Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Being "UnChristian" Yet "Crazy for God"



When I get a little money, I buy books;and if any is left, I buy food and clothes. ~ Desiderius Erasmus 1466-1536

And this has been me over the past week. I plunked down cash for two new books, “unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters” by David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons, and “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back” by Frank Schaeffer. Both of these books would be found in the “Christian” category of Barnes & Noble, but actually flips the conventional Evangelical view of the world on its head.

“unChristian” polls thousands of nonbelievers (atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, etc), with special emphasis on people between the ages of 16-29, to find out how they view adherents of our faith. The results? Overwhelmingly negative. While this is no shocker, what was surprising for me as a Christian reader is just how negatively we are viewed. Christians are homophobic, hypocritical, too disconnected and not spiritual enough. Unfortunately, as someone on the inside, I could relate to some of the “outsiders” complaints. And it’s not just me who feels some negativity towards my own faith; quite a few of my fellow young Christians also feel some ambivalence towards today’s Christianity. While my view of Jesus has never faltered, I have been quite put off a number of times by other Christ followers.

The book doesn’t just provide poll numbers, though. It gives responses from a number of today’s highly influential Christian leaders, like Rick Warren, giving advice on how we can stay relevant, reach the “outsiders” (who, by the way, are composed of many ex-Christians) and stay faithful to the Word of God. I’m not finished with it yet, but it is definitely a great read.

Yesterday, I spent two hours devouring “Crazy for God”, Schaeffer’s warts and all tale of growing up in the famous (in evangelical circles, at least) Schaeffer clan, headed by dad Francis and mother Edith. Frank doesn’t mince words in revealing his father’s abusive ways, his mother’s controlling ways, and his own personal voyage as a rebellious teen-cum abortion fighter-cum Independent/Obama supporter with leftist leanings. While some have labeled him a traitor, he comes off more as searching for a peaceful median in which to live his life. And speaking as someone who went through an overly religious childhood, I can understand. Is it a good idea to mix religion with politics? Does being a Christian mean aligning yourself with a particular political party? Are we truly being “pro-life” if we only fight for the unborn and don’t support those who are here now? What are the motivations of many of today’s most powerful Evangelical leaders, like Pat Robertson and James Dobson? I believe someone can totally disagree with Schaeffer’s criticisms of the Religious Right, but still get a lot from this book. Perhaps, especially in light of the findings listed in “unchristian”, it is well past time born again Christians take time to re-evaluate what we believe, how we behave, and why. Our light to the world appears to be growing dimmer, especially to the youth.

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