Monday, September 12, 2011

"After Shock" by Kent Annan

TITLE: AFTER SHOCK - Searching for Honest Faith When your World is Shaken
AUTHOR: Kent Annan
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2011.

After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World Is ShakenThis is one of the most honest books that tackle the bull of suffering by the horns of honesty. Suffering is something not easily solved or answered. In a book that oscillates between mindful faith, and hurting doubts, Annan sensitively deals with issues of God, disasters, suffering, pain, faith and doubt.

In Part One, the author deals with the issue of 'confronting a crisis of faith.' It recognizes that disasters just happen. Being honest about it enables one to hold the reality of suffering on one hand, and maintain a semblance of hope on the other. The author verbalizes many of our concerns and wishes, by listing down a 'wish list for change.' Wishes like God being able to swipe away disasters before they happen; like God making life less painful than it is; like punishment for the wicked, and reward for the good, and so on. He ends this part by urging readers to learn to feel.

"I want to cry, because when I'm honest about sadness I'm able to be more open to joy. I want to cry, because maybe it will help me find God. Yes, that might be putting too much added pressure on the tear ducts. I want to cry if it helps me find extra strength for my small work toward justice. If we don't turn away, just like this may our tears flow as prayer and then as love." (73)

In Part Two, Annan demonstrates how disasters shake faith in a poignant manner. The Church he attends regularly is also in rubble. Not only is one's spiritual faith rocked, the physical building that represents religious faith is also among the rocks. Faith means to keep moving despite the shocks and after shocks. He notes that after the earthquake in Haiti, one visible trend is the increase in marriages. Under normal circumstances, people marry only when they have enough money. After an earthquake, when everyone is equally lost and poor, people marry without guilt of not accumulating enough riches. In Annan's view, such a rush to marry is one way of establishing 'stability and commitment in a shaky world.'

My Comments
This book looks more like a lament rather than a how-to-relief book on suffering. Each chapter has a verse from a lament psalm: Ps 13. It is a meditation on the author's experience of the earthquake in Haiti and how he weaves in faith and doubt amid the suffering he sees and feels. It takes a physical earthquake shock that reverberates with multiple spiritual aftershocks later on.

How can one enjoy a book like this? I think it is hard. Just like it is hard to 'enjoy' any topic that hurts, it is hard to read about anything on suffering. Suffering us a mystery. No one can fully answer the problem. It is not something to be solved, but to be lived through. We can try to prevent it. We can learn from it. We can even teach about it. Yet, the fact remains. Suffering exists, and the sooner we learn to accept it as a part of life, the better prepared we are to deal with it. Annan shows us the way to deal with it as follows. Lament. Talk about it with God. Frequently. Let our faith linger with God. Do not try to speed up a resolution to suffering for there is none. Do not try to slow down the recovery when there is one. Keep one's faith honest. There is a kind of doubt that leads to faith. Annan has shown us one way to do just that.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


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