National Catholic Register

Books

Back-to-School Reading

BY The Editors

July 26-August 8, 2009 Issue | Posted 7/17/09 at 4:40 PM

 

Confessions of an Ex-Feminist

By Lorraine V. Murray

Ignatius, 2008

144 pages, $12.95

ignatius.com

(888) 307-7685


Confessions of an Ex-Feminist should be de rigueur for college freshmen. Starkly honest and to the point, this book touches upon the nerve, albeit a raw one, that triggers the loss of faith in so many young adults.

In sharing her own faith journey, Lorraine Murray shows readers how easy it can be to lose one’s faith, especially in the amoral climate of a college campus. Even though Murray’s experiences span the ’70s and ’80s — before most of today’s young adults were born — the threats to purity, temptations to infidelity and cultural pressure to abandon godly values are as real and dangerous now as they were then. Murray artfully exhibits this in relating her own story.

“The nihilists claimed everything happened by chance and people were simply stumbling along in a godless universe, trying to create their own meaning out of chaos,” Murray writes. “Such was the belief of atheistic existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre, who became my new guru. In many ways, the whole hippie movement was based on nihilism, because it was generally accepted that people had to find their own way, since there was no God to give the universe a higher meaning. In the absence of God, there were no absolute values; one could just as well cherish beauty as ugliness, which might explain some of the art of the day. Oddly enough, though, even atheists must have faith in something, as Tolstoy pointed out: ‘Without believing that life is worth living, we would not live.’ Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of this point in the heyday of my own spiritual rebellion.”

The book not only traces Murray’s relationship to God, but also her relationship to others. She looks back frankly at her many romantic affairs, giving an in-depth yet tasteful assessment of her motivations, actions and reasoning. She examines her relationship with her mother, father and sister with respect for their human limitations, while at the same time acknowledging her own shortcomings. Readers will find a bit of themselves in each of the characters and scenes, which makes this a valuable resource for parents as well as young adults to help understand themselves and each other.

“True, my father gave his girls very little attention and wasn’t the sole support of our family, failings that I surely had noticed, but the amount of resentment I harbored now seems out of proportion to his offenses. When he came home from work to announce that he had sold a piece of land, my sister and mother would join in the celebration, which usually included some impromptu dancing in the living room. My own memory, although foggy, has me standing on the sidelines, thinking sarcastic thoughts, and making some excuse so I wouldn’t have to dance,” Murray writes.

Murray’s sojourn will be a welcome relief to women who wonder if anyone else has felt the same way they do. It wouldn’t hurt men to pay attention to these sections, either, as it will offer insight into the women in their lives.

While Murray does an excellent job outlining the hows and whys of her journey away from the faith, her journey back to the faith lacks the same depth. Still compelling, her reconversion seems too simple and matter of fact. It would have been more helpful to readers if Murray had dug more deeply into the anguish, uncertainty, yearning and rejoicing of the process. Having read the first half of her life, readers won’t want to take a step back from the second half. Perhaps this topic could be fully covered in a future book.

Regardless of any deficiencies, mothers and daughters may want to choose this book to read simultaneously to pave the way for later heart-to-heart discussions.

Marge Fenelon writes

from Cudahy, Wisconsin.