This group is a place that unabashedly pursues Truth, Goodness, and Beauty through literature. We are a bookclub that leans towards classics and we welcome people of many worldviews and philosophies, but we make no apologies about being a team of Christian moderators who appreciate the Classical Christian Revival that is growing.
This book does not represent our moral leanings; it represents the much bigger theme in the book – the power of stories to create a culture that dignifies life and brings people of differing views together. Readers of Guernsey must understand that there are moral challenges in our namesake book. Our name is rooted in the community that Guernsey built – not their moral decisions.
When we built this group, we were a few world-weary friends who were, in essence, seeking sanctuary. The reading of Guernsey had brought us together in another discussion group and we wanted to create a vibrant community of kindred spirits who would read widely and deeply and in so doing cultivate thoughtful relationships with each other. We were a “secret” book club with a few dozen friends. All of us had read the book and understood the bigger picture and so no explanation was needed. The title represented a culture of friends who preserved their dignity, humanity, and moral compass during an abusive Nazi occupation. We didn’t start this group with the intention of attracting followers or patting ourselves on the back by accumulating friends. We needed each other. Like the people in Guernsey. We created a space for the exchange of ideas, to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron. There is much in that book that all of us thought was objectionable in different measures.
But let’s be frank, the most offensive part of that book is the dehumanizing of the people on the island of Guernsey and the terrible treatment of the Todt workers. If we are going to highlight things about that book that are maddeningly offensive, it would be the way that the Nazis were ravaging the humanity of those people.
In our modern progressive culture, many of the founders of this group feel like our values and our very way of life are being assaulted on a regular basis. We believe in the power of stories to change and inform culture towards truth, goodness, and beauty.
When we sought to build the group, we first took it to prayer. We were uncertain as to whether or not we should build a group at all. We knew that names had power and so when several of us felt Guernsey pressed on our hearts in prayer, we felt led to build the group and then, a few weeks later, to open it up to friends of our friends.
In a small space of time, we moved past the 100 member mark. Always, the moderators have worked behind the scenes to preserve the culture of welcoming and respectful book based-friendship. God has been very merciful with us. Despite incredible unplanned growth, He continues to send new friends with sharp minds, good taste and a hunger for goodness into our little book club. We just celebrated our 1 year anniversary. How we got to over 1,000 members is a mystery to us. The take-away, however, is that Guernsey continues to represent what we stand for: human fellowship rooted in a shared love of stories. We have some moral standards which will not be compromised but we feel strongly that St. Augustine was right when he said that Truth is like a lion – it can defend itself if set free.
(There is an absolutely brilliant audio version of Guernsey if you are curious about the story.)