The Precious Self or the Heavenly Man?
"When I started writing, I just wanted to end up with something like Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies, because in Traveling Mercies it felt like she was free, free to be herself, to tell her story, to just vent, to rant, to speak as if she were talking to a friend," Miller wrote.
Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, my wife, pointed out that this orientation is the root of the whole problem. Miller and Lamott want to be free to be themselves, to tell their stories, to just went, to rant... This is not the way of Jesus Christ. He sets us free to follow him, to take up our cross, and deny ourselves for the sake of his glory and his kingdom.
Yes, Miller exposes some of the moralism and superficial confirming of evangelicalism. God knows there is plenty of that. But his own offering is no better: his precious, ranting, venting, story-telling self. "Honesty" (in the sense of the unbridled unburdening of the self on others) does not cover a multitude of sins, postmodern memoirs to the contrary. That kind of "honesty" (as opposed to integrity) is over-rated and under-criticized. It is often better to keep silent until you have something better to say. "By your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned," intoned Jesus--who never wasted a word and who only spoke righteous truth, come what may.
If one wants to read a memoir (so to speak), Rebecca and I strongly recommend The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun. This remarkable and inspiring story does not center on the remarkable man who wrote it, but on the glory and power of God, even in suffering. Yun is a Chinese Christian who suffered intense persecution (including severe torture) from the Communists, but who also experienced profound miracles through the Holy Spirit, including a miraculous escapes from prison, healing, visions, and other supernatural signs and wonders.
The man has memorized more Scripture than most Christians read in a year. He writes that the Chinese house-church Christians do not pray for lighter loads, but for stronger backs. His testimony convicts and inspires. It is like reading a modern Book of Acts, but set in China. When some Western Christians came to China to teach, they would teach no more forty-five minutes. But for Brother Yun and his friends, this is just warming up. They are used to hours of teaching. But in American churches, we subsist on a starvation diet of preaching and teaching, since we are so filled with the world (sports, television, video games, shopping, etc.)
His observations on the American church are piercing, but offered humbly. American Christianity depresses him. There is so little seeking after God and so much self-congratulation and hype. I hope to use this as text next time I teach Christian Ethics and Modern Culture at Denver Seminary in order to shake everyone up, myself included.
Please read The Heavenly Man. If needed, it will help expunge the postmodern selfism of Lamott and Miller from your system. You will be challenged to seize upon God, to seek God through prayer and fasting and worship, to not fear suffering for the Lord, and to live by faith and be ready to die for Jesus Christ.
(There are some rumors floating on the Internet that Yun is corrupt and made up these stories. From what I can discern, the source for these attacks is not credible.)