Jim Palmer File:
Reviewed by Carol Kurtz
Divine Nobodies by
"Reminds us that the world is bigger than our little ecclesiastical corner."
It’s the people we don’t always notice who have taught Jim Palmer the most important lessons in his life. Not the preacher, not the theology professor, not even his church doctrine. In fact, Palmer has spent most of his adult life un learning what he was taught as a seminary student, evangelical preacher, and general I’m-in-church-when-the-doors-are-open kind of guy.
Perhaps because each chapter is devoted to someone you’d least expect, and there isn’t any other appropriate place to say it, Palmer gives us two intros to his book. The first is a random list of facts about himself, one of which is that he has Tourette Syndrome.
He was a rising star in the evangelical sky until his marriage dissolved as a result of his wife’s adultery. Suddenly there was no place for him in his religious world. “I surmised heaven had me marked too, no longer just a child of God, by now a divorced one.” This was the beginning of Palmer’s reflections on just what God really feels about people like himself. His pain is tangible: “I shamefully assumed my place in the land of misfit toys on the outskirts of God’s kingdom.”
It is from this starting block that God begins teaching him lessons from the overlooked people around him – the hip-hop friend who exposes the hypocrisy he’s seen in Christian artists, the waffle house waitress who has tried attending church, but has concluded from her treatment there that the church doesn’t want her. The friend who is a homosexual, and also a Christian. This acquaintance is alienated by the church and even by Palmer himself. He gets us thinking (without condoning immorality of any sort), even wondering to ourselves, can there be such a thing as a homosexual Christian?
The handicapped little girl in the library gets a whole chapter, because he suddenly realizes that God loves her even though she is “useless” to Him in most people’s eyes. Can God love him, even if he can no longer be the celebrated evangelical preacher he once aspired to be? He grapples with what exactly it is about us that God loves, anyway..
The book asks questions. The answers aren’t stated, but we get them. Should the church be deciding how we vote? What about the megachurch and the megapreachers? Should Christianity revolve around a church at all? Can a local business be “Christian” without displaying a fish? And what does that look like?
It’s uncomfortable to read. It’s a poignant and yes, uncomfortable message. Palmer’s turbulent childhood and depression are not the stuff cheerful books are made of. He shows us things going on around the world we don’t want to think about. But this is God’s world, and we are somehow glad he’s reminding us that the world is bigger than our little ecclesiastical corner.
Palmer comes to grips with his Catholic roots, and he learns to listen to God and pray in a true and meaningful way. But it’s not a way he learns easily. And as important as it is to know what is right and what is wrong, it may end up being even more valuable to learn that “you can be technically right about God without really knowing Him.”
Carol Kurtz Darlington is a certified personal trainer and a certified group fitness instructor who works with people who want to lose weight as well as those who just want to enjoy better health. She enjoys empowering and encouraging others to reach their health and fitness goals, feel better about themselves in the process, and enjoy more energy to stay active in all areas of their lives. She is the founder of Totally Fit With Carol, a Christian weight loss website featuring workout videos, health tips, exercise advice, and more. She loves her morning cappuccino and her beloved grand-dog. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and haunting Starbucks.