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12.04.2019

Celebrating the Oddballs | Connecting with Culture

Stand in the fiction section of your local bookshop and you’ll find yourself surrounded by quirky characters determined to show you the world from their unique standpoint.

This trend towards ‘oddball’ narrators is typified by Graeme Simsion’s Rosie Project trilogy, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and Sarah Haywood’s The Cactus.

The narrators of these books are all what might be referred to as ‘high-functioning’ individuals – they are intelligent and able to make rational decisions. However, they find themselves frustrated that others don’t apply the same level of logic, instead being led by emotion and swayed by others’ opinions.

For this reason, the protagonists in these stories choose highly independent – and often lonely – lifestyles. They become experts at hiding their true feelings from those around them, shunning social gatherings and baulking at the idea of conventional relationships. This, of course, is where the stories find their driving force: as the characters are thrust into ever closer contact with those around them, humour and pathos emerge.

These stories typically reach a heart-warming conclusion when the central character succeeds in overcoming their loneliness by learning to obey certain social norms: abandoning unusual eating habits, attending parties, or applying makeup in the Bobby Brown approved fashion.

At heart, however, these books remain wedded to the inescapable twenty-first century philosophy that, in the words of Eleanor Oliphant, ‘it’s extremely important to stay true to who you really are’. They encourage us to look fondly on the unique perspectives of the narrators, and to cherish their individuality. Often the main character’s ‘salvation’ comes when someone within the story is also willing to love them for who they are, to accept them despite their flaws, and to show them kindness in a way that encourages true connection.

There is truth here for Christian readers. We claim to follow a leader who refused to bow to the social conventions of his day, instead reaching out with love and acceptance to those the world had excluded, outlawed, or written off. But acceptance itself was not the endpoint for Jesus’ ministry, and it is not the endpoint for us either. Rather, a true experience of God’s love is itself transformational. Knowing and being known by him in our innermost being offers us unparalleled freedom to become more truly ourselves, as we were created and are restored to be – and it’s a change that goes far deeper than lobster dinners or a new lipstick.

 

Rachel Helen Smith
Rachel lives in Durham, where she attends King’s Church.

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Author

Rachel Smith

Comments

  1. Thanks for this Rachel. It sent me on a search about freedom. It reminded me of the lyric in the song ‘Me and Bobby McGee.’ “freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose”. I noted that Janis Joplin sang this song and she gained the 2nd highest rated posthumously published songs in the US charts.
    She died alone a hotel room at the age of 27 in 1970 from a drug overdose. I reflected that the intention of the song was to show that without a loving relationship we do indeed have the freedom to make life choices that can ignore the detrimental effects those choices can have upon our very souls. This due to the fact that when we hit rock bottom we can feel we have nothing left to lose.
    I then searched on Google for another lyric that came to mind “I’m free, free to be me ” and I was rewarded by discovering a song by Francesca Battistelli called ‘Free to be Me’ and she sings “that on your shoulders I can see …I am free to be me”. The transformation from the negativity of nothing left to lose to full restoration in Christ by his love and hence everything to gain could not be more stark. As you say Rachel “unparalleled freedom”.

    By John from Belfast - 12th April 2019
  2. Oddball in church = pain
    Oddball in church leadership = suffering

    By Tim - 12th April 2019
  3. Thanks, Rachel. Well said!

    By Cynthia Tews - 12th April 2019

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