Friday, October 10, 2014

The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Catechism

by John Zmirak

Thoughts: Witty, insightful, and a rather hilarious general look at the teachings of the Catholic Church. Zmirak gets the both/and nature of the Church--it's grittiness, humanness, and, yes, catholicity. And although the preface seems to indicate it's meant for non-Catholics, I actually learnt some things myself. For instance, I didn't know that the it was only a widespread Western theory that the Spirit is generated by the perfect mutual love of the Father and the Son. I had thought that was part of doctrine. There was also a fascinating discussion on how most polytheistic tribes said their ancestors used to worship one, highest God, before they decided they needed several more "hands-on" gods because God wasn't answering prayers promptly enough. (pg. 2) He didn't back this up with a reference to the study, though, so I'm going to have to research this. Similarly, he claimed that the Benedictines offered the first advanced schooling to women in Western history, which would be another fascinating fact, if true. (pg. 94)

I must admit, though, I'm glad that I agreed on almost everything he said, because otherwise this would be hard to read. His wit is acerbic and very sarcastic, and would be hard to stomach for many non-believers, I think. Also, as a note, I didn't agree with everything he said. Just as a small example, I found his discussion on men vs. women on page 33 a bit annoying. I am definitely the kind of person who would crash her car while pushing a radio button, not when lapsing into deadly indecision. My multi-tasking skills are not of the highest calibre.

But all in all, decidedly worth reading, if only for how funny it is, and the random interesting asides. In some ways, Zmirak reminds me of a grumpy, Catholic, Bill Bryson.

Grade: 4 stars (maybe 4 1/2?)

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