Monday, March 13, 2017

Reflecting on 'The Love That Matters' by Charles Featherstone (1)

I’d like to devote the next few posts to a book that I recently finished reading -  The Love That Matters: Meeting Jesus in the Midst of Terror and Death by Charles Featherstone.

I first became aware of Charles’ (Charles's?) story via a blog post/interview with the author over at Internet Monk.

That interview led me to his website.  And from there to an essay by Rod Dreher entitled "Love Opens a Door", the meat of this essay being Featherstone's response to one of Dreher's earlier essays.

Featherstone's first words hooked me:
But there was a dismissive tone to [your Time essay], to your “Yes, God is love, but…”
And that bothers me. Because it is no small thing to say, “God is love.” Or “God loves you.”
That line grabbed me then and it still grabs me now.

It is no small thing to say God is love.  Thank you for saying this.  Only overfamiliarity and an impoverished imagination make it so.  In the end, eschatologically that is, we suspect that perhaps this love might not amount to much.

I'm talking about myself as much as anyone else here.

I finished the essay and ordered the Kindle version of "The Love That Matters" right then and there.  And it sat in my ever-growing list of unread books since then, gathering digital dust.  But with my recent explorations of Muslim/Christian relations, radicalization, etc. (topics to which I'll return to in future blog posts when I work through another book I recently read - Allah: A Christian Response by Miroslav Volf) my fuzzy recollection of Featherstone's experiences as a practicing Muslim renewed my interest in reading his story.  And at this point it must be clarified that this is NOT a "I was once a Muslim but now I'm a Christian" memoir, the type that crusading Christian apologists love to love.  Featherstone's experiences as a practicing Muslim are indeed a part of the story.  A big part of the story in fact. But they are not THE story.  It is more complex than that.

So the posts that I’ll devote to this book are not a “review”.  I’m not “reviewing” the book.  I wouldn't know how to do so with a book like this.  I’d simply like to acknowledge and attempt to think through a few things from the book that stood out to me.

Having given that disclaimer, a few brief thoughts.

Charles is a very good writer.  His journalistic background is displayed in his ability to craft a sentence and tell a story.  These skills have manifested themselves in a deeply personal and honest book.  It’s not easy to write with honesty and vulnerability.  In fact it's downright hard.  When Chaplain Mike over at the Internet Monk selected Sufjan Stevens’ “Carrie and Lowell” and his “Album of the Year” for 2015, he said “Not since Bon Iver’s devastatingly plaintive For Emma, Forever Ago have I heard an album bleed like this one.”

It bleeds. 

To me, that’s one of the highest compliments that can be given to an artist.  And I think it’s true about this book.  It bleeds.


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