A Review of Wearing God by Lauren F. Winner
Winner promises to surprise us with "overlooked" ways of meeting God, and she does not disappoint. In fact, she goes one step further, and surprises us with new ways to actually understanding God. It's really remarkable. A couple of chapters approach metaphors in a way somewhat common among liturgical faith communities, on clothes, bread, and wine. These chapters are still very rich.
But what really stand out are chapters on "Laboring Women," "Smell," "Flame," and a concluding postscript on her ministry in a women's prison. In these chapters, I found myself reading about God and encountering God in ways I literally hadn't before, not because they had been unavailable to me (they are, after all, in my personal experience and in theological literature) but because I had overlooked them. Literally.
As just one example, Winner spends much of the chapter on "Laboring Women" actually describing the birth process, and recognizing the shift that has occurred in our culture where more men than ever are present at births, but also more women than ever don't know the personal experience of birthing because, for a variety of reasons, they aren't having children. But then Winner goes on to look at Trinitarian language for God, offering one such image--Mother, Baby, Midwife--I had never considered, even though one is able to find language for this analogy in Scripture itself, and all over the patristic and medieval writings.
This is the other surprise of Winner's book, all the wonderful short quotes she pulls from throughout Christian history. Her book is already powerful enough as it is. The quotes make for a faith compendium I will be returning to over and over to inspire me.
Finally, Winner offers a variety of challenges in the book that will change how I act. For example, did you know that many incarcerated women who are pregnant are actually shackled during the birth of their child, including chains wrapped around their torso and bodies. Not only is this dangerous for the baby, it is inhumane and against international law. Winner's deep identification with incarcerated women wends its way through the whole book, and makes it not just a memoir, but a call to justice. You really need to read it.