Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gonzo Religious Journalism

There's been a spate of books recently that, while hard to classify, probably are best termed gonzo religious journalism.

I'm thinking of a couple that I reviewed recently--My Jesus Year and The Year of Living Biblically. A blogger friend recently emailed me about another book in this relatively new genre -- The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. I haven't read this last one yet, but it's on my list.

The premise in these books is that the author spends time exploring the practices of a religion that is unfamiliar to him (so far all the gonzo religious authors I've seen are male) and then writes about his experiences, observations and conclusions. Interestingly, the author usually ends up more sympathetic to the practices and beliefs of the religion he explores than when he began. According to the reviews I've read of the Unlikely Disciple, this is what happened in that book as well.

If I were to take up a new career as a Gonzo Religious Journalist, I would have to go undercover at Lakewood Church. That would involve getting some big Texas hair, learning how to sing praise songs and building a library of Osteen books--including the Osteen Bible. Don't hold your breath.

So if you were going to become a Gonzo Religious Author, what would be your topic?


DannyG said...

If I were being serious I would have to choose some form of Orthodox Judiasm...mostly so I could get a better feel for the back story to my own faith. Speeking of orthodox, a year in a Greek Orthodox monistary would have some appeal as well. I don't think I am flexable enough to spend serious time outside of the Judeo-Christian construct.

Elaine said...

I think I would try a stay in a New Monastic center.

Norman, Oklahoma

Mary Beth said...

Ha ha! I am just loving the idea of you undercover at Lakewood.

Gannet Girl said...

Maybe I should write that book -- or at least article -- about my six years teaching in an Orthodox Jewish school. It certainly, as DannyG suggests, had a huge impact on my undersanding of Jesus and early Christianity, not to mention Judaism itself. And I did come to love my students and their families so much.

(One of them waved me down at an intersection last year and leaned out the window of her dad's car to give me a huge hug and say, "How's seminary, Ms. C? I know we drove you to it!")

Gannet Girl said...

PS: I would be happy to furnish the wig for your sojourn at Lakewood.

Rev Kim said...

I'd explore the monastic life. Every time I read Kathleen Norris' Dakota, I think "sign me up now!"

Sarah said...

I don't have a topic, but another book in this general genre that I found interesting was I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith Through an Atheist's Eyes, by Hemant Mehta, (Very interesting observation of a Presbyterian service in that book. I had to laugh...) But this guy never "got it." Still, it was interesting.