A personal look at living through Jesus.
Poet and biographer Parini (English and Creative Writing/Middlebury Coll.; Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal, 2015, etc.) provides a slim yet dense volume on what he calls “the way of Jesus.” In this attempt to describe the modern life of faith and convince others of its worthiness, the author often falls short. Despite being broken into four distinct chapters, the book is awkwardly structured. Parini begins by telling the story of his faith life, including the usual moments of falling away and a healthy dose of skepticism. The author finally found comfort in modern, liberal Christian theology, and he promotes a “mythic view” of Christianity, which dismisses questions of factual truth and literalism, focusing instead on the larger and more universal truths to be found in Scripture. With this view established, Parini examines the various components of the Christian faith, ranging from the Old and New Testaments to the incarnation. He rejects salvation and resurrection as traditionally understood, arguing instead that Jesus taught “Resurrection Thinking,” an ongoing personal renewal. The author moves on to describe the church year from an Anglo-Catholic perspective, and he concludes with a chapter heavily laden with wisdom from T.S. Eliot. As for “the way of Jesus,” Parini uses the term widely and defines it in various ways, as “a road,” a move toward transformation, “the story of Incarnation,” and “a way of life.” The author offers a view of Christianity that many readers may find difficult to accept. Steeped in tradition, established prayers, and even the use of rosaries, at the same time it is vague, open-ended, and personalized. “Is Jesus God?” the author asks at one point; “Yes and no,” is his answer. Parini presents Christianity as a way of life but not as a path toward truth.
A scattershot introduction to Christianity for the skeptical.