Weekend Reads: How we love

by Mark Moland & Bob Brown
Posted 6/06/15, 08:21 am

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem

By Rod Dreher

“Dante Saves” may not be the next bumper sticker fad, but for Rod Dreher, the medieval poet led him from despair to deeper love of God and family. In How Dante Can Save Your Life (Regan Arts, 2015), Dreher shares how reading Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy became the catalyst for his recovery from depression and chronic illness.

The book is a sequel, of sorts, to Dreher’s best-selling memoir The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, where the senior editor of The American Conservative wrote about returning to his rural Louisiana hometown after his sister’s untimely death. He had hoped to experience and enjoy the community and love he had witnessed back home, but instead of peace, Dreher discovered hidden family pain and emotional exile from his parents. Suffering physically and emotionally, he happened upon the Divine Comedy and read the opening lines: “Midway in the journey of our life / I came to myself in a dark wood / For the straight way was lost.”

Recognizing his plight as his own “dark wood,” Dreher follows Dante through the Inferno, Purgatory, and on to Paradise to find the “straight way.” Assisted by his Southern Baptist therapist and Eastern Orthodox priest, Dreher grapples with his own sins and seeks to rightly love his family. (For more, listen to Warren Cole Smith’s interview with Dreher on Listening In.)

Dreher’s greatest strength in this book is his transparency. Dante viewed sin as “disordered loves.” As Dreher travels through the Inferno, he confesses his own failures at each level and writes, “I knew now that we condemn ourselves to misery not so much because of what we hate but because of what we love and the way we love.” Following Dreher as he follows Dante, led me to reflect on my own conflicts and see where my own loves are misdirected.

How Dante Can Save Your Life is a loving testimony to the power of great poetry to reveal one’s heart. Beauty can reveal Truth in ways that bypass our rational defenses. Dante’s power exists in unveiling our heart and pointing us toward holiness. Dreher’s memoir inspires me to revisit Dante, but as a pilgrim, not a student. —Mark Moland

Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth

By Glenn T. Stanton

Glenn Stanton’s Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor (Moody Publishers, 2014) challenges Christians to form true friendships with their homosexual neighbors. Courts have redefined marriage and secular society has come to accept same-sex marriage. With many more “gay” (used throughout to cover the LGBT spectrum) folks down the street and in the next office, believers find themselves in a new mission field.

Stanton, who works for Focus on the Family, calls Christians to action, pointing out that we live in a “particular generation [with] its own challenges and opportunities.” He writes about his gay friends with the dignity due them as God’s image-bearers. And while faithfully representing the biblical understanding of sex and marriage, Stanton lists practical questions that individuals and churches must work through: “Do I need to meet and spend time with [my gay friend’s] friends?” “How should I love my gay child?” “What if they want to … teach Sunday school?”

Readers might be confused by some mixed messages. For example, Stanton lays out the conditions (deep friendship, ceremony not held in a church) under which he would attend a gay wedding. But he later writes, “Christians cannot support same-sex marriage … neither should we support it as a civil matter.”

Stanton also seems to make friendship an end in itself, and this might trouble some readers: “Should we become friends to share the gospel? Just as direct: No! … [W]e don’t develop friendships with people for that reason alone, or even primarily.” Isn’t it our duty to help our neighbors become friends of Christ? Still, Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor is a valuable tool for everyday workers in this new mission field. —Bob Brown

Mark Moland

Mark is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course.

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Bob Brown

Bob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course.

Read more from this writer