Having recently become acquainted with Deal Hudson, I am quickly learning to take his advice seriously. So, when he recommended this collection of short stories by Andrew McNabb, I ordered it.
I picked up the book on the way home from work last night and, as soon as I let the dog out and had a quiet moment, sat down to read the first story. One commenter to Hudson's review wrote, "McNabb's works are raw and real, the kind that must be read in relative quiet, demanding a kind of concentration by the reader on the characters and themes that seems rarer these days." I found that true of the first story, as well as this comment by Hudson in his review that, "what makes them so involving and moving is his attention to moments in life where many of us instinctively look away or simply turn off our thoughts to get through unpleasantness."
They are both right. The stories will make many uncomfortable, especially those readers who have imbibed the bland diet offered on the fiction shelves of those stores which devote more space to chotchkies than they do "Christian" books.
But Hudson's recommendation is right for another reason, one he doesn't mention in this column but to which he strikes a glancing blow with this, "McNabb's stories juxtapose the pure and the impure, the violent and the tender, the body and the spirit -- yet there is nothing in them suggesting a Gnostic dualism." These stories strike at the heart of what separates Evangelicalism from Roman Catholicism and why so many Evangelicals will find these stories not simply uncomfortable, but too naked to be appropriate fare for a Christian. We Evangelicals, far too often for our own good, undress in the dark. We are uncomfortable with the reality of human flesh, the bits that should by perky but are wobbly or the other bits that should have some muscular form beneath the skin, but don't. We don't have crucifixes in our churches, too real, too raw, too bloody -- we reduce the remembrance of Christ's sacrifice to mere memorial with our mini-meal of bread and juice. There is no body there, no fleshly reality, however discerned or defined.
For, when it comes to the base realities of human flesh, we Evangelicals are all too often Gnostics.