19/09/2015

Notes from Over the Edge (by Jim Palmer)

I’ve enjoyed reading books by Jim Palmer, the best-known of which is probably ‘Divine Nobodies’, which begins to explain why he became disillusioned with institutional church and religion, and found new ways of following God. Palmer has a Masters’ degree in theology and was a full-time pastor, so this was no light decision. I liked his second book, ‘Wide Open Spaces’, too. The author is open about his difficult and coercive childhood; he was quite damaged by some features of American fundamentalist churches but he has a knack for story-telling that makes his books compelling reading.

I was in two minds about his third book, ‘Being Jesus in Nashville‘, however. While the writing was still good, and the account of his experiment made interesting reading, he seemed to me to go just a bit too far in the direction of being one with Jesus. And so I wasn’t entirely sure about reading his most recent book, ‘Notes from Over the Edge’. It’s subtitled, ‘Unmasking the truth to end your suffering’, which seemed odd to me: I don’t think I suffer, particularly. No more than anyone else, anyway. Early reviews were mixed, too. But finally I put it on my wishlst and was given it for Christmas last year.

The book is a bit different from the author’s earlier ones; it’s not so much a coherent account but a mixture of notes, based on his journals during a period of intense reflection on his life and faith. I found the first section very annoying; not only was it repetitive, but it read like one of those scam adverts that keep insisting that we need to know (or buy, or do…) the One Thing that will change our lives! And then it goes on about what’s wrong, and how it was discovered, and it becomes increasingly irritating, as nobody has yet said what exactly it’s describing. Besides that, he kept telling me I thought this or believed that, about things that had never even occurred to me.

So I nearly gave up before I’d finished the first section, but I don’t like to do that. And I reminded myself that the author had a very damaging childhood, and some bad experiences with fundamentalism, so I should make allowances. And, indeed, he finally gets to the truth… which gave me more of a ‘duh!’ moment than anything else. The truth, he tells us, is that God is with us all the time, that God is love, that God is in everything and everyone. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is standard Christian doctrine.

I was a little disturbed by what seemed almost Buddhist thinking in places, but Palmer still returns to Scripture (albeit ignoring some quite significant parts) and most of all to the words and actions of Jesus. And while the writing in the main and later sections continues to be rather repetitive, and often not relevant to my own background, I kept reading, and thought he made some good points.

I’d certainly recommend this to anyone who’s been brought up in an angry or coercive religious environment; but don’t expect great coherence or profound thoughts. It’s essentially telling us to live in the moment, to look out for God in all situations, to respond as needs arise, and not to worry.

I'm not sure I'll read anything else by Jim Palmer, but on the whole, although it was hard-going in places, I'm glad I finally got around to reading this one.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

1 comment:

sparrow girl said...

I loved this Jim Palmer book and it helped me a lot on my journey..you said that the truth of God being love and being inside us all is standard Christian doctrine - I love that, and wish it didn't take me so long to find out this true Christian teaching! I'm afraid I grew up with fundamentalist type teaching that hurt me very much.
Thank you, Sue, for writing your review, it reminded me of some truths that are so wonderful!