To fully grasp the import of this book review, you’re going to have to realize that I’m doing a little word-eating here. With relish. Back in September, I wrote about the emerging church wondering if it is a “self-described movement or a protest.” I still stand (one legged) on what I said in that post. However, in the meantime, I’ve completed McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christian. I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with Andy White’s review of it at servantblog.com when he said,
“I am not exaggerating when I say that it blew my mind. I thought my thinking was fairly well out of the box until I read this. It?s a very easy read, and there is not a single redundant page in the whole book. It is insightful, challenging, frightening, liberating and should probably carry an Advisory Warning that would probably read ‘This book will shake the foundations of your world.'”
It assuredly is an easy read, and I can’t think of a more helpful book for the Bible Belt Christian to pick up these days. Sure, it will make them think they’re a heretic – simply because most church attenders in our country think “being saved” is the end result of the Christian faith without realizing it’s just the beginning. Shamefully, we have tried to create a Gates-ian monopoly on God by getting ourselves “saved” and then leaving the rest of the world to itself. With our Christamericianity (I may have just come up with a great descriptor – if you find it somewhere else, it was original to me when I wrote it here…) we have endorsed boycots, political-religious activity, territorialism, and in-fighting… and we wonder why the public isn’t in love with our churches. There’s never been a greater interest in Jesus and a greater hatred of church at the same time.
So for all you church bubba’s out there. Go git you a copy of this here book and read it.
Who’s a bubba?
You are a bubba if you “accepted Jesus as your Savior” and just stopped there. It’s like the little girl who fell out of bed. When asked what happened, she replied, “I stayed to close to where I got in.” A perfect description of the adolescent Christianity that plagues our country. It’s not about the Messiah of the world and His Kingdom. Most Americanized Christians think Jesus is their personal Savior and that the church exists to serve them. You are a bubba if you’re not intentionally pursuing your own spiritual growth, service to your neighbor and your community, and the glory of God in this world.
Christian bubbas are illiterate. It’s not that they can’t read. It’s that they won’t. They prefer scooting across the surface of this life contenting themselves with trivia when the best and most glorious and most beautiful things of life escape their focus and attention. Their souls are shriveled and emaciated from a constant diet of entertainment. They know no connection to the ancient church, the saints of the past, the Christian martyrs around the world, or the passionate life in Christ. They are ignorantly content with superficiality. And they are deeply discontent with themselves but know not why. They need to read.. first of all Scripture, and then to start wading into the rich soil of the writings of ordinary Christ-followers who have recorded their experiences and can speak to what it means to follow Christ in this day and age. Those who don’t know their history are condemned to repeat it.
Quicksand of the soul
It is this quicksand of the soul and Christamericianity that A New Kind of Christian casts a lifeline to. It is a breath-taking book only insomuch as the reader has been dining on old shoes rather than gourmet meals. And that is exactly the taste of the trivialized and complacent church in our country today. There are blinding bright spots of God’s activity here and there, but on the whole, we are sinking fast and dining on what cannot satisfy. McLaren urges us to not just get out of the quicksand but to rise above the landscape and create a new worldview that is anchored in the Messiah and informed by His Word. In this fictionalized account of the spiritual journey of two unlikely friends – one a disenchanted pastor and the other a high school science teacher – McLaren weaves a compelling challenge to us all to reconnect with God by reconnecting with the peoples of the world. It’s not about creating Christian communities but about creating true Christian community.
For many, McLaren’s book will make you mad. It did me too at points. I’ve already written about that here, while I was still in the middle of the book. Yet, when our emotions are engaged, we end up processing things better and being forced to evaluate our own position. Others of you will finally find expression for the confusion and angst you’ve been thinking about church for a long time. “Ah! I’m not crazy!” will be your grateful reaction.
I’m reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy right now, and was delighted to find him saying, “I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before.” You’ll feel the same way as you get pulled out of your quicksand by reading this book.
Heck, Vern. Just go git you a copy of it and reed it for yo sef.