Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Jesus Freak

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Jesus Freak

Article excerpt

Jesus Freak. By Sara Miles. San Francisco, CaHf.: Jossey-Bass, 2010. 171 pp. $21.95 (cloth).

On the back of my copy of Dorothy Day's Loaves and Fishes is a snippet from a review by Thomas Merton, which notes that these experiences from the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement "read like the early Franciscan fioreti." Sara Miles's 2010 book, Jesus Freak, invites a comparison, not only witli the Little Flowers and other early lives of Francis, but with the work of that other radical journalist reborn a Christian convert, Dorothy Day. The book is a sequel to Miles's 2007 memoir, Take This Bread, which tells the story of her conversion at St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco and her ministry in founding the food pantry there. Jesus Freak continues that powerful narrative with stories of ministry on the front lines. The book is compelling and astoundingly well-written, and it is highly recommended reading for anyone who is already committed to the church and its mission or who is simply intrigued by Jesus and curious what it might mean to follow him today.

The central chapters of the book are organized around four practices of Jesus in which all his followers are invited to participate, namely "feeding, healing, forgiving, and raising the dead." The chapter on forgiveness alone is worth the price of the book. For Miles, "Everything Jesus has revealed, through stories and parables, bossy directives and patient touch, remain available to his disciples. He's shown that we have the power not just to feed and heal, forgive and cleanse, but to do these things in new ways that reflect God's nature and give us life" (p. 19).

Many of my own questions for Miles are more at the level of Christian doctrine. For instance, do the radical practices of feeding, healing, forgiving, and raising the dead really depend on the commitment to communion before baptism, and can the latter be defended at all? To cite another example, I am mystified by what I take tobe a simplistic denial that God is just - scandalously merciful, yes, but not at all just? Part of the risk of an approach like that taken in this book is that questionable things are assumed, asserted, and given a plausibility through powerful rhetoric. I think I would agree with Miles, however, that story, practice, and faith come prior to the church's self-critical reflection on any of these. …

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