Since landing on Oprah’s Book Club, the hype about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love has been almost endless. Consequently, the memoir has spent about a million weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. As most readers know, that doesn’t always mean a book is good. So what’s my verdict? After spending three days pushing through it, my suspicions were confirmed: the book is a new-agey piece of trash.

Gilbert’s memoir gets an F for many reasons. I’d estimate that it could be pared down to about half of its mind-numbing 352 pages. I don’t care to read chapter after chapter of self-pity about her divorce from a husband, who, God forbid, wanted to have a family. I should also mention that the life she described didn’t seem too bad: a nice job, a big house, etc. When she’s supposedly at rock bottom, her editor gives her an advance on the book that funds her year-long trip around the globe. Boo hoo.

I could continue my rant about the suck factor of Eat, Pray, Love, but let me get to the heart of why I think her memoir is nothing more than soul-less soul-searching. All of my hatred for this book culminated in the third portion, “Indonesia.” In this section, Gilbert arrives on the doorstep of an elderly healer/magician, who is supposed to teach her about what he does, apparently so she can feed the void. While in Bali, she crosses paths with another healer, who is also divorced, but lives in poverty and struggles to support her young daughter. Being a typical, dumb Westerner, Gilbert thinks she can “fix” this woman’s situation by throwing money at her to buy a home: $18,000 she collected from her equally typical, dumb American friends. After several weeks and no home purchased, Gilbert starts putting the pressure on this woman to buy a home before she returns to the States. After all, Gilbert wanted her American friends to see evidence that this woman’s life was changed. Long story short, Gilbert’s friends and lover convince her that the woman is scamming her. So, Gilbert concocts a lie that her friends will take back the money unless she buys a house before Gilbert leaves. She takes the bait.

So why is Gilbert a typical, dumb Westerner? Not because she was supposedly getting scammed by a suspicious, poor, local woman. She thought her money could fix everything–including what she perceived to be a flawed, backwards culture. And shall I also ask, why perform this act of kindness and include it in your bestselling book? I wonder if she’s sending royalties to the woman and her daughter who helped make her book such a success. Perhaps Gilbert also passed along Oprah’s other favorite book, The Secret, so they could find a way to pay the property taxes on that nice, new house in Bali.

Finally, let me make it known that I didn’t choose to read Eat, Pray, Love recreationally or because I belong to the Church of Oprah (because I don’t); it was required reading. While I could write a book’s worth of material about why I think Oprah is poisoning the minds of countless individuals, I’ll leave that for another time.

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Monday this week was the Feast of John and Charles Wesley according to the Anglican liturgical calendar. Somehow we always miss this one in the Nazarene Church.

This is more or less a link post, but let me introduce it with just a few thoughts. Wesleyan theology, now more than ever perhaps, is crucial for the witness of the Church of the Nazarene within the broader Catholicity of the church and also within the broader culture. We have ceded too much ground to other movements and have become content to call ourselves evangelicals, emergents, protestants or any number of other things. This has led to a forgetfulness of Wesleyan theology (mostly under the smoke and mirrors of saying Wesley wasn’t a systematic thinker). But Wesley was a broad thinker and brought holiness thought to bear on many subjects and phenomena (economics, sacraments, scripture, eschatology, science, to name a few). If we as theologians in the Nazarene Church are to avoid on the one side the banality of generic evangelicalism and on the other side a complete disengagement with the laity of the church, then the Wesleys need to be our starting point, the fountain from which we think the holiness movement and it’s larger place within the Catholicity of the church’s witness.

Let this not be mistaken as a call for a firmer grip on our “identity” as Nazarenes whatever that might be. David Belcher over at Sanctifying Worship has illuminated how Christian pefection has become not only the central doctrine of the Nazarene church but also that by which we have begun to define our identity: “and thus the beginnings of a potential rift are already forming (since inevitably the necessity to form an identity for ourselves is motivated by some kind of claim, some kind of possession…and I think we all know how possession begets competition, and competition division).”

Rather, let this call back to a starting point in Wesleyan theology be a kind of letting go, letting our identity be de-handed, or given back out of the plenitude of the gift already given. For is this not how Wesley thinks the gift in his Plain Account of Christian Perfection? Read the rest of this entry »