A Grief Observed

a grief observedA Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis. Originally published in 1961 under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk. You can read it for free here.

This was one of only two of C.S. Lewis’ non fiction works that I had never read. As I read through this very short journal that Lewis used to process his grief in the wake of the death of his beloved wife, I was struck with two thoughts.

The first was that for a man who was married so late in life for so brief a time, he had a very deep and rich perspective on the one flesh relationship. Perhaps this was precisely because he was married so late in life for so brief a time.  The second was that this was the stuff Lewis jotted down in a journal at night, at least this was often how the musings seemed to read, as he writhed in the agony of grief and bewilderment that a good God would allow such suffering and pain in the life of His children.

Who writes so eloquently at a time like this, while banging on Heaven’s door only to feel as if he’s not getting a response?

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

The disquieting and discomfited feeling of wondering whether everything you have grown to believe about God could possibly true is palpable in Lewis’ journal. One of the most true and pitiful thoughts was that we often, in our distress, forget completely about the one we are supposedly distressed for. Their pain, their suffering (or the end of it) most assuredly takes a back seat to our feeling about the matter. Lewis realized how horrible that was, but at least he acknowledged it:

For the first time I have looked back and read these notes. They appall me. From the way I’ve been talking anyone would think that H.’s death mattered chiefly for its effect on myself. Her point of view seems to have dropped out of sight. Have I forgotten the moment of bitterness when she cried out, ‘And there was so much to live for’?

As Lewis determines to buy no more notebooks in which to chronicle his grief, it reminded me of how David came full circle in the Psalms:

And now that I come to think of it, there’s no practical problem before me at all. I know the two great commandments, and I’d better get on with them. Indeed, H.’s death has ended the practical problem. While she was alive I could, in practice, have put her before God; that is, could have done what she wanted instead of what He wanted; if there’d been a conflict. What’s left is not a problem about anything I could do. It’s all about weights of feelings and motives and that sort of thing. It’s a problem I’m setting myself.

I don’t know how many times I myself have said the very words indicated in bold above, and I am nowhere near the thinker or writer that C.S. Lewis was. Those who know me well have certainly heard it often enough, and it really is what life is all about when you get down to it. It can be a bitter pill, and it does nothing to alleviate our immediate suffering, but it’s good medicine that heals the soul and gives us purpose as we move forward through the challenges of life.

I give this book and A, but certainly not because it’s anywhere near the best C.S. Lewis book. It isn’t. I give it an A because if there were ever such thing as a philosophical rock star, Lewis fits the bill. And if there were ever such a thing as a literary groupie, then I have fit that bill in regards to Lewis for a good long time now.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

their-eyes-were-watching-god-zora-neale-hurston-book-cover-artTheir eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. Originally published in 1937.

The novel,  (thought to be a roman à clef),  opens with its heroine Janie Woods, nearing age 40, returning to her hometown of  Eatonville, FL.

Zora Neale Hurston was nothing if not adept at packing a lot of insight into few words. Before we are treated to a review of Janie’s life and travails as recounted by Janie to her best friend Phoeby, Hurston drops this bit in as the very second paragraph of the book:

Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.*

This does not fully prepare for what follows, because what follows is the very thing that made Hurston’s book largely dismissed by her fellow writers in the Harlem Renaissance movement: a headstrong, free spirited female protagonist and what they viewed as too much emphasis on the less dignified aspects of Negro life.

The book only gained modern acclaim and redemption because of the black feminist writers who made huge waves during the 1980’s: Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones et. al.

Janie’s return to Eatonville, alone, was quite the event and the gossip mill wasted no time churning up speculation about the nature of her reemergence. From the fact that this “ole woman” of 40 came walking through town with her waist length hair let down “lak she a young girl”, to the fact that she was wearing “overhauls” rather than a dress and everything in between, curiosity was high.

Her life was turbulent from birth. She never knew her mother or father. She was raised by her grandmother whose only desire was for Janie to be secure; not be used as “any man’s, white or black, spit cup”. The source of this worry was that Janie had more than a scant bit of cream in her coffee and she drew the attention of men. Café au lait skin and hair that flowed long, atypical for a black woman, made her stand out.

