Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Although Miller’s book was dismissed as shallow and misleading by some church leaders, it has found an enthusiastic audience. His message affirms conservative evangelical Christianity’s faith in the Gospel message of redemptive love; at the same time, his unconventional voice and his unrelenting criticism of institutional Christianity have led to a cultlike embrace, specifically among the disaffected Christians of Generation X, who have responded not only to the free-spirited college environment in which Miller’s spiritual journey unfolds but also to his comforting assurance that religious conviction can have the same emotional impact as music.

What concerns Miller ultimately, however, is how conviction must contend inevitably with doubt. Inspired by a PBS documentary on mother penguins—which abandon their newly laid eggs in the nest for a month and still manage, by some inexplicable radar, to return to the nest in time for the eggs to hatch—Miller argues that Jesus returns unfailingly even to the souls most grievously cut by doubt. Humanity, thus, can be fixed only one soul at a time. Resisting the rich pull of God’s love generates much of the world’s misery and mayhem.

Although the argument can seem naïve, the core of Miller’s conviction rests on his argument that the heart craves awe, that worship was intended to be centrally a mystical experience, and that centuries of Christian theology, obscure doctrinal disputes, and fierce terroritoriality have distracted the Christian Gospel. Miller moves contemporary Christianity beyond judgments, beyond intolerance, beyond distrust, and beyond the walls of churches to offer the unconditional love of God as a way to free the soul from the burden of the self. Miller liberates Christianity from function-specific buildings and documents how contemporary Christians in the most mundane circumstances—shopping at the Safeway, watching South Park with a friend, camping on the floor of the Grand Canyon—can experience the tectonic immediacy (and consequent serenity) of Christian spirituality, which offers nothing less than a tangible interaction with a loving God. The collection closes with an offer extended to the reader to ask Jesus for forgiveness and to fall in love with Jesus.