Review: Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Featured imageI remember years ago, Madonna was quoted as saying that she wasn’t a religious person but a spiritual one. For the life of me I can’t find the actual quote.  Internet, you have failed me! This seemed strange to me at the time because Madonna was very much in her Kabbalah phase and it seemed like everything in her life  was influenced by it.  Just listen to albums Ray of Light through Confessions on a Dance Floor for more evidence.  She has since have moved on from Kabbalah.  I’m not sure if she is still practicing or not but the presence is not as prevalent in her music as it used to be. Does one have to actively practice a religion to be that religion?  The one thing that stuck with me from my Introduction to Islam class I took in college (taught by New York Times Bestseller, Reza Aslan.  Yep, I’m totally name dropping!) was that in Islam, if you don’t practice you really can’t be really considered Muslim. Now, I took that class *gulp* over 10 years ago, so I apologize if that is not entirely accurate but I do remember that Islam is a very practical religion as well.  As Mr. Aslan explained, if you couldn’t pray five times a day at the right time that’s ok, as long as you get those prayers in sometime during the day.  If you can’t fast during Ramadan because of work, illness or other circumstances, that’s fine, too, as long as you make time to fast later to make up for it.  That last point was illustrated to me when a former co-worker had to skip a week of fasting during the month of Ramadan because she was having stomach pain.  As soon as she was feeling better, she completed that week of fasting.  This makes sense to me. If you think about it, you really don’t have to go to church or read the bible to call yourself a Christian.

Why do I bring all this up?  Well, both of these things were going through my mind as I was reading this book. Anne Lamott talks to openly and honestly about her faith.  She puts to paper all her failings, fears and shortcomings. Even after finding a church and Christianity, she still struggles with keeping faith.  She still has moments of “Dear God, why is this happening?”  I’m a big fan of her two favorite prayers of “Help Me Help Me Help Me” and “Thank You Thank You Thank You”.  I appreciate how she talks about her journey but makes it clear that this is her journey.  She’s not forcing her beliefs on the reader but is more saying “this is what happened to me and this worked for me and maybe something like it will work for you”. I appreciate that.  I was truly touched by her story.  I haven’t been to a church going person since I completed confirmation when I was 13.  I’ve found many things that people who say they are Christians to be incredibly offensive and contrary to the Christianity that I grew up with.  I also studied a lot of Medieval History in college for my major and well, I haven’t really been able to look at Christianity the same since.  We seem to think that religious institutions are unchanging and infallible but anyone who has studied history has seen how much the church has changed to fit in with the times it was in.  Religions are always changing, growing and to say otherwise is just, well, naive and ignorant.  This is why at times I have called myself agnostic because I do believe that a God exists or at least a higher power exists. I wasn’t sure I could really call myself a Christian knowing all these things.  I didn’t want to be associate with the likes of the  Duggars and Westboro Churches of the world or have people think that I was like them.  I sort of backed way from all religions for awhile.  Now, that Madonna quote from the beginning makes sense to me.  I wouldn’t say I’m religious or even spiritual but I would say that I have faith. I would say I still believe in the basic Christian belief that God loves all his children when it comes down to it.  I don’t need to go to church or read the bible to be a good Christian.  I just need to be a good person and treat people with love and dignity because isn’t that what Jesus would do?   I came to this realization a couple of years ago so reading this book didn’t really change my mind but it did cement my thinking.  Miss Lamott found a certain peace in her faith and I have found it in mine.  We are practicing it differently but ultimately we have come to the same place and I know Miss Lamott would respect and love that. So Thank You Thank You Thank You

Now I am halfway through my Pop Culture homework assignment.  I’m looking forward to something that hopefully won’t make me cry while I’m on the subway.

4 thoughts on “Review: Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

  1. It seems like a fascinating approachable book. I tend to also be leary about Christianity books for some of the reasons you mention. I was raised as a Roman Catholic and had gone to Catholic schools all my life, but I also studied history and became turned off by the church’s misdeeds and dubious socio-political stances. The family I married into is Episcopalian so I find my self going to church because I’d like my son to have some kind of religious upbringing, but I can’t really count myself as a firm believer in institutional religion anymore.

    I tend to fluctuate on faith. There are times I’m completely aethist, times when I’m agnostic, and brief moments when I can convince myself of there being some kind of higher power. I suppose whatever works may be the best approach. At my most cynical, I believe that either there is no God or if there is, He / She / It really just doesn’t care very much. It feels like a futile exercise to even pretend to care at all about a being who doesn’t care about me if He/She/It exists at all. At my most optimistic, I feel like perhaps we find God everyday in how we interact with the people we encounter in our daily lives. I find myself fluctuating between those two extremes. It seems like perhaps the Anne Lamott book may help me get better atoned with my optimistic extreme.


  2. Pingback: Review: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson | 2 Women, So Many Books

  3. Pingback: Summer’s End: The Pop Culture Homework Assignment Roundup | 2 Women, So Many Books

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