To see her granddaughter suitably cared for before her fast approaching demise, her grandmother arranges for 15-year-old Janie  to marry a widowed older farmer, who  owned 60 acres of land. Janie had envisioned marriage as a place where love blooms and grows to fruition, and although she has grave doubts about whether this union can provide such an experience, she obeys with fervent hope that it might do just that. She is bitterly disappointed:

The familiar people and things had failed her so she hung over the gate and looked up the road towards way off. She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.**

It was also clear to her husband that Janie would never want him as he wanted her, so his treatment of her grew cold. When a smooth talking, well dressed man named Joe Starks comes to town, he notices Janie and strikes up a friendship with her. He’d heard tell of a new town in in another part of the state started by Negroes and run by Negroes, and that’s where he was headed. He planned to be a big man in this new town and he needed a woman like Janie by his side. When he got ready to head off to the new town Janie, then 17,  left her husband Logan behind to start anew with Joe. She “marries” him as they ride out of town.

Turns out there was a town for us, by us (it’s still there, trust me), but it needed direction. Joe wasted no time and before long he had parlayed the $300 dollars he had in his pocket when he arrived into a mini-empire. He built a general store, got a post office installed, bought land and sold lots to Negro families that he met traveling around the state advertising the new town. He was soon elected mayor. Janie was his trophy wife, mostly seen and not heard.

When the tension between Joe’s expectations and her desires reached a breaking point, in an argument he revealed his belief that:

“Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chicken and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none theirselves!”

When Janie objects and asserts that women have thoughts worth something too, it gets even worse:

Aw, naw they don’t. They jus think they’s thinkin’.

It was the beginning of a shift for the rest of their 17-year marriage life until Joe took sick and died in his early 50’s:

Times and scenes like that put Janie to thinking about the inside state of her marriage. Time came when she fought back with her tongue as best she could, but it didn’t do her any good. It just made Joe do more. He wanted her submission and he’d keep on fighting until he felt he had it.

So gradually, she pressed her teeth together and learned to hush. The spirit of the marriage left the bedroom and took to living in the parlor. It was there to shake hands whenever company came to visit, but it never went back inside the bedroom again. So she put something in there to represent the spirit like a Virgin Mary image in a church. The bed was no longer a daisy-field for her and Joe to play in. It was a  place she went and laid down when she was sleepy and tired.

As a widow, she learned to avoid the few suitors with means and status. She was enjoying her freedom she said, until she shocked everyone by getting involved with a man 12 years younger who called himself “Tea Cake” Woods.

A man of no means or reputation, he had milk chocolate skin, a charming smile and a swagger that won Janie’s heart. He was unimpressed by her status as the widow of  Joe Starks. She was just a woman, and he was a man. That was that, and it was what she’d longed for. She sold the store, took a train out of Eatonville, married Tea Cake, and went from ladylike porch sitting to wearing overalls and working the muck fields of the Florida Everglades.

For Janie, this is when her life really began, as if she spent her older years when she was a child and her older years (it feels strange that at this time 36 was considered “old”) living the excitement of youth. She loved Tea Cake desperately, and he loved her. Jealousies, his gambling, even his physical abuse does nothing to dampen it until his life tragically and prematurely ends.

At 17, I read this book and had a highly romanticized view of Janie, her plight, and her choices. This time was different. I still had moments of great sympathy for her early plight, but they are balanced with a more mature view of her choices. I have a more black and white view of life and marriage and duty.

It was interesting that the black feminists writers of the 70’s and 80’s chose this book of all Hurston’s work as the crown jewel, given Janie’s desperate desire to be loved by a man and her acceptance, embracing even, of Tea Cake’s abuse.

All said, it’s a wonderful book. Full of rich history and language, touching all the themes that were front and center of the black experience at the turn of the century. However, with the exception of a few moments in defense of the dignity of woman, Hurston refrains from being preachy or dogmatic. She leaves things out there for the reader to discern and she clearly loved who she was, loved her people, and loved where she came from.

