Monday, May 13, 2013

‘Permission Granted – And Other Thoughts on Living Graciously Among Sinners and Saints’ by Margot Starbuck – Book Review

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Over the last several years, the Lord has been working on my heart to help me be more loving and less judgmental. I always feel that I need more help in that area. So when I heard about the blog tour for ‘Permission Granted – And Other Thoughts on Living Graciously Among Sinners and Saints’ by Margot
Starbuck, I was intrigued by the title and wanted to be involved.

Here is the synopsis of this book:

·       Would Jesus stand on a street corner waving a sign that condemned a particular kind of sinner?
·         Would he deliver diatribes on TV news shows against them?
·         Would he support religious leaders who use their positions to marginalize the less-than-holy?
When she got the feeling that authentic love for those identified by the church as “Special Sinners” looked diametrically different than Christians in the media spotlight made it appear, Margot Starbuck went looking for the truth. Scouring the Gospels for the Jesus who felt as uncomfortable as she did around disreputable sinners, Margot was surprised to find no record of him there. Instead, she found the kind of grace that would actually be received by those in bars, in strip clubs, and at drag queen bingo.
Permission Granted is her passionate and liberating call to all of us to truly love others as Jesus does. With wit and clarity of insight, Starbuck shows that there are no “Special Sinners” who are worse or more deserving of contempt and judgment than others, and challenges us to a radical acceptance of the ones God loves and receives.

Here is the biography of this author:

Margot Starbuck is the confessions editor of Geez Magazine’s Sinner’s Corner
and blogs at Red Letter Christians, Her.meneutics, Gifted for Leadership, and Fullfill. She also writes for Relevant, Neue, MomSense, Mutuality, and Prism, as well as other print and online publications. She is an award-winning writer and speaker who is convinced that Jesus is wild about Sinners just like her. She lives with her husband and three children in North Carolina.

Here is Margot explaining the purpose of her book:

In the Introduction, Margot points out the disparity between the behavior of the ‘Religious’ and that of Jesus:

Most of us recognize that the posture of “Christians” in some of the outrageous snapshots touted by the media – spewing vitriol at military funerals, threatening to burn Korans, demeaning gay people from Sunday morning pulpits – are alarmingly dissimilar from the ones we’ve been given of Jesus in the Gospels. It does not require any sophisticated theological training to recognize the discrepancies.
The Gospel examples of Jesus looked very different from anything I’d seen practiced by the Religious. Instead of backing away cautiously, the way I like to do, Jesus moved toward those who’d been identified as disreputable Sinners. Righteous, the way I’d been groomed to do, he actually went to a lot of trouble to insist that these Sinners were worth so much that his Father spared no expense in his dogged pursuit of them. His unexpected behavior both surprised his closest friends and outraged the Religious.
Sadly, the passing of centuries has made this distinctly Christian form of love no more prevalent and no less scandalous. (p. 10)

Margot shared the thoughts of a writer named Bryon Katie, who uses an approach called Loving What Is. I was reading this book during a trip to Florida to visit my in-laws. My husband, Fred, and I, had the opportunity to visit the four parks of Disney World in one day. I used this approach while I was waiting in line for one hour for one ride…..:

“Loving what is” just means that instead of desperately wanting some situation to be different than it actually is – which, since I usually can’t control it, only causes me distress, anyway – I accept it for what it is. As I do that, when I stop the relentless thoughts that insist This has to stop, or I can’t bear this, or Why are they trying to destroy me?, I don’t have to be distressed by it. What causes my upset, apparently, is me wanting a situation to be different than it really is. When I accept what is, as I just notice what’s happening, I don’t have to get freaked out by it…..
If you’re a highly evolved, emotionally mature person, this is probably how you behave all the time. You don’t let yourself get ticked off and unglued by small inconsequential things. Because I do, however, the difference between the groovy, psychologically sound, and spiritually healthy response and me blowing up and screaming at [someone] everyone is really quite striking. (pp. 226-227)

In my situation, we took on a big task by wanting to hit all four parks at Walt Disney World – Epcot Center, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and the Magic Kingdom – in one day. So when we got stuck in a long line, it was hard for me to be patient….. So I simply accepted the fact that ‘it is what it is.’

One of the most important points in Margot’s book is that Jesus never avoided sinners the way we are often told to do ourselves. She makes this great point:

If it actually were the case that my acceptance of the riff-raff, my presence among them, was an implicit endorsement of their behavior, then Jesus is not the man a lot of us think he is. According to this line of thinking, he’s proprostitution, proextortion, proadultery, progluttony, prohypocrisy, prodrunkenness, and prosyncretism. The twisty logic say that if you “accept” something, you necessarily condone it. Even if you don’t.
Whether or not Jesus condoned or condemned the behavior of Sinners, he did accept it. He recognized what it was, without sign of anxiety or distress when other failed to behave the way he thought maybe they should. (p. 231)

I have to be honest and admit that some of the truths shared in this book are difficult for me to accept. I have been a Christian for over twenty years, and my early teaching involved lots of legalism and judgmentalism. So learn to love as Jesus loved seems foreign to me. But it is clear to me that Jesus was more accepting of sinner than most of us. And if He can accept them, what gives us the right to not do the same?!

You can order this book by clicking here.

This book is published by Baker Books and is provided by them for review purposes.

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