Saturday, June 11, 2011

Book Review for Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A memoir of sorts


What author would I like to meet?  Hmm...A living one?  Hmmm....Could we fantasize and meet a dead one?
I'd love to meet GK Chesterton.  I'd like to debate him even though I know I'd lose abominably.  I'd just like to hear his responses.

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts

Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me: A Memoir....of Sorts is Ian Morgan Cron's account of growing up Catholic with a father who on occasion worked for the CIA but mostly spent his days in a drunken stupor. I can divide this book up into three sections: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good: Cron is a good writer. This is obviously not the stuff of a ghost writer. Cron has an agile mastery of the English language and a scathing sense of humor to boot, both of which he puts to good purpose in his book. The first half of the book is filled mostly with humor, going to Catholic school with scary nuns, his first (and traumatic) experience as an altar boy and trying to fit in at school but failing miserably. These are experiences many of us can identify with and laugh at.

The Bad: About the middle of the book the story takes a dark turn. The humor is gone and replaced with a tone of bitterness and anger. He describes the hardship of having to live with an alcoholic father and a workaholic mother. Furthermore, Cron himself starts experimenting with drugs and alcohol as a teenager and by the time he's in college he's a raging alcoholic. In this section Cron loses his faith. He decides that God doesn't listen to the prayers of a young person begging to be delivered from the hell of an alcoholic home.

The Ugly: Because this book is published by a Christian company (and “Jesus” after all is in the title) I kept waiting for Cron to give an inspiring testimony of how he finally turned to God and was delivered from the hatred he had for his father and his own demons of alcoholism. He does write of being delivered from his addictions but no prayer is uttered, no explicit credit is given to God. I suppose it is implied: his psychologist is an Episcopalian priest, his wife is a Christian and he has a mystical fascination with the Eucharist.

When he talks of the Christian youth groups he attended in high school and college at the urging of well-meaning Christian friends he more or less sneers “it was dumber than I thought it'd be” (pg. 162). He also talks about God in an irreverent way which I'll assume we're supposed to chalk up to his bitterness.

Cron's turning point comes in the middle of a church service when he hears a voice asking him for forgiveness. He later concludes that Jesus was asking for his forgiveness. He gives it and things seem to take an upturn swing after that.

I guess that's the ugliest thing in this book: Cron's act of making God in his own image. Please show me in the Bible where Jesus asked anyone for forgiveness. Did the woman who bled for seventeen years demand it? Did the parents of demon-possessed children expect it? What about the lepers or the men blind from birth? In fact there's only one group of people I saw in the Bible that thought Jesus was accountable to them. They were called Scribes and Pharisees. A Perfect, Sinless Being would never ask for what He does not need.

I can understand being angry at God. All of us have been angry at Him at one time or another- some of us, like people with alcoholic or otherwise abusive parents have more reason than others, I'm sure.
But true repentance and salvation comes not when we call God on the carpet but when we understand that all humans are on the carpet, accountable for a sin-sick soul. We all possess lives that need God's forgiveness and His Son's sacrifice to pay what our sin owes. This crucial point is what's missing in Cron's book.

Somehow he ends up becoming an Episcopalian priest but he never tells us how he arrived there. And here's another ugly detail of the book: For a man of God, Cron has riddled his book with vulgar and coarse language. Unfortunately I'm seeing this as a disturbing trend in many Christian circles, literary or otherwise.

If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned Cron's father's work in the CIA it's because it really doesn't play a large role anywhere in the story. This book is mainly about Cron's father's and then his own substance abuse.

I think this book could benefit people who bear the scars of living in a household held captive by alcoholism yet at the same time, he doesn't offer a true path to healing and deliverance. For that you'd need to find a book that actually makes God and His Scripture as the focal point rather than a young man's angst.

 I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers
If you'd like to buy this book please do so through the link below, thanks!


Becky said...

Hello. New follower via GFC from the Welcome to the Weekend hop. That is a wonderful book review. Based on the title it sounded like something that might would have appealed to me, but your review has saved me the money I would have spent on it. Would love you to visit and possibly follow back at Life or Something Like It.

Sharon Wilfong said...

@ Becky: Yeah, the title was really misleading. I was hoping for a more interesting story about a man's career in the CIA. Thanks for visiting. I will visit back!

Ian said...

Hi Sharon,

Thanks for reading my book and for posting a review. I welcome constructive criticism, so I thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Hope you have a great summer filled with joy, spending at least a few hours in a hammock with great books.


Ian Morgan Cron

Sharon Wilfong said...

@Ian thank you for taking the time to stop by and read my review.

Jennifer Perry said...

Enjoyed reading your review, still I think I'd rather enjoy reading your work! Book in the works?

Sharon Wilfong said...

@Jennifer: Thanks very much. I am writing a book. Still adding and refining.

God Mission Possible said...


Sounds like an interesting book and one that would minister to a family with past alcoholism issues. I "followed" your blog. Do you ever review Christian non-fiction books? Visit my website and leave me a comment :)

God bless,

Sharon Wilfong said...

@ DL in fact I mostly review Christian nonfiction.
For a change I'll occasionally review fiction.

God Mission Possible said...

Sharon - please email me at . Would love to send you copy of my book for review. :)