Norwegian Jesus in that famous painting.

Along the way, she dabbles with anorexia, bulimia, and alcoholism, and as she says, she became a slut (by sleeping with two guys). She feels great guilt over everything, even for feeling guilty--because, after all, aren't her troubles middle-class white girl troubles? I CAN relate to that--feeling guilty about feeling sorry for myself.

I too grew up Lutheran, belonged to the Luther League (even though my Luther League was full of nerds like me, unlike Isaacs I loved it!), and my freshman year at PLU dabbled in 7/11 churches full of "James Dobson mix tapes" until I attended a bible study, where the other girls told me my Jewish friend would go to hell. That was when I walked out and never went back.

I too had a dark night of the soul when I had to throw out "God the Father" and a spiritual moment when I realized I needed to replace him with a different version of God (which, in my mind, was a Creator God).

I enjoyed this book--Isaacs has a refreshing style of writing--but I did feel sorry for her, wasting so many years on SO MUCH GUILT...and on an angry "God the Father." I can understand how she felt empty being with men who didn't really understand her, but to feel so much guilt about premarital sex? As even God said (in her counseling session), 40-year-old women are not meant to be celibate!

I also couldn't relate to Isaacs' image of a marriage with God, and feeling that she needed to love God more than anything or anyone else in her life. I know that's what a lot of (especially fundamentalist) Christian churches say, but for me, I experience God through the love of others. They are not mutually exclusive. God is not a big white man up in the sky for me--he is not someone I'm married to or need to go to marriage counseling with. I don't need to love God more than I love my husband, children, family, and friends. They are one in the same, for me.

Ultimately, though, Isaacs' memoir is funny, snarky, and real. I'm glad she found happiness and contentment (in the epilogue)!

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