Monday, November 12, 2007

Splitting Harriet

Leigh, Tamara. 2007. Splitting Harriet.

I typically love Tamara Leigh's books. So I was surprised when this turned into a love-to-hate or hate-to-love book. And then I was equally surprised that it turned the corner there at the end and charmed me. Our heroine, Harriet or Harri, was a likable one for me. Maybe she was supposed to come off as goody two-shoes, maybe she was supposed to represent the legalistic Christian. But for me, she was neither. She was a caring, compassionate friend. I found nothing odd about a twenty-eight year old woman whose closest friends lived in the Senior Retirement mobile home park. I liked that she was all bosom buddies with the older ladies. It was charming. It was sweet. It was familiar. Okay, maybe not familiar as in the kind of thing you read about in books every day. But familiar-to-me. My close friends have always been older--most considerably older--than me. I joined the adult Sunday School class at the age of 20 or 21. I was the youngest. I still am the youngest. But even if my church had "youth" my age, I wouldn't switch now for all the money in the world. (I think it is ridiculous to separate people by age once they're not "children" anymore.) So Harri's story is a personal one. I *know* the reader was supposed to sympathize with the hero, Maddox, and see Harri as stuck-in-the-mud. The opposite was just the case for me. I loved Harri, and there for a while, I was booing when Maddox appeared in the scene. Here was a hero that I just didn't like. Maddox is an outsider. He's been hired as a marketing consultant by Harri's church to 're-envision' the church. To change it up. To make it seeker friendly. To make it relevant and appealing to the unchurched. To make the music an entertaining center attraction. (Enter drums and electric guitars. Goodbye organ and piano.) For a good portion of the text, it seems Maddox's number one 'vision' of the church is to get rid of all the older folks--the senior citizens. His only concern seems to be getting young people there. (Young people being anyone 40 and under.) So I hated Maddox. Hated him with a passion. He's a pushy, motorcycle riding jerk. Someone who is always picking on Harri. Telling her that it's wrong for her to love old people. Wrong for spending her time with senior citizens. Wrong for not having the 'same' interests as people her own age. Maddox represents everything that I theoretically hate. I am NOT a fan of "marketing" or "business" tactics in churches. I am NOT a fan of the mega-church movement. I am not a fan of this "seeker-friendly" nonsense. I am NOT a fan of turning churches into entertainment centers. Stages, musicians, projection screens. Not my thing. They never will be. And the idea that everything this woman loved about her church was being ripped away and shredded by this outsider bothered me. It seemed unfair. It seemed typical but just so wrong. Like the story Nathan tells about two men. One man had one sheep. One man had many sheep. But it was the man with the one sheep who was forced to sacrifice his sheep for the guest of the rich man. If people want a big church, a mega-church, then they should go to one. An established one. People should never try to transform other churches into something they're not. Try to 'build up' numbers and imitate the other guys. And nothing infuriates me more than 'outsiders' trying to come into a church and *transform* it into a vision of what they want. You can essentially describe these people as pushy and bossy and opinionated. I think of having these kinds of new people come into a church as the church getting cancer. But I've digressed. Back to Harri and Maddox. So I was a reluctant reader. I loved Harri, and I hated Maddox. But somehow or other I ended up liking this book. I still don't know where the turning point was. I still hate everything he stands for, but I like him just a little bit at least. And I think that is all that matters. I think most people won't have as strong a reaction against Maddox as I did. I think most will probably be charmed from the very beginning.