Book Review: The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

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“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

 “Genuine self-acceptance is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind games or pop psychology. IT IS AN ACT OF FAITH in the God of grace.”

I had the opportunity to review The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning.  I have wanted to read this book for quite some time, so when the opportunity presented itself, I was on it.  I did a little digging to find out who Brennan Manning was and found that he had died just this year.  He was born Richard Francis Xavier Manning, but he died Brennan Manning.

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

What’s a ragamuffin, you ask?  I have the definition in the author’s own words:

“Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used-car salesmen.  Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them—fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of religious bureaucrats who hold up the robes and insignia of their authority to justify their condemnation of the truth and their rejection of the gospel of grace.”

“As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me…God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.”

There are such wonderful quotes in this book that define the book, the Gospel of Jesus, and who we are.  It’s hard to pick just a few.

“We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground.”

If you only had one other book, besides your Bible, it should be this one.  A book who defines YOU in the simplest of terms so that you can grasp who you are and how much God loves you.

“For Ragamuffins, God’s name is Mercy. We see our darkness as a prized possession because it drives us into the heart of God. Without mercy our darkness would plunge us into despair – for some, self-destruction. Time alone with God reveals the unfathomable depths of the poverty of the spirit. We are so poor that even our poverty is not our own: It belongs to the mysterium tremendum of a loving God.”

Manning calls out the church of North America, one who’s preaching a nicey-nice Gospel that requires nothing of the believer except that if they believe they’ll be rich, then God will give it to them.  He calls out the Catholic Church for their doctrine of fear and of going to hell for every thought not of God.  I was struck and agree with his quote on the matter.

“The North American Church is at a critical juncture. The gospel of grace is being confused and compromised by silence, seduction, and outright subversion. The vitality of the faith is being jeopardized. The lying slogans of the fixers who carry religion like a sword of judgment pile up with impunity. Let ragamuffins everywhere gather as a confessing Church to cry out in protest. Revoke the licenses of religious leaders who falsify the idea of God. Sentence them to three years in solitude with the Bible as their only companion.”

Reading this book reminds me that the Gospel and God’s ability to love me isn’t logical.  I can’t grasp it with my mind.  I think that’s why my atheist friends can’t understand my faith.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  Well, the truth is, it doesn’t make sense to me either, but that’s what faith is all about.

“Those who have the disease called Jesus will never be cured.”

One of the stories that touched me was the story found in John 8:1-11, where a woman is brought to Jesus and is on the verge of being stoned.  When Jesus confronts her accusers, after writing in the sand, he turns to find them gone.  He asks the woman where her accusers are and she replies that they have left without accusing her.  Jesus doesn’t wait for her confession or promise of repentance; he absolves her in her present condition and advises her to sin no more.  That, my friends, is amazing grace!

“Authentic faith leads us to treat others with unconditional seriousness and to a loving reverence for the mystery of the human personality. Authentic Christianity should lead to maturity, personality, and reality. It should fashion whole men and women living lives of love and communion. False, manhandled religion produces the opposite effect. Whenever religion shows contempt or disregards the rights of persons, even under the noblest pretexts, it draws us away from reality and God.”

If the question is whether or not I recommend this book.  The answer is a resounding YES!  And, as a bonus, Manning has included in the 2005 version of the book, an update 15 years after the original publication and 19 Mercies-A Spiritual Retreat, for a meditative devotion.

I received a copy of the book for free from the publisher’s book review bloggers program or other provider. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Never Beyond: Thou Shalt Not Touch the Children

People of the Second Chance have posted their next in the Never Beyond series.  I already have issues with the Catholic Church.  They are very religious and they’ve forgotten the relationship part of Jesus’ message.  They’ve gotten very wrapped up in legalism, rules, and religion.  They’ve taught people that only priests need a Bible.  They repeat rote prayers instead of prayers from the heart.  They used to conduct their services in Latin and talked of returning to them, thus leaving out the common man from worship.  They’ve had a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.

They teach poverty of the church’s servants, yet only the nuns live in poverty as well as giving up their names.  The priests often live in their own house, have their own cars, incomes, and their own lives.  It is this kind of attitude that has chased many of my friends from the Catholic Church.  It breaks my heart to know that a selfish, greedy, hypocritical church could have caused my friends to be lost forever.  The Catholic Church is probably the wealthiest organization in the world, but they have never revealed their assets to the world.  They call the Pope, the Holy Father and the Head of the Church.  They seem to have forgotten that there is already a Head of the Church and His name is Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:18 – Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.

Then the sex abuse scandal came to light.  Because God is the light, darkness must flee.  I believe that God’s love and light shined on that shameful sin of the Catholic Church to bring the church to repentance.  One friend admitted to attending one of the churches where the scandal came to light, pushing her further from Jesus Christ.  There are many people that don’t understand that the Church, run by sinful human beings, doesn’t always to the will of God.

I know we have a wonderful, loving, merciful Heavenly Father and that He will forgive anyone who asks for that forgiveness and repents.  Sexual offenders aren’t easily rehabilitated.  As a matter of fact, my husband is somewhat of an expert on sexual offenders because of his job in probation and supervising sexual offenders.  It’s my feeling that the ONLY way that they can be rehabilitated is through God’s healing.

Psalm 30:2 - O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.

Psalm 103:2-5 - Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits–who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 91:3-4 - For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

I’m grateful that I haven’t been directly affected by this scandal.  My heart breaks for the hypocrisy that has caused my friends to loose faith in their Heavenly Father.  I know all I can do is be His witness to them.  I know there is healing in the Father.  It comes down to my responsibility to love ALL of God’s people.  That requirement doesn’t come with any caveats.  It doesn’t say to love people, except…