B+

The Difference Between Reading and Devouring a Book

I am currently reading a book that I first read 27 years ago as a high school assignment. This is without question, the most rewarding experience I’ve had since I committed several months ago to read a book a week. That’s saying a great deal.

It was in fact this new commitment and the near constant stream of thoughts it birthed which led to the authority in my life to direct me to resume writing, but about books instead of relationships or culture. People love to argue about relationships or culture he reasoned, but there will be very few in this era that even bother to read a book, let alone the books I read, and even less who care enough to read a housewife’s ramblings about said books. And so here I am, but I digress.

I am halfway through a book I was assigned to read my senior year of high school. It’s an acclaimed book, by a renowned author. It also happens that I have an intensely personal connection to the one of the central places where the book is set. The “rediscovery” of this particular author was emerging right around the time I graduated high school (1989), and this was what caused my AP English teacher to assign it.

I recall she thought that I, of all her students, should devour the book. She wondered what I thought of this and that and the other. I was not, at the time, mature enough to appreciate the historical significance of where I lived. I wasn’t particularly proud of it, and I didn’t much appreciate being forced to read about it. I’d been force fed history about my hometown from kindergarten, and I also knew a fair deal about this author who she was so excited was finally being acknowledged. I was bored.

Fast forward 27 years, and here I am, devouring this book. Seeing the broken and battered black Southern dialect at the end of reconstruction as beautiful as it was hard to read until I got 20 or so pages into it. I’m able to see the 125 year old churches that I actually sat in, walked passed, and sang in through entirely new eyes.

This is the difference between simple reading, and the ability to devour a book with equal parts contemplation and  wonder. It is what I want to pass on to my children, the legacy of being a devourer of books. To quote Booky McBookerson:

If you have books, kids will pick them up. If not, books will not likely be seen as of any import a lot of the time. I can’t imagine a house without books, and pretty well never consider a book purchase a waste of money.

If you’re reading here, I already know that books are a great part of your life. How are you passing that on to your kids?

Iconic Characters: Mr. Knightley

Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley in BBC's Emma

Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley in BBC’s Emma

Having agonized- that’s hyperbole- over whether I will be so bothered as to ever review Jane Austen’s more acclaimed novels, I have concluded that the answer is no. We may certainly at some point visit one or two that have not been adapted by a major Hollywood studio. However, there isn’t much that an average reader and novice writer with scant literary knowledge or insights into life in 18th century England can say about those books that hasn’t already been said. I have recently read a few posts from another blogger which present a well rounded exploration of Jane Austen’s works:

Three perspectives from Adventures at Keeping House:

The Real Villain of Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice:The Most Unrealistic of All Jane Austen’s Love Stories

The Inherent Liberalism of Pride and Prejudice

I trust that there you will find plenty of food for thought and controversy to mine for die hard Austen fans. Not to mention the aforementioned are much more articulate and knowledgeable than I.

I do however, have a very strong opinion on one matter that I want to address in an Waiting+For+Mr.+Darcyattempt at cathartic release after seeing yet another woman wearing an insufferable t-shirt. It is with this business of Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice extolled as the most manly and admirable leading man in all of Austen’s works. I patently disagree.

The most alluring male lead in all of Jane Austen’s works that I have read is without question Mr. Knightley from her 1815 published work, Emma. While the title character and leading lady is often very hard to take, Mr. Knightley is a breath of fresh air among male characters of any era.

He is confident, direct, and never fails to call Emma to account and a higher standard of behavior when she gets out of line. In other words, he is exactly the kind of  man we post-modern sassy women need in a husband rather than a steady dose of  Darcy’s “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”.

Contrast with this description of Mr. Knightley, the man to whom Emma is eventually wed:

Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them: and though this was not particularly agreeable to Emma herself, she knew it would be so much less so to her father, that she would not have him really suspect such a circumstance as her not being thought perfect by every body.

“Emma knows I never flatter her,” said Mr. Knightley.

While Emma may not be Austen’s most acclaimed work, it is in my opinion certainly the most entertaining and humorous, and the one book in which she provides us an example of a man, stalwart, and unafraid to confront folly in the life and actions of his intended.

