The Ragamuffin Gospel Review Chapters 4-6
The following is part two of our review of Brennan Manning's seminal book,' The Ragamuffin Gospel.' To read part one of this series, click here.
Chapter 4: Tilted Halos
In reading The Raggamuffin Gospel, one thing becomes quite evident relatively fast: Author Brennan Manning is not a fan of the moralistic and self-righteous misinterpretation of the bible. In the first three chapters, Manning continuously hammers away at the false notions that we, imperfect earthly beings, can (let alone should) attempt to seek God's graces through acts of piety or attempts to achieve simulated holiness. Chapter four, as you might imagine, is no different.
Chapter four begins with an allegorical joke of sorts:
A man walks into his doctor's office complaining about a headache. His doctor asks him whether he drinks, smokes, or "goes out at night," to which the man offendedly scoffs he would never act on such lowly dastardly behaviors. The doctor then gives the man his expert opinion on what is causing the man's headache, "My dear fellow! Your trouble is you have your halo on too tight. All we need to do is loosen it a bit." Thus, we are introduced to what it means to have a 'tilted halo.'
As Manning explains, the point of this metaphorical parable is to say, the problem with trying to live up to the ideals of being "perfect" in God's eyes (or, what some people misconstrue as being "perfect" in God's eyes), is that we become impossible to live with or be around.
Not only would we become boorishly pedantic in our futile efforts to live holy, but we also miss the point of God's plan and purpose for us entirely.
Instead, Manning implores, we as followers should aspire to live life with a "tilted halo." In other words, we should wear our halo (our relationship with God and our commitment to live a Christian lifestyle) loosely and with calm grace.
Rather than judge ourselves and others according to God's own perfection, which is impossible and unproductive, we should live according to what God's sacrifice has promised us: what we cannot do for ourselves; God has already done. It is not our place to be perfect or GODLIKE. Instead, it is our place to humbly accept what he has already done for us, despite our human fallibilities.
Chapter 5: Cormorants and Kittiwakes
The spirituality of wonder knows the world is charged with grace, that while sin and war, disease and death are terribly real, God’s loving presence and power in our midst are even more real. - Pg. 99
In the fifth chapter, Manning deviates from self-righteousness in the church and turns our attention to the modern world, namely, how the pervasive faith in science and the contemporary secularity of the world has all but stripped society of its spiritual wonder.
With every year our civilization progresses into the futuristic age of technological advancement, the world, as we know it, drifts further away from the glory and great wonderment of God. This notion was true when Brennan Manning wrote the Raggamuffin gospel in 1990; it is exponentially truer today.
Almost prescient to the unprecedented technological boom that would befall our world a decade later (social media, for example), Manning foresaw the atheistic proliferation our culture would endure.
Foolishly, our species tends to think that God and science are mutually exclusive. As we become ever reliant on science, our culture knowingly edges out God in an act of blind defiance. Rather than reflect or appreciate God's created universe, our society uses science to rewrite the Creator's (and, by extension, our own) history.
Rather than give thanks for the fantastic world around us, our culture not only takes God's grace for granted but also his creations (we included).
Manning explains our world's detachment from God with an analogy:
The food on our tables -- where does it come from? Sure, most can probably tell you which restaurant, deli, or grocery store the food was purchased from, but very few can tell you where it was harvested, where the plants were seeded, or where the animal was butchered. So instead, we simply remove the food from its packaging and eat its contents without appreciating the time, effort, and planning that caused it to appear on our tables, taking its seeming agricultural magic for granted in the process.
The same can be said about our culture's waning appreciation or recognition of God, let alone the magnitude of his mighty creating power.
Brennan addresses this disconnect from God by encouraging his readers to consciously maintain a child-like wonder in an increasingly grown-up, cold, and austere world that prides itself in its sheer inability to be amazed. By willfully maintaining our sense of wonder, we further allow ourselves to experience the almighty power of God's grace.
Chapter 6: "Grazie, Signor"
This chapter serves as a three-part call-to-arms: Decide. Trust. Show Gratitude.
In chapter six, Manning describes the conundrum that many of God's people find themselves in: all too often, we let our fear and indecisiveness dictate our lives. We regularly let our feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and fear separate us from God. However, as author Brennan Manning implores his readers to "Act now": Make a decision; a conscious choice to will yourself to accept the grace of God. Rather than let fear and inadequacy keep us sidelined or bound to indecisiveness, we must trust in the Lord's eternal grace and accept his infinite mercy. We must trust in God's gracious plan for our lives (and not limit ourselves based on our limited perspective).
When Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened," He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love. While following in His grace can be arduous and even terrifying at times, we must remain steadfast in our trust that He will guide us to his Father's grace, love, and mercy.
To accept Jesus's love, we must give ourselves and trust in him completely. Trust at the mercy of the response it receives is a bogus trust." In other words, we can't direct Jesus' answer to our prayers or predicaments to fit our narrative based on convenience. Instead, we have the ostensibly simple task of trusting in God and following his direction.
Show Heartfelt Gratitude.
“The third characteristic of our response to the gratuitous intervention of Jesus in our lives is heartfelt gratitude.”
While seemingly simple, giving thanks to the Lord can be a challenging endeavor -- especially when we're feeling down, unsure of our future, and insecure in our current life circumstances. During times like these, it is all the more crucial to thank God for all he does and provides.
Consequently, showing gratitude towards God forces us to take notice of the many blessings he provides us -- things we often take for granted and fail to realize -- which, in turn, improves our attitude, perception, and overall well-being.
What author Brennan Manning wants readers to leave with after reading Chapter six is this: When we let our guilt, fear, and weariness dictate our lives, we are actively choosing not to accept God's eternal grace. But, on the other hand, if we unequivocally put our faith and trust in Jesus, we envelop ourselves in His grace, and therefore, follow in his steps on the path he has set out for us.