Tuesday, June 01, 2010
A Desperately Sad Book.
The first half of the book was a riveting read, dealing with his childhood and his carreer in the army. His SAS training and experiences were of particular interest, but from the point of his conversion - asking God for a sign that He existed- through to several visons which he was convinced were of Jesus, I felt my alarm bells ring and rather perversely, my hackles rise.
He visited an Anglican church in Hereford and was totally baffled, bemused, flummoxed and completely put off by what seems to have been moderate Anglo-catholic worship. His subsequent forays into house churches and almost Zvengali like personality led charismatic fellowships left me feeling increadsingly uneasy. Eventually, he "finds " himself as an evangelical Anglican, blithely dismissing all shades of opinion that did not tie in with his own very narrow and somewhat questionable beliefs, and quickly gets fast-tracked into priesthood, feeling that as he is a leader in the army, he must be called to leadership in the church. His experience with the discernment process made my mind boggle, to be honest.
His forays into private body-guarding work take him abroad, most noticeably to Athens, where he notes that the Greeks are very religious but in his opinion, all their religion is tied into ritualistic worship and he gives them Gospel tracts in Greek. Sigh.
Does he even mention going to visit an Orthodox church , let alone attend a service, and see what makes his colleagues tick ? No.. He finds some pentecostal and evangelical house churches in Athens to attend instead.
When a priest, he comments that one woman to whom he administers Communion may have been a witch and exuded an aura of evil, yet he gave her Communion anyway, with no pastoral follow-up, which I found very disturbing. He believes that all people have the **right ** to have Communion, and that the priest's job is not to withhold it.
The words "hubris" and "prelest" became a repeated subtext for\me as I continued to read, but I kept hoping that he would mature as the book progressed.He becomes a chaplain in the army eventually, and I seriously wondered how he was going to settle in that role.
I became increasingly concerned about his emotional and spiritual well-being, and after finishing the book, felt very strongly compelled to "Google" him to see what Anglican parish he was currently serving in, to see if his views had become mellower and rather more rounded and grounded.
Imagine my distress when I found that only a very short while after the book was published, he had been made to leave the Army because of his book, and had committed suicide in his car, a copy of Tolstoy's "War & Peace" at his feet, leaving behind a wife and four young children.
How desperately sad and ironic.
I could not help but think, Meg, of the loving "de-briefing" and PTSD treatment you depicted Sergei receiving from the Orthodox Church after his war-time experiences, and desperately wishing this poor young man could have had the benefit of similar treatment in the Church as Spiritual Hospital.
It upset me enough that I could not even write this review until a fortnight after finishing the book....... mainstream Anglicanism failed this young man badly. He should never have been ordained in the way he was, without very many more years of spiritual growth, counselling and guidance. If the mainstream Anglican church had been more loving, more welcoming, more approachable, when he first became a Christian, he may not have turned to the fringe groups of Christianity to nurture him as he found his feet in the Christian faith. How many more people has the Christian church (consisting of all denominations) in this country failed ?
I have a sneaking suspicion that this was just one case of many.
Lord have mercy on us all.............