I read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brendan Manning after a Needy Helper reader, Linnea Larsen, commented on my blog post Pick of the Week: A Little Bit of Everything and I must be honest it has left me a little bewildered. I read it with enthusiasm and rarely wanted to put it down as each page held something interesting for me. But now I have finished and start to translate my experience into words I am struggling. You see I have no actual clue what the book was about.
Brendan Manning is a Franciscan Priest, former alcoholic and – I think – controversial figure in religious circles.
“I have been denounced publicly and privately as a heretic, schismatic, Universalist, and cockeyed optimist. A Roman Catholic scholar informed me that I had out-Luthered Luther. I have been charged with not believing in the existence of hell, judgment, and damnation. One report out of Indiana scolded me for selective use of biblical texts. I have been labeled “unbalanced,” “spiritually immature,” and “intellectually unhinged.” – Brendan Manning.
I have applied that quote from the small chapter entitled ‘The Scandal of Grace,’ because although I can gather that Manning is steeped in controversy I really have no idea why? I think the book is trying to tell people that they are all sinners and instead of trying to hide your sins, to just accept them and love yourself as you are, just as God loves you as you are. I lack an understanding of his controversy because I lack an understanding of religion.
I really have no idea how the words of religion have spread so widely around the world, when they are written in such a confused state. Do believers in God see the same words as I and yet they are clear to them? Are they unclear to me because of my lack of faith in Jesus Christ and Abba? I recently tried to read another book that was recommended to me by another Needy Helper reader, Diane Stephenson. It was called Transforming the Inner Man by John Loren and Paula Sandford and I had to put it down after only reading 4% of it on my Kindle. For my unreligious eyes the words made no sense. It was as if the book was written in a foreign language. This is one of the reasons I have so far refused to pick up The Bible. It angers me to think that I am worried about reading the most popular book in the world because I won’t be able to understand any of the sentences or wisdom it may hold. If these teachings are so important to so many, then why weren’t they written for simpler folk to understand?
Manning did manage to pique my attention. It seems that the biblical texts he used in The Ragamuffin Gospel were ripe for people like me. At no point did I close the book and stop reading, but there was still so much that I failed to understand. For this reason I am not sure I can recommend the book to anyone who does not have religious faith because it is heavily littered with references to biblical texts that may just fall on blind eyes. But I imagine for people who do love Jesus Christ and Abba this would be an intriguing journey and well worth the few quid to purchase it.