Friday, July 09, 2004

The Long Awaited Review

Okay, I promised a review, here it is...

I'd like to say that this book changed my life. That's not exactly true, but it's changed my paradigm. Which, I believe, will ultimately change my life.

"This book" is Randall Sullivan's The Miracle Detective. Sullivan started his journey as a jaded but curious Rolling Stone reporter investigating a Mary sighting in a trailer in Oregon. When none of the claims were neatly explained away by his preconceived biases against such things, or by the Catholic hierarchy that (sadly) downplays these things as embarrassing signs of superstition, he dug further.

His digging ultimately took him to Medugorje, and Rome. And Scottsdale, Arizona. And elsewhere. What he encountered forced him to cast off his world view... and me, mine. He tried to reconcile his old lifestyle with his new outlook - it didn't work very well. But for 10 years or so, he followed the story of Mary wherever it would take him, and we're left with a sometimes breathtaking encounter of his meetings with the Medugorje visionaries, their American equivalents, Vatican officals, and, finally, Fr. Bernard Groeschel himself.

Sadly, it seems everyone, except maybe the visionaries themselves, has some kind of agenda to go with this. So ubertraditionalists are disparaging of the Medugorje statements urging us to love our Muslim brethren. Liberals are dismayed by the lack of attention that social justice gets in Mary's messages. And, it seems, Vatican apologists are scared to death that they'll officially embrace a Marian vision now, only to be debunked 50 years later as science turns another corner. The lesson of Galileo Galilei burns bright in their collective memory.

Sullivan's writing is occasionally problematic, and consistently inconsistent. I think the inconsistency can be forgiven - the whole point of the book seemed to be about his own metamorphosizing from sophist world traveler to engaged pilgrim. That he speaks sometimes with one voice, sometimes with the other makes a certain sense.

The problematic part of his writing is that there are some asides that either need to be expanded or dropped. In particular, an unchallenged slam on the Masons, their "secret" levels, and the sex rites practiced there. Sheesh, either follow it up or leave it out. But as I was reading a pre-release proof, it's possible the editor will insist on the same.

The language in this is occasionally coarse, as one might expect from a sometimes frank and objective report that includes encounters with the demon-possessed, with disbelievers, and with anti-believers. So don't give this to your 6th grader to read. But YOU oughtta read it. So should your friends.

I recommend it. Highly.

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