Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | October 10, 2011

A Reviewette (Not Quite) Everywhere Posted

Fr. Stephen Freeman’s “Every Where Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe” does a great job at offering a vision of the catholic mind. This is neither a catechism nor a conversion story, but a discussion of how our earlier efforts to broaden faith’s accessibility instead led not to its intended result (at least as proclaimed), but to its complete opposite: the descent of the faith into an inaccessible dwarfed and/or foreshortened caricature of itself. Today, so much of what we witness in the name of Christ while intended all for the good, so often comes off flat not because it is consciously distorted for the most part (though there is some of that when it becomes a business), but because we have lost the full sense of the interrelationship of the constituent parts and their tight integration into the fabric of faith. Unfairly, we often sense something isn’t quite right, something’s left out, or unbalanced, and often as not, we may end up blaming everyone and even ourselves, and even give up on the whole enterprise.

And so this book begins a path of trying to find a way to open the subject without the common animus or stridency that so often accompanies what might easily become a polemic as one separates what has become the common practice from its original formulation. As a result, I think the book accomplishes its end in establishing a place to start reweaving the fabric back into our spiritual lives. Of course, I have to admit I read much of the backstory to this book as Fr. Stephen blogged his thesis into being and so I can’t fairly say that I come to his thesis without being predisposed to his conclusion. In fact, in all candor his writing played a fairly significant part in my own journey precisely along this recovery we might call the journey from CCA (Comfortable Christians Anonymous or something like that) to the Orthodox Church… if only it HAD been comfortable.  The fact is that I long referred to myself as a christian heretic within the Episcopal Church (as it strayed from its foundations) begging someone to ask, “Soooo, what do you mean by that?” only (thankfully!) few ever did. Given that my answer would have started with Meister Eckhart run through a misunderstood clash between the Saintly Bernard and Peter Abelard and on to Thomas Merton, and so on… losing them long before they cared… I was lucky, huh? God’s providence reserved my energies for a bigger struggle with myself rather than others. Again, thanks, Big Guy! And yet given my predisposition toward awareness of an inner imbalance, I’m not sure I’m terribly representative and a good sample for those trying to ascertain whether my positive review means much. Fact is the wife and kids not to mention the ‘rents and associates would probably swear I’m so decidedly off the offbeat, I’m not just a bad example, but precisely the sort of guy who’d likely to go off the deep-end and go ‘dox… which while better than “Go gators!” (for an Alabama Roll Tide kind of a dude) and good enough for me, what I’m saying is that I’m not all that sure anything I do ever swings that well outside of Muddville… where the Mighty Casey still strikes out.

But here in Muddville and as part of a broader catechesis and particularly as part of an introduction as to why we become catholic, or what we seek in a catholic way of being christian… I think this book offers much. It won’t replace Fr. Meletios Webber’s “Bread and Water, Wine and Oil” which has a richness as an introductory book one seldom finds, but for it’s intended complimentary purpose, this is a wonderful and awesome contribution. Indeed, in many ways it stands alone as something for the aspiring christian akin (in a different way) to necessity an aspiring medievalist finds in C.S. Lewis’s “Discarded Image“. In fact, I think this is precisely the analog… and wouldn’t have been a bad subtitle. And no, you won’t find your old friends and favorites – Fr. Stephen’s greatest hit blogs – among these chapters: The material has been integrated with more scripture and into a more comprehensive deeper view. I’m a bit mixed on this because, yes, I have my favorites and leaving them alone among his blog’s archives dooms much to those clouds of unknowing we call the internet these days that in a way still seems far less secure than that terribly outdated thing we call a book. But I’m sure these days there’s probably not an editor alive who’d be willing to run with internet published material as the basis of new book – especially based on material already as widely read as the material on “Glory to God for All Things“. Why bother? Why indeed. In sum, if you’re teaching adults, I should think this book should be added to the reading list.


  1. Thou almost pursuadest me to buy yet another book….

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