Ten days ago my post was about Will Campbell (and his book Providence). Since Campbell is such a colorful figure, I expected to receive more comments, but I am pleased that two people did respond. Both who commented made reference Campbell’s The Convention: A Parable (1988), which I have just started to read for the first time. One also mentioned Campbell’s most widely acclaimed book, Brother to a Dragonfly (1977).
I read Brother, an autobiographical work, many years ago, so I don’t remember a lot of its content. But there is one significant part I have not forgotten. One of Campbell’s Mississippi friends was a man who went by the name P. D. East. On one occasion, P. D. asked Will, “In ten words or less, what’s the Christian message?” Here was his pungent answer: “We’re all bastards but God loves us anyway” (p. 220).
I can’t remember when it was, probably ten to fifteen years ago, but I had the opportunity at some meeting to talk briefly with Will Campbell. I asked him whether after these many years he would change his summary of what the Christian message is. He quickly said he still thought that summed it up pretty well. It probably does, for it is a strong statement about God’s grace.
The only way I can understand what happened to Sara Miles (see the previous posting) is by seeing that as an example of grace. Some of you will be interested to know, and others will be put off to know, that Sara is a lesbian with a “bastard” child (her word, on p. 175 of Take This Bread, and used literally rather than figuratively as Campbell did). It was because of her “radical conversion” that she started a highly successful “food pantry” at her church. It was also a few years later that she and her partner were legally married (partly at the insistence of her daughter Katie) when that was possible in California.
Sara Miles didn’t write much about grace in Take This Bread, but what happened to her can’t really be explained in any other way. In her latest book, Jesus Freak (2010), which I have yet to read, she says more about grace, referring to “God’s radical grace” in the first chapter (p. 11). It is that grace which makes Christianity good news. It is failure to affirm grace that often causes us Christians to seem judgmental, unaccepting, and unattractive to many non-Christians.
I am now more than halfway through writing the first draft of my next book Thirty True Things Every Christian Needs to Know Now. At this point, I am still planning for the title of the thirtieth chapter to be “The Last Word is Always Grace.” That’s truly good news for all of us b…!