“In 1947 Jack Kerouac set off on a road trip that would reshape the mental landscape of almost everyone born in the West since that date. His cross-country jaunt would change how we viewed the world, processed our lives and interacted with our faiths. It would alter the cultural code of the West, re-orientating our collective psyches around the idea of the road.
“Kerouac recorded his road trips in his classic book On the Road. Even if you have never read the book, you have been influenced by it.” (36) The second time Sayers read through the book, he realized that what he was holding in his hand contained the clues as to how we had gotten to where we are.
It used to be that home gave us a sense of purpose, belonging, and place. You didn't have to discover who you were. Your connection to home gave you a sense of self. Thanks to Jack Kerouac, now we view life through the prism of a journey. We Christians even talk of our spiritual “journey.”
The automobile allowed youth to socialize outside of he family. It allowed space for premarital sex. It changed how we ate. It allowed church shopping and church hopping. We are perpetually “on the road.” It is a state of mind, constantly looking for the next thing, living in incompleteness, engaged in a quest for a sense of significance.
The California Baby Boomers, following on the heels of Kerouac's example, launched the contemporary church movement, changing the Christian culture.
In the second half of the book, Sayers writes of the road Jesus taught about. This road leads to life, to the Cross. It is a different way to get our identity. Like Abraham, we must leave Ur to walk in the land God has given us.
The book ends with the choice: which road?
I was a bit confused during the initial chapters of this book. (I would have started the book differently.) I had heard of Kerouac but had never read any of his work and certainly had no idea of his contribution to our current culture. I am not sure if Sayers' thesis is right or not, that Kerouac had so much influence in generating our current culture. (Perhaps that is why the book's subtitle begins, “The Unlikely Theory...) But reading this book has been very informative. It certainly gave me insights into the “why” of all the talk of our Christian “journey.” This is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in culture, both secular and Christian.
Mary Sayers is a cultural commentator, writer and speaker, noted for his unique and perceptive insights into faith and contemporary culture. He is the author of The Trouble with Paris and the Vertical Self. He is also the Senior Leader of Red Church. He lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife and children.
Moody Publishers, 288 pages. Publisher product page.
I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.