Monday, May 17, 2010

Should We Fire God?

That’s the question posed by my friend Jim Pace’s new book—it’s also the title! Should We Fire God? Finding Hope in God When We Don’t Understand. Jim was kind enough to send me an advanced copy, but unfortunately I was unable to write a review in a timely fashion. The good news for you is that you can now buy a copy in bookstores and not have to wait. It was released about a month ago (April 8th).
I really enjoyed Jim’s book, and saw a number of ideas presented that I found to be particularly intriguing. In fact there were a couple that I wished he would have expanded upon. They were so intriguing to me, and I feel like there is much more to be said about the ideas than his book was willing to delve into. One of these ideas shared briefly was the idea of mirror neurons. What are mirror neurons?
Well, these are neurons that fire when we experience empathetic pain with someone else. Have you ever seen another person getting injured and felt a shudder run through you? Maybe you watched someone get hit playing football, or saw someone prick their finger with a needle, and you winced. It is something beyond empathetic pain though—it’s as though our nervous system is registering another person’s experience as though we were injured. What this means is that we are much more connected to the suffering that we see in the world than we would like to think or realize. While Jim doesn’t delve much deeper than that, I kind of wonder if we reach a point where we wall off some of our emotions because we get so overwhelmed by the suffering around us—maybe it’s a coping mechanism for attempting to deal with the massive degrees of hurt we experience in this world.
Anyhoo, enough about mirror neurons . . . for now. I want to tell you a bit more about Jim’s book. I will keep it brief though. If you are looking for a deep philosophical book—this probably isn’t it. But, if you have a background in the Christian faith, and can appreciate insights from both the scriptures and from real life as people work their way through difficulties that are both overwhelming and make little sense, then you might want to check out this book. Jim led his faith community through one of the most heart-rending campus tragedies I can imagine. He leads one of the largest campus churches in the country, and this church is in Blacksburg, VA. In April 2007, a young man shot dozens of people one morning at Virginia Tech, and an entire nation wrestled with the question “Why?” And Jim was charged with answering questions from the media during this trying time.
Beyond that, he was challenged with the even greater and more important task of walking with his faith community through an ongoing period of mourning.
Jim writes not from the ivory tower of theology or philosophy, but rather from the hard school of experience. I believe that this is the greatest asset of Jim’s book. He’s writing as someone who has had to think through some really difficult stuff about God and about human nature. In fact, in some of the closing chapters, Jim brings in another interesting thought. Maybe one’s desire to fire God has a lot to do with one’s own cognitive biases as well as other less wonderful things that we have chosen to invest our time and energy in.
Give it a read if you are wrestling with a question about the goodness of God.


Alise said...

Thanks for the review. I've heard a little bit of buzz about this book and it's good to hear more about it. Will have to pick it up!

chanchanchepon said...

No problem Alise. When you get your copy, feel free to post a link to your review on this blog too. :)