February 18, 2020

Review: 10 Things I Hate About Christianity by Jason Berggren (and Some Thoughts On Post-Evangelical Voices in Christian Publishing)

A lot of people write me every year and they say “Why don’t you write a book?”

Honestly, no one would like to be a published author more than me. I am eaten up with envy toward friends like Jared Wilson, Trevin Wax and Travis Prinzi who have turned their studying/writing/preaching/blogging into books.

Bill Kinnon writes me once a month and asks me if I realize I have enough material on the IM web site for several books. I know, I know. But that’s exactly the problem: some kinds of writing simply don’t seem like they belong in a book. Or maybe that’s just my problem.

I think part of my problem is that I have a definition of a real book that has this bottom line: It’s more serious literature than a blog.

“I can’t believe you’re bad-mouthing blogging, Spencer. What a crass hypocrite.”

I know. I know. What’s even stranger is that I don’t think most of this process started with bloggers, though blogging has done a lot to promote and legitimize this kind of writing. (And I’m glad. Really.)

There’s plenty of blame to go around. Poets like Whitman. Preachers like Spurgeon. Authors like Keruac. All of them contributed to the voice that I’m hearing in dozens and dozens of books right now.

From the Christian publishing angle, I think the watershed was Don Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz. I still find it hilarious that seminaries like my alma mater had serious professors doing lectures on the dangers of Don Miller. (Of course, I have to remember that my denominational leadership has an irrational fear of bloggers.) Miller’s contribution wasn’t so much his ideas- and he had some good ones- as his voice; a voice perfectly suited to reflecting on evangelical experience in a subjective, “stream of consciousness” manner that disarmed the usual…yknow….usual in readers.

The result is this: we now have dozens and dozens of books appearing from almost every publisher that, in one way or another, parrot the perceived success of Blue Like Jazz. These books are multiplying throughout the Christian world, and they are evidence that publishers believe a market is opening up for the “Blue Like Jazz” audience: younger, hip, independent minded, tired of the spin, outside denominational categories, more political, focused on authenticity, questioning the….y’know…..usual.

Let me be clear: I like Blue Like Jazz very much and recommend it often, but we should be honest that it’s a very scattered, disorganized, rambling, subjective coffee-shop conversation of a book. AS A BOOK, it’s the end result of a devolution of what a successful Christian book should be about and the triumph of the idea of a lone voice finding authenticity within a lived experience, and transferring that experience to the page “as is.”

What does that voice sound like? It is not the voice of what “should” be said, but the voice of honesty. It is a voice that admits flaws, sometimes in shocking detail. It is a voice that almost exclusively uses personal experience for illustration. It is a voice that shares discoveries with the audience as the personal discoveries of the author. It is a voice of individuality and contrarianism. It is a voice that assumes solidarity with the audience over against a traditional and conformist establishment. It is a voice that admits struggle, doubt and disappointment in a Christianity of assumed answers.

I participate in this genre at times, and I appreciate it when it is well done. But I also have to wonder what is the meaning of the proliferation of these books? What is a proper evaluation of this voice in its various forms? What does this mean for the future of evangelicalism?

I believe these books represent a kind of window that has opened up in evangelicalism. We have moved from preachers and theologians writing books, to examplary Christian laypersons writing books to flawed and questioning Christians writing books creating a significant dialog with the idea of evangelicalism itself; a dialog where nothing is taken for granted, where significant affirmations are doubted, rejected or reframed, where deviations in evangelical behavior are celebrated and the public veneer of evangelicalism is replaced by the voice of lone Christian coming to affirm the faith on his/her own terms.

This is a kind of post-evangelical voice, and it is one that will surely set many traditional evangelicals on edge. Instead of passively taking in the answers from the home office, tradition and the consensus of preacherly wisdom, these voices are talking back and stating their own agenda. They are at war with “the usual,” and their eclectic, sometimes irritating voices are the most authenticity evangelicalism has allowed in a long time. Quality of writing aside, this is an important development in the presentation of Christianity. (Predictably, it’s universally lamented by the theological gate-keepers and their lap-dog fan boys, who universally find Miller and crew theologically inept, dangerous and off the ranch. If these finger waggers think Don Miller’s readers are going to trade up for David Wells, they are delusional.)

