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107 of 119 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Well-Articulated Path, August 29, 2002
This review is from: The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Paperback)
In "The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path," Robert Barron argues for a Christianity rooted in spiritual praxis, not abstraction. Barron believes that Christian spirituality - traditionally expressed in movement, practice, and apprenticeship - has been worn thin by accommodation to modernity and become a faint echo of secular culture or a privatized set of convictions. He regards the deculturalization of Christianity as beginning in the subjectivity, rationalism, and suspiciousness of Cartesian philosophy. This cultural mindset was in turn taken up by Christian apologists like Schleiermacher, Tillich, and Rahner who reduced Christianity to something best understood as interior, subjective experience.
The antidote to this development, Barron believes, is a return to spiritual practices that celebrate the playful, embodied, patient, and irreducibly complex working of the mind. According to Barron, we must "plow, climb, will, act, decide, push our way" to insight. To embrace Christianity as a world and a form of life, Barron delineates three paths of spiritual practice. The first involves "finding the center" and is achieved by prayer, pilgrimage, use of religious articles, and fasting. The second, "knowing you're a sinner," is walked by means of confession, truth-telling, and forgiveness. The third, "realizing that life is not about you," is discovered through discernment, works of mercy, nonviolence, and liturgy.
An especially attractive feature of this book is Barron's use of literature to exemplify and expand on his three paths. The selections are aptly chosen, with Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" used for the chapter on "finding the center," Dante's "Purgatorio" for "knowing you're a sinner," and Flannery O'Connor's "The Violent Bear It Away" for "realizing that life is not about you."
Barron's analyses are generally well-done but there were several lapses. I question how one could write a detailed and extended explication of "Brideshead Revisited" without once mentioning there was a character called Lady Julia Flyte? Less serious perhaps, but something that has always bothered me about "The Violent Bear It Away," is the lack of emphasis on the drowning death of the young Bishop. By focussing only on Bishop's baptism by young Tarwater, Barron joins the author and other critics who don't delve into the subject of Tarwater's moral accountability for his death.
One final observation that I feel compelled to make. In his otherwise brilliant treatment of "attachment" as addiction, Barron makes several disparaging remarks about "a culture that puts a premium on good feelings and attempts to deny and medicate depression." Only someone who has never experienced or observed the depredations of clinical depression could make a such an insensitive comment about the medications that allow otherwise ravaged persons to live productive and godly lives.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 1, 2008 12:26:56 PM PDT
M. Lerch says:
"Only someone who has never experienced or observed the depredations of clinical depression could make a such an insensitive comment about the medications that allow otherwise ravaged persons to live productive and godly lives." Amen! I used to make similar disparaging remarks out of sheer ignorance until I lost my ignorance through experience. I think this is a grave insensitivity many Christians make, thinking the soul can somehow overcome the biological brain, as though it were not itself an organ subject to problems and decay.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 3, 2008 8:48:46 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 3, 2008 10:39:22 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2009 7:24:09 PM PST
This is Fr. Barron. I'm afraid you're swallowing whole the very dubious claim made by the reviewer that somehow I'm displaying insensitivity to those who suffer from depression. Please read my book and make up your own mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2011 9:57:22 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 2, 2012 1:25:12 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2012 10:08:32 AM PST
I just finished reading Father Barron's book titled THE STRANGEST WAY, and I found NO expressions of disparagement toward those who suffer from depression. In fact, Father Barron cited examples in his books of great Catholics and saints who showed despair including Blessed Mother Teresa (1910-1997).

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2012 8:55:50 AM PST
I would have hoped that Fr. Barron explain what he meant by his dubious assertion regarding "a culture that puts a premium on good feelings and attempts to deny and medicate depression." Is he attacking the sense that depression is a treatable illness that can be helped by medication? If so, then his book does a grave disservice to those who could be helped by medication. If not, then why be so testy? Just explain and enter into dialogue. In my review (which was favorable) I stated that and similar comments marred an otherwise good book. Nothing Fr. Barron says now changes that perception. I'm disappointed that his response was not to elaborate on his point, but rather defensively to shill his book.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2012 8:45:54 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 25, 2012 3:30:27 PM PST
I agree that some people suffer depression. I also know that some people use phony sensitivity to get sympathy. Father Barron's remarks about "feeling good" is explained by the fact such a view is often used to hide the fact that good AND evil exist. Good vs. evil, and right vs wrong are issues that are ignored by the politically correct.

I do not think Father Barron disparaged bona fide depression which many people, including me, have experienced. I experienced tragic situations, and I know the difference between bona fide depression and phony sensitivity.

In reply to an earlier post on May 7, 2012 8:19:00 PM PDT
moi says:
I think maybe you're overly sensitive on this issue and reading too much into a brief sentence. Some people suffer clinical depression, which is the result of biology and is indeed helped with medication. However, I think what Fr. Barron refers to is a phenomena that today we are addicted to feeling good and cannot tolerate anything which makes us feel less than good -- guilt, sadness, situational depression. Sometimes being depressed is a normal response to things that happen in our lives, and so are guilt and sadness. I believe his point is that we don't accept bad feelings as an occasional part of life or as opportunities to examine our conscience or grow spiritually; rather, we run to the doctor to medicate ourselves out of them. I don't think his intent was to address clinical depression.

Posted on Jun 29, 2012 5:22:00 PM PDT
I really appreciate a review like yours which is in every way professional and leaves me thinking. Of course I am also encouraged to purchase this book. Thank you
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