Friday, April 04, 2008

More Thoughts on Jodi Picoult's Change of Heart

Amanda over at A Patchwork of Books wondered about other Christian readers' thoughts on Jodi Picoult's newest book, Change of Heart. I have been thinking a lot about the book since I finished it, and decided I should write this follow-up post in response to some of the issues Picoult brought up in the book. It's going to be a random assortment of thoughts, so beware. If you aren't interested, just skip this post. If you are, I would (as always) love to read your comments. Please be aware, however, that I will not tolerate any bashing of Mormonism or other specific religions. Any offensive comments will be deleted (not that I think you all will make such comments, but religion is one of those explosive issues that can bring out the worst in people!).

Also, there may be spoilers in this post.
_________________________________________________

"He'd been a corn-fed Utah boy, pitching subscriptions to benefit the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" (145). I don't know where Picoult got the idea that members of the LDS Church sell subscriptions door-to-door, but we don't. The church receives its money from its members, who pay a tithing of 10% on all earnings. Even my children donate - if they earn $1 from doing chores, they give a dime. We do not sell magazines to raise funds.

"People were always finding Jesus in jail. What if he was already here?" (83). One of the big issues in this book is whether or not Shay Bourne is literally Jesus Christ. Father Michael comes to believe that he is. Personally, I think the idea is ludicrous. The scriptures tell us that Christ's Second Coming will be preceded by a series of events that will signal His arrival. Thus, I don't believe He is going to sneak back to Earth disguised as a schizophrenic foster kid with a penchant for cold-blooded murder. More importantly, Jesus already fulfilled His mortal ministry. He had to have a body of flesh and blood in order to suffer for us; since He has already atoned for our sins, He no longer has any reason to live a mortal life.

The idea is also brought forth that Shay could be inhabited by Jesus Christ. I do believe that we are all literal sons and daughters of God. As such, we all have a divine spark within us, and we can all become like God, having the spirit of Christ. However, I believe there is only one Savior, and He will return in the manner described in the scriptures.

"As soon as I put him on the witness stand, a quiet pall fell over the people in the gallery ... And there, without me asking a single question, was my answer: no amount of piousness could erase the stain on the hands of a murderer" (338). Another of the book's themes is this: Can we ever perform enough good acts to make up for an evil one? In general, I would answer yes. If we offend someone, we can repent and make restitution. Maybe our reputation will never gain its former luster, but at least we can do our best to rebuild it. As for a murderer making up for the life he took - even by giving his heart so that another can live - I don't know. I think the only one who could truly take away that sin would be God.

"Did it really matter whether you believed that Jesus spoke the words in the Bible or the words in the Gospel of Thomas? Did it matter whether you found God in a consecrated church or a penitentiary or even in yourself? Maybe not. Maybe it only mattered that you not judge someone else who chose a different path to find meaning in his life" (400). I think this statement represents the moral of Change of Heart. It's basically accurate, although it feels like a politically-correct cop out from Picoult. It basically says that as long as you're a good person it doesn't matter what you believe, or where, when and how you worship. I agree with this to a point - the most important thing is to live a life steeped in love, kindness and good works. However, I think most people need some kind of theology to act as a guide to living. Without it, people flounder and are swayed by every new idea that comes along. Most religions seem to teach goodness and tolerance for your fellow man, but "goodness" and "tolerance" are kind of vague terms.


For myself, I would be lost without such a guide. My religion provides me with an example - Jesus Christ - who exemplified a perfect life. When I want to know how to act, I look to Him. Some think that is all He is - an example. I, however, believe that He was a literal being, that He literally walked on Earth, and literally died on the cross. To me, that matters.


I've come by this knowledge through prayer, fasting and experience. In the Bible, James exhorts us to find truth by asking God. This is the way to sort truth from falsehood.

"Who says that if you want to find God on a Sunday morning, you ought to be looking in church?" (124) This is another issue Change of Heart examines - the difference between organized religion and belief. A few paragraphs after the above quoteA, Father Michael makes this observation, "Just because you say you're Catholic, if you don't walk the walk, you're not." I agree with this statement. To me, it's not enough to say, "I believe in Christ," I have to prove it by studying His life, acting as He would, and sacrificing a few hours of my week to worship Him at church. I can say I'm Christian, but if I don't go to church, don't pray, don't help my fellow man - am I really?

That's not to say that following Christ's example is easy. It's not. It's the act of consistently trying that makes us true followers.

