Friday, May 21, 2010

A Book That Changed My Life

When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king's attendant: "Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD's anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us." 2 Kings 22: 11-13

Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 22-23; John 4: 31-54

Whew… I bet that was traumatic. Remember all those crazy laws we read several months ago? Imagine being the king and reading all of that for the first time knowing that for the last several generations no one had followed them.

Not a good look.

But on the flip side… it did provide for a way of life that would lead to blessings. So the question that popped in my head was this:

Are there any books (besides the Bible) that made me look at life differently? This is a hard question for me to answer since I really enjoy reading. If you are facebook friends with me then you know that I’m always posting status updates about some book that I am reading.

I’m such a nerd.

But to answer my own question, the first one that comes to mind is Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire.

It was optional reading before my semester abroad in Brazil but I decided to read it based on the title. I had no idea what I was in for.

The book is about teaching folks how to liberate themselves from whatever dominating situation they are living in. The author developed this theory while growing up and living in Brazil under dictatorships. At the time that he published it he had to go into exile and anyone found with even a chapter of the book risked being killed.

It’s that hot.

But why did it resonate so much with me? It was the first time I came across a book that provided answers. Whenever I read other texts on oppression or slavery or whatnot they did a great job of telling the history of it, or describing the psychological aspects of it or even just making you feel plain depressed about it.

But they never had any answers. Paulo Freire had an answer.

Several months later when I was in Brazil my program visited a farm collective settled by the Landless Workers Movement. They used this book to help come up with a way to fight the crippling poverty of sharecropping that they experienced. A loophole in Brazilian law was discovered that stated that if you squatted on unused land and it was not claimed after a certain period of time, that land became yours.

That movement is millions of people strong.

I was sold when we were taken on a tour of the farm by a young gangly boy named Weberson. He couldn’t have been a minute over 11 years old. He also happened to be well versed in the politics of genetically modified seeds and Nietzsche.

Yes… this Nietzsche.

It’s amazing what happens when we expect people to think for themselves. They tend to step up to the plate.

There is something about Jesus’ message that does this for me as well. Jesus gives us very few rules for how to live our lives. He tells us to love God, love our neighbors as ourselves and to live by faith.

We are challenged to figure out the rest.

It is an amazing challenge, but just like Weberson, I believe that each and every person has the ability to figure out their own best way through life.

It’s up to us to take that challenge to live the best that we can each and ever day.

The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to be better.

Question: Are there any books, songs, works of art etc that have changed the way that you look at life? Chime in here or at the A Convo With God facebook group.

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