Friday, March 23, 2018

EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON: AND OTHER LIES I'VE LOVED, by Kate Bowler

I asked Google to find the cover of the book I'm about to praise. "Everything happens for a reason," I typed, and clicked "images." Instead of the cover, I got a pageful of annoyingly pious memes and posters--and this perfectly wonderful empathy card,



I've never met Kate Bowler, but I heard Terry Gross interview her on "Fresh Air" (which is why I read her book), and I'm pretty sure she would love the card. 

Bowler, who teaches at Duke Divinity School, is the author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (Oxford, 2013). The prosperity gospel is attractive: God wants you to be healthy and wealthy! And so if you trust God enough, and get rid of the sins that hold you back, and think positively, and (often) donate money to some ministry, God will make you prosper!

Except when he doesn't. Suppose, for example, that, like Bowler, you contract a mysterious neurological impairment that baffles doctors and keeps you from using your hands. Suppose you lose a much-wanted child to miscarriage. Suppose you discover at age 35 that you have stage 4 colon cancer.

Is your suffering your fault? Did you not trust enough, give enough, repent enough? Is God trying to teach you something? Is he using you to teach someone else?

No, says Bowler. These things happen because we're human.

Read this book if you've ever wondered why people suffer--or if you think you already know the reason.

Read it if you've ever wondered what to say to somebody whose has had a sobering diagnosis, or who has lost a loved one, or who is going through some other painful crisis. 

Read it, too, if you've ever wondered what not to say. The two Appendixes alone are worth the price of the book: "Absolutely never say this to people experiencing terrible times: a short list" and "Give this a go, see how it works: a short list."

Read it if you appreciate memoirs that are introspective but not self-absorbed, wise but not preachy, ironic but not unkind, often hilarious but never, ever chirpy.

And read it if you like good writing about what it means to be human that will make you laugh as well as cry.

I went back to Google and asked for "Kate Bowler, Everything Happens for a Reason." Here's what the cover looks like. I hope you read the book.





5 comments:

Luci Shaw said...

I hope to meet Kate Bowler at Calvin College (Festival of Faith and Writing)
next month, and buy her book. I heard the interview with Terry Gross and loved what I heard.

Marcia Z. Nelson said...

I look forward to reading this book. In my work as a hospital chaplain, I hear this sometimes (No, not from my lips or my colleagues'). But I hear it from well-intentioned people who don't know what else to say in the face of acute suffering. Perhaps they are like the friends of Job: trying to help but off the mark. Very few people have a lot of practice on this subject.

Patricia Fulda said...

Wonderful review! This went directly to my library list which means I'll read it in 2-3 weeks.

Bless you for these reviews! I would never have heard of this otherwise!

Warmly, Pat

catharine phillips said...

I'm so glad, with Luci, that I will be able to meet her and buy her book at FFW next month. I also would not have heard of her otherwise!
Blessings,
Catharine

Unknown said...

THANK YOU FOR TELLING US ABOUT THIS BOOK, DEFINITELY WILL PUT ON "MUST READ" LIST.
so much of it is so applicable to what we are confronted with.
Blessings
mel