-Rev Melissa Fain-
I sat at my computer, staring at my screen. How does one talk about something that is so painful, while also vitally important? Eventually I typed out, "I don't know what to write here," saved the post, and went to work. Previous "Tuesday Reviews" were academic. I wrote them in an academic way. I could view it like a student looking at a dissected frog. I could examine and pull apart without fear of stopping something that hadn't already been stopped. This book, on the other hand, alive. Raw. It cried out to me.
This book hit me on so many levels.
On the most basic of levels, it hit me as a wounded human being. I could fully understand Kristy's brokenness as a child of brokenness. I know what it's like to not be able to name spiritual, and personal wounds, while the world doesn't know how to react to your woundedness. I know what it's like to have those discard you because they don't know how to deal with you, and (as a child) not understanding how that is fundamentally wrong.
It also connected to me as an adult person wounded by the church. I could personally understand how her particular situation wounded her so badly. I knew first hand how church woundedness could hurt so much more deeply than secular woundedness. It's being stabbed in the back by your closest loved ones while they lovingly tell you everything is going to be alright. It's knowing you are bleeding out, but they are prayerfully choosing to peacefully watch you die.
Finally, it reminded me I wound others because as a minister I am part of the church. I'll admit, Kristy personally gave me a super easy out. In the last few pages, I'm mentioned, and listed on the side of good. I'm not taking the easy out. As an ordained minister I need to be held accountable. I'm still part of the Body of Christ. Like, when someone murders someone else. We don't just punish the parts of the person that did the murdering. We punish the whole human. We have to see that within the Christian Context.. If a piece of us are acting outside our purpose as Christians, we are all acting out of that purpose. We are guilty, and instead of hacking parts off the Body, we need to holistically start spiritual rehab. Less "they" and "them" words, more "we" and "us" words.
What is this book about:
In one sentence: The true story of a pastor's daughter, and the church's poor reaction to both her and her stalker.
In a more extended way: Kristy tells the story of #metoo and #churchtoo with dark humor that leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat, throwing your book across the room, laughing or a combination of all three.
What should you do with this book:
Over the years I've received numerous certifications in First Aid and CPR. I'm currently certified in CPR. One of the key features to this kind of training is doing the same action over and over. This is so we become hard-wired when crisis hits. We naturally have a flight or fight response to immediate crisis. It's a holdover from our caveman brothers and sisters who had to immediately respond to that animal with sharp teeth eyeing them in the distance. Today it's far less helpful. If we know how to react in crisis, we are better prepared to deal with it.
I believe Act Normal would be a great book to pair with a Crisis Care series in the church. I could see working through Safe Sanctuaries, or Mental Health First Aid, and using Act Normal as a case study. I think there is something important with pairing this book up. Churches (and seminarians) need to see what happens when Spiritual First Aid is not in place, and what are the results. In the same breath, we need to see that there are things we could do, and those things are easy to implement.
It's also good because it hasn't been washed pure for the church. This book is honest and real. It doesn't try to fit anywhere specific, it just tells it how it is. The church needs more honest. It's needs a woman who is willing to speak honestly about premarital sex and honestly speak to the failure of the church during that time. It's so honest, I'd call it beautifully honest.
I was not paid to do this review. I personally purchased the book with my own time and money. If you would like to purchase your own copy of Act Normal, it is available to purchase on Amazon. This is a good book. It's written well, and worth your time whether you are a minister, congregant, or just someone who likes to read.
Over the past month, I've slowly read Seeking Imperfection. It is a book written by an ordained Disciples of Christ minister, Rev. Evan Dolive. This all came into being when he saw a Victoria Secrets campaign focused on a girls self-esteem. This did not sit right to Rev. Dolive. He couldn't see how a pair of underwear was going to enhance a girl's self-esteem. It lead him to write an open letter to the company. Then the letter went viral. Fortunately, people wanted more, and he was able to expand his simple message into a full book.
How does it read?
This is a very pastoral book. It is a shepherd talking to a flock. It's not about "us" verses "them," and I wouldn't support it if it were.. Part of the mission of Fig Tree Christian is stitching the Body of Christ back together. The book starts with a basic premise: We are all created in the image of God, and therefore, we shouldn't be seeking what advertising calls "perfect." I fully endorse that message, and I'd hope you would too.
Who is it for?
This book is a minister talking to a congregation, and also a father talking to his future teenage daughter. He writes to both parents and teenagers/tweens. However, I'd focus this book on teenagers specifically. When I was a teenager, I was given I Kissed Dating Goodbye. It did not help my body image. As a girl who was already just fine with waiting for a sexual relationship, Harris' book gave the message that my body was a stumbling block. Why am I bringing this book in comparison to Seeking Imperfection? My generation is lost. The females in particular were raised to be ashamed of their bodies. This book fixes what the 90's did. Doesn't talk about sex, and it doesn't have to. It simply says the reader is beautiful just the way they are. It's a breath of fresh air, and just what today's teenagers need to read.
How to use it?
I strongly consider making this a youth group series. This book is solidly connected to the bible, so there would be weekly connections to scripture. This book solidly understands the current culture outside the church doors, so the youth would be able to connect to it. It's a great book for parents to be reading along with the youth. There are points where Rev. Dolive is directly talking to the parents. Finally, whether it's read by itself or as a group, each chapter ends with reflection questions and a prayer.