I am blessed with friends. Some love music. Some hate it. Some are intellectual. Some are not. Some believe fervently in God. Others have a vague belief and some don't believe at all. Recently two of my friends wrote books that come to radically different conclusions about God.
I've blogged previously about Bill Lobdell's book Losing My Religion. I actually can't remember how Bill and I first met, but we've kept in touch over the years and I have long admired his reporting for the LA Times. The other day Bill dropped by the studio to be a guest on my show, Bully! Pulpit. We usually tape 4 10-minute segments, which I am well aware is way too long for the internet as we now know it, but maybe someday when convergence happens it will work better. Nevertheless, for those of you brave enough to watch, I've posted it here and I hope you will find it illuminating. If your faith, like Bill's, has been extinguished, you may find a soul-mate in your journey. If you are a person of faith, there are still things to learn from his struggle and his candid admission of doubt.
Another friend, actress, comedian and now author, Susan Isaacs has also written a book, Angry Conversations With God that comes to a different conclusion. Subtitled "A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir," Susan decides that she's fed up with God and takes him to couple's counseling with a therapist who goes along with the gag and mediates between her and the Almighty. Susan chronicles her life from happy Lutheran girl to angry young woman or as she puts it: "I was raised a Lutheran. But as an adult I tried everything: Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Rock 'n' Roll Slackers 4 Jesus, Actors for Yahweh. Then I said 'Screw it' and became a drunk and a slut. Well, a Lutheran slut-I only slept with two guys."
I've known Susan for years but it was only recently that I had a revelation: watching this episode of Seinfeld one day for probably the hundredth time. It suddenly hit me that the actress playing Elaine's neighbor looked a lot like Susan-- so I emailed her and yes, she confirmed that it was indeed her.
Back to her book: It is filled with zingers like these:
"'You are a stalker,' Susan screams at God. 'I broke up with you and you keep stalking me. What if you got me back? What would you do? You'd go back to treating me the same way. You'd control me or neglect me or turn me over to some abusive pastor friend. Well, it's not going to happen. I've moved on. You should too.' But I couldn't move on. How could I erase God from my memory? He was in everything I wrote. What other language did I have to describe my longing for beauty and goodness and transcendence? What other Person existed who could fulfill that longing? I could not escape him."
"I could take alcohol or leave it. After I ran out on God, I took alcohol more than I left it. And I kept taking it."
"Some GQ pretty boy declared that dating wasn't Biblical because people in the Bible didn't date. No shizzle, Spinoza. They also didn't floss or use toilets."
"Even though Jack was totally committed to me, a year into our relationship, sex outside of marriage still left me feeling exposed, like I was walking through a blizzard in a bikini."
"I tried another church that a friend called 'organic and raw.' I was suspicious of a church that sounded like a juice bar, but I went."
"I still believed God would open another door. Or a window. Or maybe a vent. ...Maybe this was the door God was opening. So it was a crappy door. At least it wasn't a sewer cover."
Well, you get the idea. I won't give away the ending, but suffice it to say that Susan comes to a different conclusion than Bill on the God question and her book is an entertaining and informative read.