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    The Good: The Organic God

    July 13, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    Before I begin, I feel the need {again} to remind readers that there is an official Book Review Formula for my book reviews here on the blog. Book Reviews {capital-B, capital-R} are not to be confused with my chattering away about what I have been reading.  The Book Reviews category is reserved for books that I have received for free for the purpose of writing up a review and publishing it here.

    My purpose today is to review The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg through the lense of moral goodness:

    Is the book good? Does it discusss a topic that is good in a way that is good? Does the work promote goodness in the reader?…In nonfiction, a truly true fact, or unnecessary gory details about something not good {doubleplus ungood for those 1984 fans} can be discussed, making the work true, but not necessarily good.

    Thesis Statement is Good
    I would say that The Organic God has morally good intentions. The closest thing to a thesis statement is found on page nine:

    This book is designed to take you on a journey and to illuminate the beauty of God in your life. It asks you to open your eyes to some of the things God has been doing all along that you may have missed or that no one has ever told you about. My hope and prayer is that through this book you’ll fall in love with God again for the first time, and that a part of you will come alive as you dance in all the brilliance of his design.

    Organic Intention is Good
    I discussed my issues with Feinberg’s usage of organic yesterday. Even though I think the word was chosen because it is trendy, and even though I disagreed with naming God Organic God, still I see her point, and think it is good:

    Why describe God as organic? More and more I realize that my own understanding of God is largely polluted. I have preconceived notions, thoughts, and biases when it comes to God. I have a tendency to favor certain portions of Scripture over others. I have a bad habit of reading some stories with a been-there-done-that attitude, knowing the end of the story before it begins, and in the process denying God’s ability to speak to me through it once again.


    The result is that my understanding and perception of God is clouded, much like the dingy haze of pollution that hangs over most cities.

    I know I often have to deal with life’s ability to cloud out God. All the time I spend trying to live it for Him, and yet all the doing {think Mary and Martha here, folks} can still cloud out learning and knowing and understanding.

    Personal Illustrations Sometimes Not Good
    {This is just a general observation, and it is based on personal preference.} I think that sometimes there was so much sharing of personal stories throughout the book that Feinberg herself began to cloud out God. Especially in chapter two, I began to wonder if her stories crossed the line and, rather than serving as an illustration of a larger truth, actually caused Feinberg to become the subject of the book.

    Neutral Treatment of Che Guevara is Abhorrent
    Feinberg uses the movie The Motorcycle Diaries to illustrate the idea of incarnational living. I admit that the scene from the movie {where Guevara touches a leper with his bare hands} is an appropriate example for her point, but what bothers me is the lack of a disclaimer of some sort. Instead, she intoduces her illustration by downplaying Guevara:

    This independent subtitled film is based on a true story of Che Guevara before he became famous for his involvement in a little event known as the Cuban Revolution.

    I’m sure that Feinberg found this to be a humorous statement. Paul Berman, however, would completely disagree. His response to the movie was to declare that the cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Maybe Feinberg needs a lesson from Berman in who Guevara really was:

    Che was a mainstay of the hardline pro-Soviet faction, and his faction won. Che presided over the Cuban Revolution’s first firing squads. He founded Cuba’s “labor camp” system—the system that was eventually employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, and AIDS victims. To get himself killed, and to get a lot of other people killed, was central to Che’s imagination. In the famous essay in which he issued his ringing call for “two, three, many Vietnams,” he also spoke about martyrdom and managed to compose a number of chilling phrases: “Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become …”— and so on. He was killed in Bolivia in 1967, leading a guerrilla movement that had failed to enlist a single Bolivian peasant. And yet he succeeded in inspiring tens of thousands of middle class Latin-Americans to exit the universities and organize guerrilla insurgencies of their own. And these insurgencies likewise accomplished nothing, except to bring about the death of hundreds of thousands, and to set back the cause of Latin-American democracy—a tragedy on the hugest scale.

    Feinberg is considered an “expert” on twentysomethings. I am sure she is familiar with the early-twenties who walk around with Guevara proudly displayed on their T-shirts. These T-shirts are worn in ignorance of the Stalin-like nature of Guevara’s Marxist influence and Feinberg, by her silence, only encourages such foolishness.

    Author’s Heart Seems Good
    Perhaps Feinberg’s simple embrace of Guevara is due to erring on the side of mercy. There are certain Christians who are like this, and I don’t think that is a bad thing. Actually, I think it keeps people like me balanced. When she shares about a friend who lives a life “marked by heartache,” Feinberg writes,

    I see her not as she is in physical form, but as she’s created to be. Instead of seeing her as a project, I see her as a projection of God’s love. What I see cannot be detected by the human eye, only by eyes that have looked long and hard at God for answers. As I looked to him in prayer, I asked many questions, but he only provided one answer: love her. Somehow that has become enough.

    Here, one sees Feinberg being nonjudgmental in a good way; she is magnanimous.

    Playing Settlers is Good
    Feinberg plays Settlers of Catan. This is very good. We could definitely be friends.

    Foolishness is Bad
    Feinberg, in her chapter on God’s wisdom, quotes a 20/20 interview with Billy Graham:

    “If you had a homosexual child, would you love him?”

    The evangelist responded without missing a beat, “I would love that one even more.”

    Please tell me what that even means? Any parent knows that each child is loved equally but differently. However, seeing one’s dear child involved in something that is deserving of death is cause for grief, prayer, much more than “loving that one more.” This is akin to the Che Guevara situation above. Feinberg is allowing evil to be made light of. If this were 1984, I’d say Feinberg was much more likely to prefer the word ungood to the Scriptural terminology {evil, etc.}. God’s created order is not neutral, and there is no wisdom in pretending otherwise.

    Respect for the Bride is Good
    This is the last one, folks, so stay with me until the end. Within my generation, there is a lot of disrespect for the Bride of Christ. It is said that the church is full of hypocrites. Feinberg stands her ground, explaining that the “church is still the bride of Christ.” She explains that we should treat her “with the respect and care she deserves…[B]uilding her up to what she is meant to be instead of tearing her down.”

    Respecting God’s Church is always Good.

    Quick Review
    Like most books, The Organic God is a mixed bag. There are some portions that are morally questionable and some that are quite noble. I did a bit of looking around out there, and I have yet to find a review that looks at the book seriously, attempting to read it in light of Scripture. I hope that this review offers a good balance, to the best of my limited ability.

    Saturday or Monday, I will cover The True.

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