Kj's Reviews > Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-In

Undergoing God by James Alison
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's review
Apr 09, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: own-it, seattle-school-of-theology, favorites
Read in March, 2009

You know it's a good sign when you find yourself recommending a book to five people in a week, and you haven't even finished reading it. This is what happened to me with James Alison's compelling, surprising and gallant theological study into issues of atonement and spiritual/relational honesty. In both parts I and II of the book, Alison explores the grace that occurs when someone willingly enters the place of shame so someone else does not have to. Alison defines as honesty as distinct from sincerity or “holding fast to the truth”, in that honesty should be “something of which we are so massively the recipients that we can’t really be its brandishers as if it were our own” (180). Coming from a gay Catholic priest, Alison's message of power-relinquishment and humility/openness in the face of disingenuousness and oppression by the larger Christian community, is astonishing, gut-wrenching and redeeming. This book is as much confession as it is plea, and as such, creates the very space for difference and diversity that Alison humbly and yearningly asks of from the Church. It is a beautiful plea, and daringly honest confession.

"...the search for reconciliation becomes something enflamed by other fires. Something rather like a deep unconcern about myself is born, and a desire to be reconciled with the other because I know that both he and I will be much more...if we are reconciled. That is to say, triumph for me passes through his being made whole and not his diminishment." 117-118.
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