Most significantly, these new voices are stating the failures of evangelicalism plainly, and offering a new edition of the evangelical version of the faith; a version significantly more humble, personal and honest; a version that embraces its limitations. Oh no….it could be….postmodern. The virtues of evangelicalism remain, but these new voices are no longer buying or selling the hype. And of course, they are denounced by those who have decided they like the matrix just fine.

Taken together, it is easy to be cynical but the quality of these authors, to point out the low quality of what’s often on the page, to accuse everyone of cribbing from Don Miller, etc., but this would be the wrong conclusion. As far back as the original Wittenberg Door magazine and Steve Taylor’s music, these voices have been arising from evangelicalism. A tide is rising, and it’s not just a blip in the strategy of publishers trying to find another niche audience. These are real voices representing a real evangelicalism that we’re not supposed to be hearing from.

So a few words about Jason Berggren’s book, 10 Things I Hate About Christianity. It’s everything I’ve mentioned above. Berggren is a fine first-time author. His chapters are topically focused and a great balance between anecdote and teaching. If you enjoyed Blue Like Jazz and want something more specifically aimed at evangelicalism, you’ll find this to be an enjoyable book. There are no real knock out punches here like Miller’s “confession booth” story, but if you are a young adult taking a second look at the faith, Berggren will be talking exactly on your frequency.

Several things interest me about this book. One is Berggren’s own background as part of an early CCM group. This is an experience that appears everywhere in the book, and it’s no surprise to me that someone coming through that experience finds they have a lot of things to “hate” in their religious experience. CCM would be enough to disillusion John Piper.

In the same way, Berggren seems to have been on the “try all churches” all-star team. He currently attends Andy Stanley’s church, which is a real salute to Stanley, who has deeply impressed me with his ability to empower and affirm others in ministry. A church experience like Berggren’s would have me writing “hate” essays, too. (In fact, I probably have…more than once.)

Berggren admits to all sorts of doubts, failures, questions, manipulations, sins and misfires on his spiritual journey. I was impressed with his frank description of what has obviously been a struggle in marriage and vocation. By the “we read to know we’re not alone” test, many strugglers will know they aren’t alone if they read this book. When he suggests that we might not want to call ourselves Christians, even if we disagree, we’ll probably understand.

With all the honesty and occasionally shocking detail, Berggren’s essentially negative approach does have one drawback: I missed having one positive chapter about the Gospel. Don’t get me wrong; the Gospel is in every chapter as Berggren keeps on going in a faith journey that seems to overwhelm him at times. But the chosen approach of “What I have- at various times- hated about being a Christian,” doesn’t make it easy to see the Gospel’s centrality. Instead, I’m left- as I am with many of these books- with so much emphasis on the subjective struggles of the author that it’s sometimes hard to see the Gospel as it should be seen: the riveting center of everything in the Christian’s experience.

For that reason, I have to wonder if this book, unlike Miller’s, would be a good reader for an unbeliever unfamiliar with evangelical Christianity. In my view, probably not. But for a disillusioned or struggling young Christian, it is right on target.

We need voices like Berggren and Miller, and we need to understand and encourage the honest reporting we’re now getting from many Christian writers. But we need to keep in mind that the subjectivity of these writers are their strength and their weakness simultaneously. They can tell us how some Christians have navigated the wilderness, made it out of the circus and escaped being part of the upcoming collapse. But they are probably of limited value in presenting a full and clear picture of the Gospel to the lost, and while evangelicals need to hear one another’s stories, they also need to hear the Gospel as the power of God by which they are being saved.

Comments

  1. Thanks of another great book recommendation and great review. This one I think I will move up near the top of the list and hopefully get to as soon as I figure out Ulysses.

    The way I would say it, regarding Miller’s BLJ, that rather then being the watershed that he was one of the first to dip from it. I sense this watershed has been insidiously building for a couple of generations as the old Jesus Freaks of the 70s (like myself), the Moral Majorites of the 80s and the Mega Evangelicals of the 90s have softly gone to seed.

