The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes To Christ, by Andrew Klavan
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
In reading a spiritual memoir like this, one has need to place it within its context. Probably the works that would come the closest to this one in terms of the content would be works by C.S. Lewis, namely Surprised By Joy and The Pilgrim’s Regress , both of which tell the way that Lewis found God in stages and how he came to a belief in an intellectually sophisticated Christianity that was nevertheless strong in Orthodoxy. Given his background as an urban Jew of specifically New York City background, it would have been quite a surprise and shock to see the author come to a Christianity defined by Bible Belt fundamentalism. Rather, this particular author shows that he came, at great length and struggle, to a belief in a Christianity that was urbane, witty, sophisticated, and that no way involved a rejection of his identity as a Jew. As a fairly witty and urbane sort of person myself, I found a great deal to appreciate in this memoir, indeed far more than I expected to, although I also found much to appreciate and much to celebrate. The author, in quite a few ways, was a man not unlike myself in many ways, and as a result I found this an easy memoir to get a hold on, and one I can recommend.
In about thirteen chapters that appear to cover about three hundred pages of material (it is hard to tell, since I read this on my kindle, and that always makes it difficult to estimate page lengths), the author gives his own background which featured an abusive relationship between him and his father, and featured a not particularly nurturing mother, and comments on how he stumbled several times into the great good thing, in his education in the Cal-Berkeley of the 1970’s, into his marriage, and into a growing belief in God that involved his baptism after the death of his father. The memoir is both candid and tasteful, not dwelling salaciously on sin, but dealing with hard-hitting matters of character and integrity, not least of which was the author’s habit of faking it through school and ending up fairly successful despite a lack of diligence during his youth, which was to a great extent remedied by his acquiring an education by reading great books and practicing his craft at writing and journalism as an adult. The author comments that his lack of a mentor as a writer was an absence he keenly felt, and that is something I can understand greatly.
Among the more touching aspects of this book was the way the author dealt straightforwardly with the problem of anti-Semitism and the relationship between Judaism and Christianity and between Christianity and Western Civilization as a whole . Given that the author had some experience himself with anti-Semitism, especially from his time in England, and given that his relationship with his father was particularly poisonous during his youth, it is little surprise that there would be a strong ambivalence about his relationship with Judaism. It is particularly notable that the author left the Jewish faith very early in life, having been raised in a faith that had ritual but no genuine belief, which led him to reject the hypocrisy and superficiality of the faith, as is common among thoughtful and sensitive youths growing up in families where lip service is paid to a faith that lacks genuine depth of belief. The result of the author’s forthright struggle with his experiences, and his therapy through prolific writing is an immensely worthwhile memoir that ought to please those who are fans of the authors work or who happen to be intensely literate and sophisticated Christians themselves.
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