Joel Osteen and Norman Mailer: Uncommon Common Ground
The other day I picked up Norman Mailer's "God: An Unusual Conversation," where, for the lack of a better term, Mailer becomes a believer. That is not to say he never believed before--I didn't know the man personally, despite the fact that I devoured all of his books one fateful summer of personal crankiness and foul contempt for the world (yes, Mailer would have been proud). This book, which actually was "composed" out of recorded conversation with his literary executor, Michael Lennon, is a beautifully, yet eccentric way of seeing spirituality. Sort of the "do-it-yourself" belief in God that the organized religions deplore so much. Mailer makes some very insightful comments here. For example, why does modern Christianity related social/economic success on God's blessing? Mailer being Mailer, he goes on a tour d'force against organized religion, debating, with great aplomb, the necessity and dependence the Church has on the financial offerings people give every Sunday, etc. I am sure people will jump and claim that to be an over-simplistic argument, a claim without a warrant. Well, I see his point, however, quite clearly being exercised in living color right before my eyes. The Catholic diocese covering the region where I live is closing down numerous churches and parishes, to the great alarm of people and family generations who have attended those closing churches for years, often times over 100 of serving the community. And the bottom line reason: finances. Lower parishioners mean lower gifts, donations. But instead of the Church officials going out there and knocking on doors and offering that same type of community and place of gathering that used to provide the financial means for the church, the Church administration has decided not to appeal to those who do not come to church, or perhaps come only in Easter and/or Christmas. I am not a Catholic, but Mailer's argument rings true to me. There's a hierarchy, or at least there seems to be one, whose sole purpose is the running of the church as a financial corporation. While I may not ascribed to all Mailer says, what he describes in this book is enough to make anyone sit down and ponder (which was what Virgin Mary did when she found out she was with child from God).