Book Review: After Shock by Kent Annan

Q: What would happen if you processed suffering and natural disaster in a book-long Psalm?
A: You'd end up something like Kent Annan's new book, After Shock

Kent works with Haiti Partners, a NGO committed to "help Haitians help Haitians."  He's spent years of his life doing development work and showing respect.  For more about Kent and his work, check out this interview.

I expected After Shock to be a reflection on God's goodness in the face of the Haiti earthquake, a kind of Good News about Injustice focused on natural disasters.

And the book did touch on this in some helpful ways.

But that's not why I loved the book.

First of all, Annan writes with vulnerability and honesty.  Though clearly edited (no misspellings) this book also felt unedited (no, or not much, sanitization).  Raw and rumbling reflection runs throughout the book. 

So often, we clean up our speech about God and to God, wandering into dishonesty out of a desire to be respectful.  But this dishonesty creates a distance.  And distance between us and God is the last thing we need when we're struggling and suffering.

It's easy to miss this honesty woven throughout the Psalms.  After all, they're so short.  It's easy to overlook raw speech and fearful disappointment when the resolution hits you in the next line.

That's another reason I loved the book.  If Annan had written a Psalm, a sonnet on suffering, I would have run right over the rough patches.  Sustaining honesty and vulnerability over the course of a whole book allowed Annan to share his process and irresolution with us.

The last reason I loved the book had to do with Annan's willingness to let the false parts of his faith die.  So often, in defense of faith, we protect all of it (even the false parts).  We figure it's better to keep the mix of real and ridiculous than risk losing the real.

But perhaps faith, real faith, involves confidence that the really Real can withstand the shaking of our doubt.  Perhaps there's no question, asked honestly or in anger, than can make God vanish.

How do you stay honest and vulnerable in the face of struggle and suffering?

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