Brief Reviews of
Thin Places: A Memoir.
Paperback: Zondervan, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]
We Get to Carry Each Other:
The Gospel According to U2.
Paperback: WJK Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]
What is the purpose of pain? Why does God allow His beloved creatures to endure such intense suffering? How can our lives’ greatest tragedies produce anything of value? Reading Mary DeMuth’s captivating survivor memoir, answers to these questions emerge, bringing to life the truth of Genesis 50:20: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (NASB).
The premise of DeMuth’s memoirs is simple: to trace the fingerprints of God in the scars of her life, revealing for readers those “thin places” where she most tangibly experiences His presence. “The Celts define a thin place as a place where heaven and the physical world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet . . . snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where, if we pay very close attention, we might just catch a glimpse of eternity.”
Borrowing from this ancient concept, DeMuth recounts her childhood traumas in light of the grace of Jesus Christ and His ability to redeem even the ugliest evils and use them to bring about good. By courageously revisiting her rawest memories, she recasts these most broken moments as times of spiritual epiphany. With chapter titles like Mary Jane, Divorce, and Suicide Poetry, Thin Places is an album of stark autobiographical snapshots, written partly in present tense, partly from the distance of adulthood. The result is a collage of stories that are doubly shocking—first in the initial horror and fear experienced through the eyes of an innocent child, and then in the equally staggering honestly with which DeMuth relives these painful episodes.
Part journalistic self-analysis and part soul-baring devotional, Thin Places is a unique and powerful testimony to Jesus’ presence in the darkest of circumstances and His ability to turn every hurt into a temple of redemptive love. After reading about the journey of a little girl named Mary, one can’t help but search his own life for the thin places, where faith intersects with fear and Jesus weaves good out of evil. [ Review by Brittany Sanders ]
I appreciated the exercise that Greg Garrett undertakes in We Get to Carry Each Other, of looking at U2’s music and subjecting it to theological scrutiny. U2 engages pop culture head-on and Garrett’s book reinforces this. engagement. We Get To Carry Each Other centers on three theological values Garrett sees as defining the group and their dynamic: belief, communion and social justice. He carves a path through U2’s music and gives his readers the story of their faith inside and outside organized religion.
The second section of the book examines the chemistry between the members of the group. Garrett does a good job showcasing each member’s talents and abilities. It is also apparent from the stories Garret tells, that the band has learned to live with and love one another and to push each other to bring their best in order to form a more powerful whole than any of them could create individually. While the group does not have membership in a traditional church, they have formed a community which Garrett describes as ecclesia. He says the church functions best as a community of love, responsibility and justice and he believes U2’s community fits the bill.
The third section focuses on social justice and how U2 applies themselves to this important dimension of their work. Their music covers real-world issues. U2 has never shied away from writing music about social and political things and U2’s mission is to bring healing to the world. Bono has visited Africa, El Salvador and Nicaragua and spent time with the many people who suffer the systemic problems of war, poverty and disease. These visits affected U2s music and their message of social justice.
U2 and Bono can’t save the world and Garrett brings this all back to the title of his book: we get to carry each other. He says faith and community should create in us awareness not just of this God-given sense of obligation to work for justice, but also awareness of the joyful privilege of being co-workers with God (116).
This book is not a deep theological dive even though Garrett says he is trying to do Christian theology. He is interested in having a conversation about the Bible, God and Christian praxis that includes the ancient and contemporary and he invites U2. He tries to extract spiritual meanings from the music and lives of U2 and to explore those meanings with others who have done and are doing theology (137). Garret succeeds in meeting this goal. [ Review by Bill van Loon ]
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com