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“Manning is a former Roman Catholic priest who left the priesthood to marry. He has recently divorced his wife. He is a recovering alcoholic who lapses every so often. He is a product of pop-psychology and Roman Catholic mystics rather than Scripture. He is on the cutting edge of the contemplation prayer movement which is steadily leading evangelicals toward Eastern mysticism. He is questionably a universalist who has nothing good to say about the church but adores AA. Yet somehow he is all the rage among many evangelicals.”
Wait a minute. What’s wrong here? I just finished reading THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL, Brennan Manning’s intensely intimate sharing about God’s unconditional love for “sinners” – the broken, the lost, the bedraggled, the hopeless, the burnt-outs and the cast-offs – and found myself wondering why he is the target of such attacks. After all, I consider RAGAMUFFIN as a life-changer, and am anxious to reread it and experience chapter 19, “Mercies: A Spiritual Retreat.” Surely this man is not the heretic portrayed by Dr. Gary Gilley.
A click quick to Wikipedia, and I found a more objective perspective:
“Born and raised in Depression-era New York City, Manning finished high school, enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and fought in the Korean War. When Manning returned to the United States, he enrolled at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Upon his graduation from the seminary in 1963, Manning was ordained a Franciscan priest.
“In the late 1960s, Manning joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld, a religious institute committed to an uncloistered, contemplative life among the poor. Manning transported water via donkey, worked as a mason's assistant and a dishwasher in France, was imprisoned (by choice) in Switzerland, and spent six months in a remote cave somewhere in the Zaragoza desert.
“In the 1970s, Manning returned to the United States and began writing after confronting his alcoholism.”
Oh … so Manning does seem to be hornless, responsible, even loving. Apparently Dr. Gilley is one in an opposition army that sees Manning as a threat to the stale Christianity of business as usual. But the former priest’s impressive bibliography of twenty-two bestselling books is, perhaps, indicative of a militia sustaining the same if not greater strength. People don’t buy books simply because they are decorative.
The thesis of THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL is that God’s love for all of us is relentless … intensely raging through Jesus Christ who unabashedly loves us ragamuffins. This Jesus accepts us just as we are – sins, warts, blemishes, ugliness, sexual darkness, disobedience, and every other brokenness to which mankind is prone. He invites himself to our dinner table, and in turn insists on eating at ours. He calls the worst of us to accepting the truth that we are his beloved, and fanatically insists that nothing can ever change that. He tells us that the source of this immense and accepting love is the grace of his Father and not the man-made country club rules that stink of rejection. He is constantly throwing dinner parties for us, seating us at the best places … and he never stops saying, “I love you. Do you love me?” He urges us to lay our head on his shoulder.
Yes, the Jesus of the four gospels is the Jesus who can do all things- all things except one: stop loving his ragamuffins. He says to us, “My grace [love] is sufficient for you,” and we respond to this transforming love by developing a passionate need to be just like him, giving away healing love without charging for it, sucking up the reality of our acceptance and newness in him, and loving every single minute of it.
The country club set – those walking refrigerators who insist on strict adherence to their admission rules before outsiders can even darken their doors – have more need of a ragamuffin gospel than anyone. Open those refrigerator doors and you will see shelves neatly packed with containers of food and drink. Sadly, most of them are stamped with an expiration date long past.
Saint Brennan closes THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL in thoughtful and profound appreciation of the grace that has consumed him:
“Sitting in bold relief on a navy-blue sofa in my office is a little polka-dotted rag doll. Over the last ten years, the ragamuffin mystery has laid hold of me with uncommon power. After long hours of prayer and meditation on the Scriptures and reflections on the nagging question ‘Who am I?’ a gracious God has given me the light to see myself as I really am. I now have a primary identity and a coherent sense of myself. It affects my intimacy with God, my relationships with others, and my gentleness with myself.
“Thus I want the epitaph on my tombstone to read:”
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
I'm one of those people who hates reading but on the contrary I have my iPod glued to my hand. Having this audible book was/is amazing! I would have missed out on a lot if this weren't available due to my laziness! I recommend this book to anyone; Brennan Manning is awesome and gave me a new and greater meaning of God's grace.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful