Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Review -- The Paper Chase Meets God

I recently read, The Close: A Young Woman's First Year at Seminary, by Chloe Breyer. Now, I have never been to seminary -- but I have been to law school. There is a seminal work on life in law school called, One L. (The movie based on the book was named The Paper Chase.) So, I was looking forward to reading what I hoped would be the seminary equivalent. After all, The Close was written by Chloe BREYER, as in the daughter of Justice Breyer.

I must confess that I was disappointed. One L does a splendid job of two things. First, it gives a pretty fair look at what life is really like as a first year law student. Second, it takes the reader along on the journey that turns a normal human into someone who thinks like a lawyer -- which is the real goal of law school.

Chloe Breyer is an unabashed, knee-jerk, New England liberal. I'm a good Democrat, and she is way too reminiscent to me of a lot that is wrong with the Democratic party. I really don't want to know what some of our more conservative ring members will have to say about her. Even I had to get past her perspective on life, politics and the value of a good protest.

The book opened with a brief explanation of what drew the author to seminary. She clearly feels a connection to the mysticism and wonder of spirituality. She chose an Episcopal seminary General Theological Seminary in New York City, because it was supposed to be good at spiritual development. I was really looking forward to watching that side of the story unfold. That is where I found the book disappointing.

The book does provide what appears to be a pretty decent look at what life is really like in seminary -- struggles with Greek, daily chapel, more struggles with Greek. What I didn't see, is any real walk down the spirtual development road.

Of course, maybe I missed the boat from the beginning. I am not completely stupid. I have figured out that America's seminaries are not turning out legions of spiritually mature Saints ready to change the world by faith while leading radically different lives. In the last chapter the author seems to realize that too.

This book is not, I hope, the seminarian's answer to One L. Nor is it a spiritual journey that will make you yearn for your own mountaintop experiences. It is, however, a pretty fair look at the nuts and bolts of seminary life -- or, at least, as far as this Lawyer can tell.



John Edward Harris said...

As I reflect on my Seminary experience of over 24 years ago, I still think that what eve I do in this life that I will go to heaven because I have already spent my time in hell while at seminary. Seminary prepared me to be a Biblical scholar and theologian but not a pastor, and it did not nurture me spiritually. It was my growing up in the church as an adolescent and the first couple of churches that I served that taught me how to be a pastor. It has been primarily the writings of Morton Kelsey and hanging around Roman Catholics (especially Benedictines and Cistercians), Buddhists, mystics, and new-agers, and receiving spiritual direction from Roman Catholics, that has helped me grow spiritually.

JusticeSeeker said...

John, I've never been to seminary -- and have no calling to be a pastor. Nonetheless, I think from an intellectual perspective that seminary would be a blast.

What I don't see (judging from the recent graduates that I've known) that they do much to produce spiritually mature Christians. That scares me more than a little.

I agree that for spiritual development, we need to be taking some lessons from the Catholics (which is not to say that they can't take a few from us as well).


Gannet Girl said...

Interesting review and comments. I have often said of seminary: in law school, from moment one, they were teaching us to think like lawyers. In seminary, where is the learning to nurture like pastors?

Inb my second year I see more of it but I, too, have found much of my spiritual growth in RC contexts.