Brennan Manning is a controversial ex-priest, ex-alcoholic, religious pundit and ecumenical author (Ruthless Trust, Ragamuffin Gospel) who's been known to put profanity in God's mouth and not even suggest a good wipe with strong soap.
In this book he explores the modern phenomenon of guilt, affirming what Jung proposed, that people must love themselves to be truly healthy. And to be truly healthy in mind and spirit is the basic necessity, Manning tells us, for getting cozy with God.
A lower- rather than upper-case catholic, Manning draws unabashedly from any source that supports his sense of how things ought to work: Flannery O'Connor, G.K. Chesterton, and St. Thomas More, among others, fill out the orthodox dance card, but Miguel Cervantes, M. Scott Peck and Mathew Fox chime in for a more humanist, eclectic vision of spirituality. Throw in a dash of illustrative vignettes, recollections from the author's encounters with AA, and the charming tale of a woman who stops to help a blind boy pick up the apples she's knocked over, and is mistaken by him for Jesus.
Manning boldly decries the tyranny of perfectionism, and the tedious arrogance of "legalizers, moralizers and hair-splitters who are so busy straining at the gnat that they swallow the camel." He even condemns conventional worship communities that, by being "cultic," reinforce religious differences, encourage cliques, and in the end, become hypocritical and allow us to muddle along from Sunday to Sunday, and "to maintain the status quo and indefinitely postpone the tryst with unconditional love."
These are not new ideas, but they have been shaken and baked in a new bag. Manning's work attracts many followers and may lead some to a deeper understanding of the person of Jesus, whom the author refers to as The Compassionate One, a title surely cribbed from Buddhism. Manning says Jesus is "the archetype of personality integration," and likes to "quote" him in modern jargon: "Come to me. Come now. Don't wait til you have your act together and your head on straight."
The reader must decide if this is the Jesus of the Gospels, as Manning is hot to assert, or another kind of being altogether, a crazy-quilt deity created out of a hodgepodge of pop psych and scraps of intellectual whole cloth.
The Sufis say that there are as many paths to God as there are human souls, and by that transcendent logic, Manning's excesses may be indulged. Perhaps the most polite response to A Glimpse of Jesus, and to its author, would be an expression Manning would readily recognize: Thanks for sharing!