Anyone can write a memoir these days. All that’s needed is some free time, the address of a self-publishing website and the desire to tell the world about all the spectacular things that were unique in your life. Unfortunately, not everyone can write a good memoir.
The Rev. John G. Simmons, 94, who has been living in Burbank for the past 35 years, has written a good memoir. In fact, he has written a great memoir. Titled “A Sacred Rage: The Path of Constructive Conscience,” the book includes details about his childhood and anecdotes from his past, but the bulk of the book is dedicated to instilling in the reader that it is up to every person on this Earth to make the world a better place.
Simmons, an ordained Lutheran minister since 1942, is one of those rare individuals who — quite literally — practices what he preaches. In fact, it is more a manifesto than a memoir.
The book openly opposes beloved evangelists like Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and instead supports and shines a light on individuals who went the extra mile to make miracles happen in the real world, like Hubert Humphrey and other politicians who enacted real change around them.
While a firm believer in the separation of church and state, a belief that he feels not enough religious people share, Simmons does argue that the grace and spirit of God should be at work in all things, even the political arena. Simmons writes that just because religion and politics should not be officially tied, it does not mean that religious people should not carry over a sense of goodness into politics.
What Simmons finds wrong with the way church and state are connected today has less to do with their connection and more to do with the things that many Christian denominations find moral or immoral. Simmons is of the opinion that swelling church ranks by picking on the obvious vices — drinking, gambling, prostitution — is easy, but actually getting people to live a life of integrity and peace, the way Jesus actually preached and lived his own life, is a much different task, one that televangelists and most churches avoid. He also points out that Jesus was a pacifist, and that waging wars against “evil” in his name is downright heretical, going so far as to condemn the original Crusades.
“A Sacred Rage,” while at times a bit repetitive in its message, is nonetheless a powerful memoir and a beautiful insight into the mind of a man who has spent his life performing the very acts that he asks his congregation to perform each Sunday. It is a wonderful book that might actually make readers take a closer look into how they live the faiths that they profess to believe.
Brian McGackin is an alumnus of USC’s graduate creative writing program, where he focused on poetry and literary critical analysis.
What: “A Sacred Rage: The Path of Constructive Conscience” by the Rev. John G. Simmons
Where: Available online through major book sellers