That in my opinion, makes Mr. Knightley rather than Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen’s most iconic male character.

Wise Blood

wise bloodWise Blood by Flannery O’Connor, published in 1952.

Anyone familiar with the works of Flannery O’Connor can appreciate it when I say that this is a peculiar book. In other words, it’s my kind of read.

Haze Motes is a man on mission. Like his father and his father’s father before him, it was always his intention to be a preacher and spread the good news of redemption in Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the way, during his service in the second World War, he became an raging atheist.

He was not just your average, run of the mill unbeliever however. Because he wrongly assumed just about every person he met in the Bible belt from which he hailed was a believer, he assaulted them with his anti-Jesus message in bizarre and inappropriate ways. Adding insult to injury, everyone who meets him takes in his attire and demeanor,  and automatically assumes he’s a preacher. So when he hails a taxi and gives the driver the address of a local whore as his drop off point, it’s the first of many times he has to convince someone that he is not in fact, a preacher:

Outside he got in a yellow taxi and told the driver where he wanted to go.

“You ain’t no friend of hers, are you?” the driver asked.

“I never saw her before,” Haze said.

“Where’d you hear about her? She don’t usually have no preachers for company.” He did not disturb the position of the cigar when he spoke; he was able to speak on either side of it.

“I ain’t any preacher,” Haze said, frowning. “I only seen her name in the toilet.”

“You look like a preacher,” the driver said. “That hat looks like a preacher’s hat.”

“It ain’t,” Haze said, and leaned forward and gripped the back of the front seat. “It’s just a hat.”

They stopped in front of a small one-story house between a filling station and a vacant lot. Haze got out and paid his fare through the window.

“it ain’t only the hat,” the driver said. “It’s a look in your face somewheres.”

“Listen,” Haze said, tilting the hat over one eye, “I’m not a preacher.”

Eventually he runs into a street evangelist and decides to embrace his own destiny. He begins a competing street ministry which he names ‘The Church Without Christ”. Of course, he’s surly and has a religious chip on his shoulder the size of the Smoky Mountains, so it gains no traction.

The only person who pays him any mind at all is a lonely, slightly unhinged and voyeuristic 18-year-old misfit who believes that when you have “wise blood” it’s all the guidance you need and the degenerate 16-year-old daughter of the street preacher he encountered when he first enters town.

What’s worse is that another, more charismatic man “with a winning smile” sees Haze on the street and decides to help him make his message more palatable. He knows they can actually make some money if they are careful not to abandon Christ altogether, and he tries to change Haze’s “ministry name to the Holy Church of Christ Without Christ:

“now friends”, Onnie Jay said, “I want to tell you a second reason why you can absolutely trust this church- it’s based on the Bible. Yes sir! It’s based on your own personal interpitation of the Bible,  friends. You can sit at home and interpit your own Bible however you feel in your heart it ought to be interpited. That’s right,” he said, “just the way Jesus would have done it. Gee, I wisht I had my gittar here,” he complained.

But Haze is principled, far more concerned with teaching the “truth” that there is no Jesus, and there’s no need for one. There was never a Fall, hence no need for Redemption, and certainly no need for Justification. He rejects Onnie Jay’s scheme, and much to Haze’s disgust, Onnie Jay accumulates his own “church” members willing to pay him a dollar to be a member.

In the end, like every character in the book, Haze goes even further off the deep end until he meets his end. There are lots of surprises in this book even, taking into account the spoilers I’ve offered describing the plot. Well if you’re used to Flannery O’Connor, they may not be surprising at all.

O’Connor had a taste for not only the morbid, but also for digging into the darkest recesses of the minds of her characters, revealing those things that make it quite easy for you to read the entire work without developing a fondness for any one of them.

It’s quite disconcerting, and uncomfortably real. How many people would any of us truly be able to tolerate if we could really see into them, what makes them tick? How many people would be able to tolerate us? That O’Connor doesn’t bother to offer up a hero, or even an anti-hero, is what makes her unique among women writers even in a time and place when people were more acquainted with the realities of life.

