On this day in 2013 Brennan Manning passed. This was the message on Facebook:
“It is with mixed emotions that we must tell you that on Friday April 12, 2013, our Brother Brennan passed away. While he will be greatly missed we should all take comfort in the fact that he is resting in the loving arms of his Abba.”
That’s how I learned that one of the most significant and impactful mentors in my spiritual journey had died. (His obituary has been posted on his website.)
I never met Brennan, at least not face to face, but over more than twenty years his words have shaped me like gentle water shapes stone.
My church-of-origin was safe and warm most of the time, but it was also often perfectionistic, legalistic and focused entirely too much on right doctrine. I learned that it was my ability to recite Bible verses in support of our theology that demonstrated my spiritual growth. It was my good behavior as the Pastor’s Son that secured my status in the community. I was taught that it was our tribe alone who had the full truth, and that our highest calling was showing others the error of their ways.
It wasn’t as dark as all of that most of the time. Often it was church socials, hikes with friends on Saturday afternoon, and a deep, deep sense of belonging. But the theology embedded in my heart was fearful. Never was I entirely sure if I was OK with God. God loved me, I’d heard. But I’d also seen the community make it clear in so many ways that this love flowed more easily to people who looked the right way, said the right things, behaved appropriately. I was left uncertain, desperate for God’s love but afraid of God’s judgement.
Then came The Ragamuffin Gospel.