I have spent this fine Good Friday morning finishing off an amazing book called God Is. by David Adams Richards (one of my favorite Canadian fiction authors). I picked this book up in November motored through half of it in a day and forgot about it on my overcrowded bookshelf. For the past month I have been working through a bit of a spiritual slump and was overjoyed when the title leapt off my shelf. (hmmm....sound like a God thing??)
The back of the book has an awesome quote on it that intrigued me and pulled me in:
"I believe that all of us, even those who are atheists, seek God--or at the very least not one of us would be unhappy if God appeared and told us that the universe was actually His creation. Oh, we might put Him on trial for making it so hard, and get angry at Him, too, but we would be very happy that He is here. Well, He is."
The book was nothing like what I expected it to be, and I was suprised. Having read David Adams Richard's books I shouldn't have been. Despite the cheery and optimistic quote on the back, this book takes a dark walk through sin and back attempting to prove God exists by detailing what happens with the absence of Him. David Adams Richards struggled with alcholism for years, rubbed shoulders with murderers who were proud of what they have done and has seen evil up close and personal. This book reflects that.
Having read a few of David Adams Richards books I have always described them in this way: "I despise all the characters....and then I realize that I am just like". He has this uncanny gift of showing how "good" people turn "bad" and "bad" people turn "good". He takes us through the thought process of his antagonist's actions so that we understand why they have done what they have done and realize that we would have done the same thing ourselves. His books aren't what I would call "fun reads" but they are so real to life that it hurts...but then heals. Richards describes his characters in this way: "That's what the characters in my novels...have always been confronted with. They are plagued by sin-sinning themselves and being more sinned against then sinning." This non-fiction look at God is like his fiction books in that way. It is a very real, very dark look at God and the world.
His main arguements can be broken down into three categories: his thoughts on Revenge, his beliefs about murder, and his personal experience with faith and without it.
Richards talks about how we all know that there is wrong and right in the world otherwise if bad things were done to us we would have no reason to seek revenge because one action would be no different than another. We know when we are sinned against....we also know when we sin. Even if people tell us we haven't.
"If sin didn't exist there would be nothing to revenge" ~page 82
When we pick up our causes and try to fight for them ourselves rather than rely on God to exact true justice we become the very thing we are fighting against.
"If a man fights dragons, he sooner or later becomes one." pag 46
Richards talks about men like Stalin and Hitler and how they use their own personal power to sin against the world and then state that this power makes them some how exempt from sin. He talks about how our sins only differ from Stalin's and Hitler's
in terms of degree. They are no worse or better than we are.
"The degree does not negate the similarity-only a difference in kind can do this-and our actions, compared to millions before us, are not at all a difference of kind, but only a difference to a degree" pg 12.
Richards talks about murder as the ultimate sin and how all other sins attempt to lead to this. He describes murder as a the sin which attempt to build your life up and snuff it out in others. There are ways to murder someone emotionally and spiritually besides just ending their physical life.
"we tend to eliminate those around us who do not any longer fit with ourselves" pg 79
"the idea that Cain killed Abel because of his own failure is a problem most of us face in our lives". pg 83
"self righteousness is in the end the greatest curse man has" pg 103
"sooner or later hatred relies upon falsehood" 107
Most of Richards argument relies on his personal experiences and how much better life is with faith than without it. He talks about the human condition being two seperate conditions: the will to do evil and the fight against it. He talks about atheism and faith and how the individuals on either side are not perfect, but that the battle isn't really about the sides but the internal battle for faith.
"The internal battle is the actual battle"
"Yes. They failed within the church, but that did not meant that I did not fail outside of it" pg 41
"I did not agree with the faithful (or at least all they said), so much as disagree with the unfaithful (or those who say they do not have faith) pg 15
"Faith does not stop crime, or sin, or wrongdoing, or evil, or whatever we want to tag it. I am not saying it does, but it does always and forever, combat it" pg 94
"Sin is something we fight against and at times bravely fight against. There is a sense that it is foreign to the best part of us."
I am not sure if this book would convince anyone of God's existence but it does cover some of my main reasons for believing. It talks about the good and the world and the pull towards that. It also talks about the sin and how real it is. I have not lead a horrible life but I definitely know evil both within myself and the world. I love that Richards is so brutally honest about his shortcomings. I have always loved that faith frees us to be real because Jesus has taken away the penalty for our screw ups. I know that I like me better when I am actively believing because I am paying attention to the effect my actions have onteh world around me. When I walk away from God or even just become apathetic I am sorry to say it, but I become a bitch (pardon my language :). If I don't have something outside of myself to remind me what I am made for I live for myself and in doing this trample others. Richards describes it in this way, "Faith allows us peace only from the active, complicit rule of wrongful injury"
Although this book is dark it makes you stare at real life and weigh all the options. It makes me glad that God is here and that He has come. It makes me thankful for Jesus and for having heard His insist tuggings on my heart strings. It makes me glad that faith is universal and that at some level everyone knows it.
If this has intrigued you please read this book (or the Bible...that works too!). I highly recommend God is. and also the only David Adams Richards fiction book I have made it all the way through Mercy Among the children. I appreciate it even more now knowing Richards is a man of faith.
For my readers who read this blog on facebook just a reminder you can find my actual blog at magic-and-mystery.blogspot.com Blessings my friends on this glorious, blustery Good Friday. It's weather like this that has always made me know that God exists.
PS. God is referenced War and Peace so many times I was very glad that I had just finished reading it!!!