Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? Review and Giveaway
What does it mean to give church a try when you haven’t really tried since you were twelve? At the end of her bestselling memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Rhoda Janzen had reconnected with her family and her roots, though her future felt uncertain. But when she starts dating a churchgoer, this skeptic begins a surprising journey to faith and love.
Rhoda doesn’t slide back into the dignified simplicity of the Mennonite church. Instead she finds herself hanging with the Pentecostals, who really know how to get down with sparkler pom-poms. Amid the hand waving and hallelujahs Rhoda finds a faith richly practical for life–just in time for some impressive lady problems, an unexpected romance, and a quirky new family.
Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? is for people who have a problem with organized religion, but can’t quite dismiss the notion of God, and for those who secretly sing hymns in their cars, but prefer a nice mimosa brunch to church. This is the story of what it means to find joy in love, comfort in prayer, and–incredibly, surprisingly–faith in a big-hearted God.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a little bit nervous about reviewing a memoir written by an English professor from my alma mater. However, that little detail escaped me, until I pictured myself sitting in an adviser’s office in the Hope College English department while reading the story. Rhoda Janzen, author of the New York Times bestselling Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home, has followed up her success with Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?: A Mennonite Finds Faith, Meets Mr. Right, and Solves Her Lady Problems.
Somehow, I have been under a rock (or raising toddlers) and I missed Ms. Janzen’s first book . . . but reading out of order has caused no harm. Both books read very well independently. (I’ll be reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home very soon!)
Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? is a rare, honest glimpse into the mind of someone who is spiritually searching. Janzen does not sugar coat her feelings, nor does she paint a falsely rosy picture of Christians.
I’ve been Lutheran my entire life. While I have ventured into other church bodies, it was int he role of an observer, an armchair anthropologist. For that very reason, I enjoy reading books that take me inside other faith practices. As a liturgical Lutheran I especially enjoyed and could nod my head in understanding when Janzen described her first worship experience at her boyfriend’s Pentecostal church:
These Pentecostals favored long, noisy worship sessions in which everybody shouted the song lyrics. Congregants freely picked their own key. The overheads showed lyrics, but no notes. Nobody around me was singing in harmony. Nor did the musical selections have verses per se. Instead they repeated a chorus about forty times with ascending volume, never varying the lyric, as in a song I always used to teach to kids I was babysitting if their parents didn’t pay me enough:You can’t ride in my little red wagon! The axle’s broken and the wheels are draggin’! Second verse, same as the first! Little bit louder and a LITTLE BIT WORSE!
By the third verse, the children were screaming their little lungs out, and I had my revenge on their cheapo parents. In the Pentecostal church an example of this style of singing would beI exalt thee I exalt thee I exalt thee O LORD! (repeat 40 times)
Being Mennonite, I was hungry for a little narrative development in my music, a plot of some kind–a problem, an admission, a promise of times better to come. Not so at Mitch’s church.
Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? inspired me to look at my own congregation as an outsider might view it, and understand that differing backgrounds will process things differently.
It is delightful that Janzen never demands that the Pentecostals worship differently or that somehow the Mennonites should conform to other styles. There is a sense of “it is what it is” throughout the book.
Janzen handles the heavy topic of advanced breast cancer with levity, honesty and grace, allowing the readers to relate to her fear and pain without dragging them through the dust.
I found Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? to be a delightful, yet challenging read, and I suspect that many of my readers will enjoy it as well. This book is not for those lacking a sense of humor, or those who are easily offended by four letter words or references to sensuality. This is not a religious book, however, it is a book about religion. Janzen offers no answers, but she does offer up her experiences.
I have a copy of Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? to give away to one of my readers!
Simply leave me a comment telling me why this book interests you. (US/Canada only, please). Make sure you leave a valid email address, as this is how I notify my winners!
You can connect with Rohda Janzen at : http://www.rhodajanzen.com