Brennan Manning was laid to rest yesterday. I was in my early twenties when I read Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. It had been highly praised, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t recall particularly enjoying it, but I do remember that I was on a plane, perhaps an important detail because I don’t read very well on planes. I rush my reading when I’m on a plane, as if trying to match its V-speed, and Manning’s prose was slow-paced, contemplative, meditative. Despite how I felt about the book at the time, I was enthralled with the title and the central message of the book. This is from the description provided for the book:
Yet God gives us His grace, willingly, no matter what we’ve done. We come to Him as ragamuffins—dirty, bedraggled, and beat-up. And when we sit at His feet, He smiles upon us, the chosen objects of His “furious love.”
The Ragamuffin Gospel contains such provokingly entitled chapters as “Tilted Halos” and “The Victorious Limp,” and suggests Christians aren’t perfect specimens who have risen above other so-called sinners. Those with a holier-than-thou attitude have their halos on too tight. It’s unpopular to admit, but we’ve all experienced brokenness and inflicted pain on others.
Manning too. Manning was an alcoholic. A priest. A prisoner. A hermit. A public speaker. A force of contradictions.
It’s the type of contradictions that Jack Kerouac spoke to in his novels and in his reference of the Beatitudes in describing his generation, the Beat Generation.
It’s the type of contradictions we often don’t like. We like to have people fall into neat little categories of “good” and “evil.” We like to hold people up on pedestals. We like to demonize others. We like our reality stars to be trainwrecks. We like our leaders to be heroes. We like our heroes to be faultless. We like our Christians to be Jesus.
Life is messy. We are messy.
We need to extend more grace, and we need to accept more grace.