Walter Wangerin's cries of faith are cries from the heart, filling this book to overflowing with images of Christ's perfection and humanity's funny, painful, constant imperfection. Written with a poet's pen, this book's overwhelming strength is its style.
There is a hint of Annie Dillard here, when Wangerin details the sacrificial suicide of a spider who instinctively allows itself to become food for its off-spring. Yet this is a people-focused book, packed with vignettes of Wangerin's home life, encounters with his parishioners, and delightful fictional characters. One of these, "Moses Cornelius Mortality Swope," has an outrageously fresh and imaginative meeting with Jesus. It graphically contrasts the results of placing one's faith in what people say - such as "you'll be the death of me" -- rather than in the life-giving Lord.
Wangerin's Christ-illustrations range far beyond the comfortable middle- class metaphors readers are accustomed to, and this is the book's second major strength. His opening, title essay pictures Jesus as a peddler of "new rags" in the alleyways of a nameless cry. Exchanging new rags for old results in healing and wholeness for others, but leaves the Ragman broken and dying as he takes upon himself the literal wounds of the people with whom he deals.
In his nonwhimsical, meditative moments, Wangerin is equally as powerful. "We chirp theories like chickadees, because ignorance is a terrifying thing and we need the noise," he writes. "But when I can with courage know I do not know... then I am silenced. Then I am chilled by my own triviality--some dust at the edge of a desert. Nevertheless, you (God) kneel down, and find me, and tell me that you love me."
This collection is a treasure of insight and expressiveness that has the makings of a classic. Wangerin reveals himself and his purpose along the way: "I tell you the story, dear brothers and sisters, to say--tell stories. It is the fullness of witness."