Book Review: Mud & Poetry
I just finished Tyler Blanski’s Mud & Poetry this weekend. I actually read the last 10 pages by candle light in my parents’ house (which was out of power, thanks to a major snowstorm with large chunks of heavy snow). I believe Tyler would enjoy the knowledge that I finished this book in candle light.
Having read numerous books on relationships, sex, marriage, God, taken the Human Sexuality and Relationships courses at Northwestern, this book is probably one of my new found favorites. Blanski does a beautiful job truly bringing the Mud (our earthiness, physical experience) and Poetry (spiritual, emotional, mental experiences) of life and relationships to light.
This isn’t an ordinary, ‘Christian’ relationships book. Blanski won’t tell you the 5 steps to celibacy. He won’t say ‘kiss dating goodbye’ or that abstinence is the most important thing in the world. He will instead talk about how life is brown, how Christianity is muddy, “like the color of Guinness or dark coffee,” and that relationships are not things you can perfectly plan out. Instead, he takes an approach, I believe, is the most effective, beautiful way to understand life, (holistic) sexuality, relationships, celibacy: the philosophy and life behind our decisions.
What I do now shapes what I will be tomorrow. And so, in some weird way, even though I’m single, I am living my marriage now. And that’s exactly what this book is about—what singleness can teach us about sex and marriage, and what sex and marriage can teach us about the kingdom of God. (70)
With this attitude of what happens now, how we act and think effects how we will continue to act and think, Blanski dives into the themes of his book. I will touch on a couple themes here, as they were things I strongly believe in or Blanski did a beautiful job in shining new light on.
1) Sexuality is holistic.
I am so glad that Blanksi makes the point that sexuality is not just about sexual intercourse. Sexuality is part of our identity (masculine/feminine), our relationships (not physically), and our spiritual relationship with God. He has a whole chapter called “Jesus is Sexual” where he dives into the sexuality of Jesus.
2) The world idolizes Sex but so does the Christian sub-culture.
If we do indeed mistakenly equate abstinence for holiness, we could very well mistakenly come to view sex itself as inherently holy, in which case the focus would become first not God, but an idea of purity. I have heard couples who pray before making love, as a priest would before entering the Holy of Holies. Implicitly, sexuality is put on a pedestal fit only for gods….The call to purity in the church is essential. But while the world worships sex by indulging, we must not make the mistake of going to the other extreme and worship sex by abstaining. We would all be guilty of giving sex undue reverence. (152-153)
He also touches on sex education in a Christian world, how coming purely from a “rule-book” standpoint that always treats sex in a negative light is not effective. Rather, the focus on positive messages and pursuit of holiness through our relationship with God.
3) Christian Marriage is a ministry, both internally and externally.
Blanski dives into the philosophies behind marriage. A Christian marriage is to impact those around that relationship through community. But marriage is also a ministry within the marriage and family.
Christian marriage is a conversation that can lead to authentic life transformation. As a spouse, you are dedicated to help an-other hear and follow the transforming love of God, to help an-other attend and respond to the God who is everywhere and in all things. Christian marriage takes normal life, its sometimes busyness and sometimes boredom, and centers it on the healing of the soul. Here a man has tied himself to a woman, and a woman to a man, for a lifetime of working out salvation. (134)
What I love most about this book, though, is that Blanski talks more about his relationship with God and Jesus more than any other theme in the whole book. He truly brings it down to earth, to the mud of his and our lives. He talks about why we sin, how beer and theology go together, how dating is good. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who are single and serious about marriage—actually to anyone who is single, because the themes in this book affect those who remain celibate their whole life.
Go buy the book, pour a cup of coffee or make a white Russian and read about God, life and love.