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She came to Jesus just as she was—a foul-mouthed, bulimic, alcoholic drug addict. One week after having an abortion, she surrendered to him in her very own version of the sinner's prayer, punctuated with the f-word.

When I recently called Anne Lamott—the funny, nutty, fast-talking, born-again author whose books include Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions, Traveling Mercies, and most recently Blue Shoe—the same earthy candor came through.

To be sure, Lamott is a hard-core liberal. I disagree with her on many fronts, for example with her belief that personhood doesn't start at conception. Yet, deeper within her than her loud liberalism is a reality that has won her many evangelical readers: a zany ardor for Jesus. Lamott's fascination with all things Jesusy (a term she might as well have copyrighted) must be the reason why she is a mixed bag of hilariously antagonistic affections.

Let me count the ways.

Every morning, before she gets out of bed, Lamott reads meditations by Emmet Fox (1886-1951), the progressive New Thought preacher who is popular in Alcoholics Anonymous circles. "You want to buy his book Sermon on the Mount today; it will change your life. I promise," she says. She looks up daily Scripture passages in Zondervan's Women of Faith Study Bible. The conservative publisher puts out "hundreds of books that I love," including If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat by Willow Creek Community Church's teaching pastor, John Ortberg.

A commentator for NPR and a columnist at the freethinking Salon.com, Lamott shops "all the time" at Christian bookstores. She calls herself a "bumper-sticker Christian." The two bumper-sticker sayings she lives by are: "God loves you just the way you are but he loves you ...

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In the Magazine

January 2003

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