    There appears to be three streams from this watershed. 1) Simply leaving the faith for whatever is next . . . or perhaps for nothing. 2) Continue to fake it, pretending that you really do believe in the cultural dogmas of the Evangelical world or, like most of us here 3) knowing that something real and beautiful is there, but, pondering how to live honestly within it.

    While the traditional Evangelical approach has been to dole out balm without a diagnosis, (giving an answer before even hearing the questions in other words) Millers self-proclaimed purpose in BLJ was to pick the scabs without a balm (like Jazz, without resolution).

    I agree that it was the right book at the right time. But I do think it is time that we progress on to the next step of starting to formulate some resolutions without falling back into the trap of pretending to have certainty in everything. I hope that Jason’s book takes the next step.

  2. John from Down Under says

    LOVE-LOVE-LOVE your review of this book!!!! (Did I say how much I love it?)

    Right on target. Having detoxed from my addiction to head-on collisions with cyber-Calvinists, neo-Reformed (neo-deformed?), cyber-Pharisees and ODM’s (a euphemism for SADP – Self Appointed Doctrine Police), I have done the full circle to settle in the position you’ve described. Debating, exposing, identifying and sharing personal experiences of all the wrongs, is endless. We need the centrality of Christ and His gospel in sharp focus to keep on re-adjusting when we get unsettled.

    I see this echoed even in the OT, and yesterday funny enough I paused to reflect on Jer 1:10. When God commissioned him he told him that his task was to “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” The demolition derby’s end goal was to build and to plant not to leave the landscape full of debris. (I’m not sharing this because you haven’t figured it out, just ‘blogging out loud’)

    Brutal honesty IS refreshing, but we need the happy ending of the good news. The last book of the Bible makes Stephen King tales read like Winnie the Poo and yet it ends with God ‘living happily ever after’ with the redeemed in a new celestial estate. Without the good news at the end is like going to the doctor who spends hours testing and diagnosing you only to tell you ‘I have concluded that you are ill. Have a nice day’. What’s the remedy doc?

  3. When you are speaking about these authors, are you also including Emerging Church authors in this category like Bell, McLaren, and Pagitt??

  4. John:

    I have read one book by Bell, which was a survey of the Old Testament as interpreted by Christ. So I’m not familiar with anything else.

    Never read Padgit except one chapter in a multi-author volume.

    Mclaren is closer to these guys, but he really believes there are answers, which just happen to be identical to the answers of mainline liberalism. So 50/50.

    BLJ wasn’t about corporate, ecclesiastical or theological answers. I draw a line between evangelicals asking questions and trying a more authentic take on the faith, and emergers who have an agenda of a new kind of church.

    If you mean is Breggern emerging….No. He’s part of Andy Stanley’s church, Northpointe Community.

    Is MIller emerging? Probably, but his books aren’t really about the emerging church. They are just one guy talking about trying to be real and live this thing.

    ms

  5. John from Down Under says

    John, I have read a lot about those emergents but haven’t actually read any of their books.

  6. I must be one the remaining few who have not read Miller’s Blue Like Jazz.

  7. Michael,
    You write more words in coherent sentences with an actual flow to your thoughts than 90% of the Christian Publishing market and 98.7% of the blogosphere.

    Do me a favour. (Note the correct spelling of the last word in the previous sentence.) Read a page of one of the top selling Christian books – and then read four or five of your own paragraphs from any of your non-hyperventilating posts. 🙂

    Good grief, man. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. (See, you’d never use a shopworn cliché like that in your writing.) Write the &$%#) book, already.

  8. >…your non-hyperventilating posts.

    When I write one of those, I’ll do just that.

  9. joel hunter says

    I second Kinnon’s motion.

    Perhaps Kim Fabricius’ 10 propositions book would be a good model for the type of book that could be assembled from the material you’ve already written.

  10. I was thinking more of a novel: “Murder in the Blogosphere.”

  11. Michael,

    I’ll take the other side of the discussion and say “Don’t write a book.” Encouragement is one thing, but if you have to be prodded to do something, maybe deep down it’s not your thing.

