I finished two books this week and they have unintentionally had a lot to do with each other.
"The Known World" by Edward P. Jones an epic of sorts that follows the life of a slave owning, black, plantation owner and all of the people connected to him directly or indirectly. The most interesting aspect of the craft of the writing is its lack of linear form. The 3rd person narrator is like a god of sorts, who can see the past, present and future and tells the reader about each in no particular order. Beyond that, the most interesting aspect of the story itself is the complexity of morality and what motivates people into action. The reader is given a glimpse of the sacred humanity in each character as well as the broken, sinful darkness. There is at once incredible artistry within these characters, pivotal misunderstandings and a lack of eyes to truly see outside of what the culture prescribes. Tragedy litters its pages as a result, in large and small ways.
"The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne is nonfiction and basically calls the Christian Church to take a solid look at how Jesus lived and begs them to do likewise. He presents the values of Christ that are completely upside down in comparison to the western world and challenges people to take them seriously--to step out of complacency and comfort zones to simply love; to look our fellow human beings in the eyes and actually see them rather than looking at life through the lens of ourselves.
I have been wondering why Jones called his book "The Known World." One conclusion that I have come up with is that maybe wanting the best for ourselves only is all that we know. It broke my heart to read about the characters who killed without thinking, enslaved without thinking, belittled without thinking. But then I have to turn and look at myself in the mirror--what kind of world do I want to know? Am I living in a way that shows love to the people I encounter? Am I pointing the finger at others? Am I turning my eyes from injustice in the name of comfort? Am I accepting of apathy?
Claiborne's book has challenged my thinking in an incredible way. All I can think about now is rereading the gospels and looking for the Truth. What was Christ about? And what am I justifying in my life so that I don't *have* to be about those things? So please, read "The Irresistible Revolution" and read the gospels. Look at the world around you. I am hungry for your thoughts and conversations.