This post concludes our review of the book, Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity, by David M. Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy. I have to admit, when I first got this book, I was really excited! In fact, I’d forgotten about applying to Speakeasy until the book arrived. What initially drew me to this book were the endorsements from others, most of which I highly respect and whose views have helped me a great deal. But a little here and a little there, the excitement started to wear thin. And, after a bit, it became bothersome. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really good things in the book, but over-all, I don’t think it accomplished what it set out to achieved.
At the end of the book, Felten and Procter-Murphy summarize their idea of Living the Questions with:
By living the questions — and simply paying attention — we open ourselves to a perspective on life that prepares us to embrace mystery...Isn’t that what it’s all about? When mystery is embraced, freedom is embraced. Openness is embraced. The journey is embraced. Far from being cast adrift, those who embrace mystery are set on a lifelong path of discovery, growth, and gratitude for the wonder of it all (pp. 227-228).
I don’t really feel that Felten and Procter-Murphy did that in this book. They may have emphasized “paying attention” in one of the chapters, but for the most part, the book didn’t really speak to “mystery.” Not unless you count deconstructing several long held traditions as “embrac[ing] mystery.” They may view it that way, but several of us wouldn’t. The main problem with deconstruction is that, most of the time, no re-construction is done. Things are just left in shambles. People are left to pick up the pieces of their broken lives on their own. That’s not how leaders and teachers should work. It’s like “teaching” someone how to swim by never giving them lessons but dropping them into the deep end of the pool. Yelling “Sink or swim!” isn’t teaching. It’s not “embracing mystery.” To me, it’s downright cruel.
A better approach would be something more akin to Marcus Borg’s book, The Heart of Christianity. In it, Borg does some of the same things that Felten and Procter-Murphy do in this book — deconstruct long held beliefs. But then, Borg gives an alternate view. That is, he not only shows how the “old view” no longer works for most people today, but he shows how the “new view” works — he replaces one pair of glasses with another pair, a pair that keeps the centrality of previously seen things, but they’re now seen in a different way.
So, in conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone looking for the “Wisdom of Progressive Christianity,” no matter what the subtitle says. A better book for that would be Borg’s book I mentioned above.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.