PW: How did you come to write A Glimpse of Jesus?
Brannan Manning: I realized that I have been trying to overcome self-hatred all my life. I have struggled with low self-esteem, shame, remorse and condemnation since I was a child. Growing up, my father was away from home working most of the week, and when he came home the words he spoke were words of discipline. I internalized his criticisms and blamed myself for my shortcomings. When I allowed myself to be loved in my brokenness, the process of overcoming self-hatred began, and I began to write this book. I believe that in writing this book I found my voice; all subsequent books will be commentaries on this one.
PW: Why focus on self-hatred rather than one of the seven deadly sins or some other obstacle to a loving God?
BM: Self-hatred is the biggest problem in church and culture today. In my 39 years as a pastor, I have found that it is the root of many other problems. All of the Christian psychiatrists and spiritual directors that I meet on my retreats tell me that self-hatred—specifically the inability to accept oneself and one's shortcomings—is the number one problem in the clients they counsel.
PW: What are the sources of self-hatred?
BM: There are four major sources. One is projection. The church offers distorted images of God as punishing father or avenging spirit. Another is perfectionism. Many Christians who focus on the building up of a spiritually perfect life are trying to please themselves rather than God. When they fail to attain perfection, they feel inadequate and dislike themselves for their failure, thus creating a gap between them and God. Yet another source is moralism or legalism. The responsibility to a moral code replaces the personal response to God's loving call. Unhealthy guilt is the final source. Such guilt is self-centered, leads to depression and despair, and preempts the presence of a compassionate God.
PW: How is Jesus a stranger to self-hatred?
BM: God only wants to be known as love. Jesus, who loves as God loves, shows us very clearly that every person is valuable and lovable. As I point out in the book, he ate with sinners, talked with the socially unaccepted, told parables about grace and forgiveness and loved others as he was loved by God. Jesus accepted people for themselves and loved them in their situations, never asking them to be more than they were or to hide from their shortcomings. Jesus estranges us from self-hatred through a love that keeps no score of wrongs.
PW: How can Christians overcome self-hatred?
BM: Every disciple must come to know Jesus through a baptism of fire. Out of this baptism comes the experience of fraternal love, God's love for us. Also, we must experience in a profound way the forgiveness of Jesus. We can maintain the experience of the love of Jesus in silence and solitude.
PW: This sounds mostly personal. How does it translate to the social setting of the church?
BM: Basically, the love that God has for Jesus is in our hearts. Once we accept this and experience the forgiveness of Jesus, then we are able to value others, have compassion for others and forgive others. The church becomes a place where disciples engage in the passionate pursuit of God's love. I've noticed that the real difference in American churches is between those who are aware of the love of God in Christ flowing through them and those who are unaware of it.