Tortured Wonders: Christian Spirituality for People, Not Angels by Rodney Clapp (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2004. 278 pp)
Rodney Clapp is the executive editor of Brazos Press. Previously, he was employed as an editor at Christianity Today and InterVarsity Press. Clapp has written countless articles on the church and culture as well as seven books.
I hate Spirit 105.3. If you like that radio station and I hurt your feelings, I apologize. In all honesty, I really do not want you to have hurt feelings, but I find Spirit 105.3 less wholesome and family friendly (as they advertise) and more vomit-inducing otherworldly fakery. Of course I am painting this station in broad strokes and I have no special insight regarding the spiritual lives of its disc jockeys, but every bit of spiritual advice I hear on air sounds like it came from the front porch of a wooden house in a Thomas Kinkade painting.
Enter Rodney Clapp and his book Tortured Wonders. In a way, Clapp’s premise in this book is a rebuttal against a “Spirit 105.3” spirituality. While our local Christian radio station seeks to disconnect the soul from the body promoting a Christian spirituality fit for people playing harps in heaven, Clapp reminds us that God created the human body and said that it was good.
Clapp splits Tortured Wonders in half. The first section, titled “Classical Christian Spirituality,” details Orthodox Christianity and the themes that pushed it towards an angelic spirituality. Part two, “Christianity in the Light (and Darkness) of the 21st Century,” depicts the ways in which an Orthodox spirituality could translate to our modern culture.
“As human beings, as tortured wonders, we are each of us ‘in between.’ We think, we speak, we dream, we pray, so we set ourselves apart from animals and the rest of creation. And yet we are also animals – like them, we are embodied; like them, we are born, we eat and live for a spell, and we die. We humans, then, are luminal creatures, teetering on the threshold between the divine and the bestial” (177).
It follows from this quote that Christian spirituality demands a more holistic approach. Too often, Christians define Orthodoxy as a religion of the mind. Through apologetics and prayer, classical and modern Christians actively participate in mental workouts. Clapp counters in arguing that Orthodox Christianity contains a spirituality of body and mind.
Our bodies are constant reminders that we own a one-way ticket to death. While some cover up sneezes with a handkerchief and others defy aging through Botox, human beings are incapable of outrunning death. Simply put, every day we wake up, we are one day closer to death. Understanding this concept, Clapp contends that a spirituality of the body ought to be a Christian practice.
Personally, Tortured Wonders has influenced me to pay close attention to the treatment of my body. I admit that I have fallen prey to an exclusive spirituality of the mind. This book has encouraged me to begin running, not for the sake of obtaining a good appearance, but for the purpose of submitting my body to something that I’d rather not do. Similarly, I am more aware of the food nourishing me. Eating is a spiritual act. It is done in community and the source of nourishment ought to be considered. If I eat processed foods, then I am consuming a food that is not only unhealthy, but also loaded with sugars and salts added for the purpose of tricking my anatomy to enjoy it the most. Thus, eating natural foods bring the benefits of health and moderation.
Tortured Wonders succeeds in expanding the breadth of what we consider spirituality. Although it is not a page turner, the themes present in the book provide a unique perspective. I recommend Tortured Wonders to anyone who is interested in a holistic approach to spirituality.