B+

Love in the Ruins

love in the ruinsLove in the Ruins, The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World, by Walker Percy. Published in 1971, a very good year!

Dr. Thomas More lives in Paradise, Louisiana. He was a devout Catholic and psychiatrist whose wife left him and ran off with a hippie “prophet” to live on a commune some time after the death of their beloved and only child, a daughter.

A self-described “bad Catholic” and rightly so, More picks up what is left of his life, continued his much needed psychiatric practice, and found three equally appealing women with which he divides his time when he isn’t drinking or working:

“Why did God make women so beautiful and man with such a loving heart?”

America for the most part is a very fractured place. In fact it seems to be coming apart at the seams. Deep fissures abound every where you look: political, ethnic, religious, economic, and every other way you can imagine. Everyone seems particularly okay with this. A brief description of what has happened to More’s beloved Church paints a vivid picture:

“Our Catholic church here split into three pieces: (1) the American Catholic Church whose new Rome is Cicero, Illinois; (2) the Dutch schismatics who believe in relevance but not God; (3) the Roman Catholic remnant, a tiny scattered flock with no place to go. The American Catholic Church, which emphasizes property rights and the integrity of neighborhoods, retained the Latin mass and plays The Star-Spangled Banner at the elevation.”

In fact, More is the only one who seems to notice how screwed up everyone is, and he believes his invention can fix what’s left of the insane minds of those around him.  His work is primarily focused on a potentially Nobel prize winning invention which he believes will cure what ails the extremely sick culture in which he lives. He calls his invention an Ontological Lapsometer, and as it turns out, there is one other person who believes he’s on to something and is trying to acquire the machine for nefarious ends.

This book is not a classic literary masterpiece as such things are measured, but I love the book. The writing style is as fractured and scattered as the times in which Percy is describing, and it fits. It’s crazy while making the most perfect sense.

I shouldn’t even like the hero, seeing as he is a womanizing, alcohoilc Catholic and I’m a teetotalling Protestant. However, as the only person in the room who sees the insanity for what it is, you can’t help but root for him even as you know that what ails the people is far deeper than anything he can stimulate in their brains.

More than that, I appreciated the foresight Walker Percy showed for what happens to a people with no common sense of history or faith. His book reads like a foreboding. In the early 70’s the fact that our country was fractured was something many people could see. Now we accept it for just the way things are.

There is a lot more I could say about this book, not the least of which is the irony of the woman More ultimately ends up marrying given his track record, but if I do that, you might not read the book. And you should read this book.

A

From “Our Great Big American God” to “Christless Christianity”

I have recently discovered the extreme value in reading more than one book on important topics; preferably from different angles. This is probably going to be a thing. Book reviews that cover two books at once.

great big american godOur Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever Growing Deity, originally struck me as a favorable read despite some initial objections to its liberal bent. I agreed with much of what Matthew Paul Turner had to say concerning the increasingly American presentation of the God of the Bible. More than that, it was pretty funny.

Turner’s description of believers he has encountered and known, with their extensive use of Christianese and shallow presentation of Biblical truth resonated with me. His description of his friend “Caroline” at the beginning of chapter 3, who described Jesus as her husband, and whose response to every bit of good news no matter how trivial, was a breathy “Praise Jesus”, and who response to every bit of bad news no matter how trivial, was an equally breathy “Help them, Jesus!” made me literally laugh out loud.  A lifetime in the church coupled with nearly 20 years of trying to deprogram and connect to a true and living faith rather than such caricature caused me to let my guard down while reading this book.