"And if I could ask people to take away one thing from my book it would be this: to stop thinking of beliefs as absolutes…and to see them instead as an invitation to have a conversation, and maybe learn something from someone else’s point of view." - Jodi Picoult

I agree that we need to be tolerant of other people's views, and that we can learn things from each other. Of course we can. Sects don't need to criticize or demoralize one another. I've never understood, for instance, why people feel the need to picket and protest at dedications of LDS temples. Why do they care? Certainly all of us could be a little more tolerant.

However, I do think of my beliefs as absolute. I absolutely believe that Jesus Christ died for me. I absolutely believe He will come again. Nothing is going to change those beliefs.

What did you think of the book?

6 comments:

  1. Hi! I just wanted to say thank you for this wonderful post and your previous review. I just finished reading this book yesterday and have it sitting here waiting for me to review. You've done such a wonderful job that I'll have to point people over here.

    When I read the part about the Mormon kid selling subscriptions for his church, I thought, WHAT? What subscriptions? I thought Picoult was all into research and she didn't seem to get that one right. I can't think of a single instance where anybody goes door-to-door raising funds for the LDS church.

    As far as all your other statements, I completely agree. I thought this was such an odd book with some interesting issues. I took everything with a grain of salt and decided to try to not look to deep into it. I guess I wasn't it the mood for some deep thinking.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oops, I hit enter to soon. You can delete above post. Sorry!

    Hi! I just wanted to say thank you for this wonderful post and your previous review. I just finished reading this book yesterday and have it sitting here waiting for me to review. You've done such a wonderful job that I'll have to point people over here.

    When I read the part about the Mormon kid selling subscriptions for his church, I thought, WHAT? What subscriptions? I thought Picoult was all into research and she didn't seem to get that one right. I can't think of a single instance where anybody goes door-to-door raising funds for the LDS church.

    As far as all your other statements, I completely agree. I thought this was such an odd book with some interesting issues. She raises some interesting ideas concerning death penalty, organized religion, how do we receive salvation, the character of Jesus Christ, etc.

    I took everything with a grain of salt and decided to try to not look to deep into it. I guess I wasn't it the mood for some deep thinking.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have no interest in reading this book, but I think if I had that first passage you quoted would have made me quit. I was raised LDS and strongly dislike books that erroneously depict the church. What first sprang to my mind was door-to-door missionaries, but they aren't selling anything, much less subscriptions. How could she have gotten her facts so wrong?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have never read a Jodi Picoult book, but had recently added her to my to-read list after a couple of friends recommended her. I think I will familiarize myself with her writing style with a less religously controversial book. If I like her style I will give this one a try too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for your toughts! I am happy to have someone to discuss this book with! I am also a Christian and struggled with some of the ideas of this book. But I struggled with the Secret Gospel of Thomas and the Gnostic Gospels. Instead, I am trying to focus on some of the parts of the book that I liked. For example, “How could I not have known that you see God every time you look at the face of the person you love.” (384) When I read this quote I thought of my daughter who we thought would result in a miscarrage when I was pregnant...or my best friend's son who Drs told her that it would be unlikely that she would ever have a child. These are the miracles I see God perform.

    I struggled a lot with this book. I have read a lot of Picoults books and typically enjoy them, but I didn't enjoy this one as much as some of the others. I like that she takes on prevelent issues in society, but I think this book could have taken on the death penalty without injecting all the questions of God.

    ****SPOILER ALERT*******
    Also I am stil trying to figure out if I think Shay is creditable. The box he gave the priest at the end trying to discredit himself...what did you think of that? Did he have all the gum that he gave away or did he plant all those items to give the Priest back his Catholic faith? Shay was that type of person, but really in the end people find out the truth in the end like Jane did about Kevin. Is he a liar because he told people lies that they wanted to hear/know...does this make him less creditable. Did he lie to the people like Lucias who wanted to beleive?

    Also, I don't even remember the LDS people selling subscriptions!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh thank you! I needed someone else to agree with me SO badly! I love Picoult's books, she's my favorite author, and I know to expect controversy when I open the cover of a new novel. This however, took me by complete surprise. Several times I found myself literally wanting to throw the book across the room! As a Christian, I have my own, specific, beliefs and though I certainly don't expect those beliefs to show up in everything I read, this particular work felt so personal. People really believing that Shay was Jesus just really hit me hard for some reason. I was dying to read someone else's thoughts! Thanks so much for your great writings!

    ReplyDelete

Comments make me feel special, so go crazy! Just keep it clean and civil. Feel free to speak your mind (I always do), but be aware that I will delete any offensive comments.

P.S.: Don't panic if your comment doesn't show up right away. I have to approve each one before it posts to prevent spam. It's annoying, but it works!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin