When I picked up this book I wasn't expecting what I got. What I got was - in a number of ways, a treatise on prayer; not unlike, and yet diametricall...moreWhen I picked up this book I wasn't expecting what I got. What I got was - in a number of ways, a treatise on prayer; not unlike, and yet diametrically opposite to, CS Lewis' "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer". (The title of that book has changed multiple times: I stick with the one I first encountered.)
"Mistaken Identity" is the story of two young women involved in a fatal car accident in the midwest of the USA. One girl is identified as a survivor, and for a long time remains in a coma. While she is in the coma, and for a few weeks after she is once again concious, she is cared for by the family she is told she is hers. But she has been misidentified, and after five weeks she is properly identified and her actual family are informed. Meanwhile, the family who have been caring for her are informed that their daughter, sister, girlfriend in fact died in the accident more than a month ago.
What doesn't come across on the book jacket is the extent to which both families where evangelical Christians, comfortable with evangelical language, with extemporised prayer, with asking others for prayers. The girls were at Taylor University, a conservative Christian college where anyone involved with the University must sign a "life together covenant" that bans pre-marital and homosexual sex, drinking alcohol, smoking, and dancing (other than choreographed or folk dancing), which covers behaviour off-campus as well as on-campus.
This is not the sort of theology, the sort of ecclesiology or the theology of prayer that I am comfortable with. What the Cerack and Van Ryn families were willing to post on the blog and publish in their book about Whitney and their prayers and the way they viewed God's actions in their lives are things that I simply don't express in the same way. And yet reading this book not only gave me a non-terrifying insight to this approach to life, but a sense of the strength that this approach gives to some. I know that if you looked in my private journal entries from various points in my life, you would see similar emotions, although not expressed in quite the same way. But seeing the way that these families appealed to the strength they saw in God's love and care for them: there's something really important in that.
I've grown up in a different environment to these families. It really is very different in the US, particularly in communities that are particularly Evangelical (which doesn't even describe my own home town in the USA.) As much as I identify as an American, I've been brought up in Australia, and as much as people here think that there are too many religious conservatives around, they ain't seen nothing like it can be elsewhere.
The language isn't the same, and my language certainly isn't theirs. But I think there's value in understanding where that language comes from, and the value it has for those who use it, and that's what I really value about the fact that I picked this book up from the returns and decided to read it.(less)