It was well referenced historically, and makes some valid points, but it ultimately fails to do what it set out to do, unless the end game was to mock conservative, White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Oh yes, and to suggest that the gospel is all about social justice to the exclusion of any demand to live righteously. He has plenty to say against our Americanized version of the Faith:

Ronald Reagan loved borrowing the words of Winthrop to define America, something he did throughout his political career. But in 1989, during his final speech as president, Reagan sat in the Oval Office and explained his own vision:

The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the “shining city upon a hill.” The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined….He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

Was that how John Winthrop saw it? It’s not that Ronald Reagan’s vision was particularly evil, but Reagan’s “city” is very much a nationalized idea. Winthrop seemed far too consumed with the pursuit of humility12 to cast such an American-focused ideal. As a Puritan, he certainly doused his “humble thoughts” with more than a dash of pride; still, he can’t have imagined an America that resembled anything remotely similar to the Godtropolis that Reagan (and Palin) seemed to visualize.

Or perhaps Reagan was right. Maybe Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” was indeed a municipality brimming with capitalism, patriotism, and a very liberal immigration policy. Lucky for Reagan, Winthrop never fully explained the details of his vision.

However, that is all he does.  If that was the goal, Mr. Turner succeeded, and in quite an entertaining style. Just as in the Ann Coulter book, the jokes and quips got tired. Turner, at least, is a decent writer. What he failed to offer was any view, Biblical or otherwise, of who the God of the Bible actually is and how we should rightly worship Him.

C-

christless christianityChristless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton, is a another book which examines the state of the Christian faith as it has been tweaked and redesigned according to American sensibilities. Horton’s critical eye however, contains a much deeper sense of purpose and search for Biblical truth.

As such, despite reaching many of the same conclusions as Turner regarding slick marketing and self-esteem boosting theology,  Horton is clearly much more concerned with the health of the church going forward, and a return to sound doctrine. From chapter 1 (full chapter can be read here):

I think our doctrine has been forgotten, assumed, ignored, and even misshaped and distorted by the habits and rituals of daily life in a narcissistic culture. We are assimilating the disrupting and disorienting news from heaven to the banality of our own immediate felt needs, which interpret God as a personal shopper for the props of our life movie: happiness as entertainment, salvation as therapeutic well-being, and mission as pragmatic success measured solely in terms of numbers.

So, in my view, we are living out our creed, but that creed is closer to the American Dream than it is to the Christian faith. The claim I am laying out in this book is that the most dominant form of Christianity today reflects “a zeal for God” that is nevertheless without knowledge—particularly, as Paul himself specifies, the knowledge of God’s justification of the wicked by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from works (Rom. 10:2, see vv. 1–15). Fourth, there are a lot of issues I would like to address about our American captivity that will not be taken up here.

Most of these issues I have treated elsewhere, especially in Made in America, Power Religion, and Beyond Culture Wars.2 The idols that identify the Christian cause with left-wing or right-wing political ideology are merely symptoms that Christ is not being regarded as sufficient for the church’s faith and practice today.

As the media follows the growing shift among many younger evangelicals from more conservative to more progressive politics, the real headline should be that the movement is going back to church to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ rather than becoming a demographic block in the culture wars. So my focus in this book is on whether Christ is even being widely proclaimed in the nation where half the population claims to be evangelical.

Horton takes an excellent turn at succinctly diagnosing the problem (p.71):

We are swimming is a sea of narcissistic moralism; an easy listening version of salvation by self-help.

Yes, that sounds about right. He calls for a return to a Biblical, accountable, creedal faith that first starts with acknowledging our need for repentance from sin.  He also offered quotes and documentation by clergymen from all corners, Reformed, Catholic, and Evangelical who agree with his diagnosis. Another good excerpt from chapter 2, page 63:

Jesus lamented that the religious leaders of his day were like children playing the funeral game and the marriage game, but they could neither mourn over their sins when John the Baptist came, nor dance in celebration at the arrival of the Son of man (Matt. 11:16-19). Similarly today, the preaching of the law in all its gripping judgment and the preaching of the gospel in all of its surpassing sweetness merge into a confused message of gentle exhortation to a more fulfilling life. Consequently, we know neither how to mourn nor how to throw a real party. The bad news no longer stands in sharp contrast with the good news; we become content with so-so news that eventually fails to bring genuine conviction or genuine comfort but keeps us on the treadmill of anxiety, craving the next revival, technique, or movement to lift our spirits and catapult us to heavenly glory. (emphasis mine)

Overall, an excellent book.

A