Traveling Mercies

Anne Lamott

If you have ever walked out on a speech by Tony Campolo, this book is not for you. Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies is one of the reading selections I brought along.

Anne grew up in San Francisco in the 60s and 70s with secular parents who were devoted to progressive causes. She did have some adopted “moms” who told her she was beautiful and God loved her. Later in life when she eventually admitted she was an alcoholic (but before she admitted she had an eating disorder) she started attending an African American church. If C.S. Lewis was was England’s most reluctant convert, Anne eventually became America’s most reluctant convert.

Somebody forgot to tell her some things, e.g.: Christians don’t cuss; Christians don’t believe in abortion; true love waits; and God is a republican. In a chapter dealing with forgiveness, she includes Ronald Reagan and George Bush (the elder; the book was published in 1999) among those who have hurt her personally and whom she finds it hard to forgive.

The portrait she paints of her self is not always attractive. You see her making the same dumb mistakes over and over again. One thing I admire about Anne Lamott, though, is that she remained loyal to all her friends whether they were atheists (most of them), Buddhists (a few), alcoholics (most of them), or whatever–I don’t suppose she ever had any republican friends; but she does describe one attempt to forgive one who happens to be the mother of a classmate of her son Sam.

If you can get past her personal failings, the book has something important to say: namely that people like Anne Lamott are the very people Jesus came to call as his disciples. She is a pretty good example of the kind of people the “emerging church” (or is it “emergent”? I sometimes forget) movement is trying to reach. She is a pretty good example of what Bonhoeffer’s nonreligious Christian might look like.