    The fluid, dynamic writing you do here can’t be replicated in a book, and speaking for myself, I’d rather get a few minutes each day of a fresh topic than to slog through a book. A journey is much more interesting to experience while it is happening rather than in retrospect.

    Everything in life doesn’t lend itself to three sermon points or neatly arranged chapters of equal length.

    Regrettable things said in an old blog can be deleted from the archives – regrettable words in a book sitting in the half-off bin at Books-A-Million can’t.

    As for you envy of other writers: Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a “real” musician up in front of a crowd. Later in life I actually got to be in a professional duo with a musician I greatly admired (long story). You know what – I hated it, and after a year I quit. It just wasn’t for me, despite how much I thought it was.

  12. Re:”Murder in the Blogosphere.” Fiction does do better than non. You were thinking fiction, right?

    And not that I don’t disagree with Ed, whichever Ed it might be, but devices like the iPhone and Kindle 2 are the forerunners of the profound change that will take place in how books are “published”.

  13. “CCM would be enough to disillusion John Piper.” Ha! Now that’s a thought that’s going to fester…

    Michael, are you pointing to Miller because his was the first voice that was different – confessional stream of consciousness – or because his was the first in the genre to become a hit?

    I remember being frustrated with some of the tone coming out of the Christian literary circles when folks like Anne Lamott and Kathleen Norris were taking center stage, and that seems to have turned out alright. If Miller opened space for a lot of less skilled copycats, I think it’s encouraging that he may be in part responsible for making space for folks like Lauren Winner.

    And I’m with Bill. Write the book. Augustine modeled for us the gift that a richly textured theological reflection in the form of confessional autobiography can be. Somebody needs to demonstrate that postmodernism hasn’t sucked that ability out of us.

  14. I think he’s the first one to be clearly conservative evangelical in his original orientation. Lamott’s mainline liberal and beyond. Norris is PCUSA and leaning RC.

  15. imonk,
    How about writing a Christian romance novel set in the American West, or during the Civil War? You could have a whole series of these books, and in them the main characters could explore “deep” theological truths all while going through quasi-historical situations.

    The first one could involve a Southern Bell who breaks out of her cultural myopia and realizes that the South was “wrong”. She joins the underground railroad and meets a strapping Quaker blacksmith who, coincidentally, must remove his shirt for various reasons.

    Wait a minute!! That is the premise of most “Christian novels” out there.

    If you wanted to make some quick money you could just write a series of novels about the Amish. I can see the titles now; “The Shunning”,
    “Pennsylvania Passions”, “The Bishop’s Secret”
    “The Bridges of Lancaster County” and so on and so forth.

    Well,maybe you ought to go a different direction.

    But seriously, you are a talented writer, and I would enjoy a novel about murder in the blogosphere, but don’t get too sci-fi about it.

  16. Michael, I grow so weary of hearing about one more “hip and cool” book – written by a disillusioned, young believer, with a thimble’s worth of theological understanding, a heart filled with cynicism, and a belly filled with Star-Bucks – that disparages the traditional Church, the Gospel, and anything having to do with historical Christianity.

    I have read Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” and “Searching for God Knows What?” I thought both books were well written and winsome and made some exceptional points, while also, over and again, emphasizing the Gospel. On the other hand, books I read by Leonard Sweet, Doug Paggit, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and the like, seem to do nothing but sow seeds of Post-Evangelical cynicism, deconstructionism, and egalitarian idealism; while posturing a “European chic” that seems to stand above common criticism.

    You said that, “Poets like Whitman. Preachers like Spurgeon. Authors like Kerouac. All of them contributed to the voice that I’m hearing in dozens and dozens of books right now.”

    I agree. The collective emergent voice keeps producing makeshift theological monsters that resemble the Bride of Frankenstein, Holden Caufield, Augustine, and Pinky & The Brain, all rolled into one.

    “What are we going to do next Sunday Night Brain?” The same thing we do every Sunday Night Pinky? Try to deconstruct the World and the Church and anything having to do with Christianity! But first, let’s have a Venti Vanilla Bean Frappuccino Blended Creme with a double shot of espresso! Narf!”

    Though I have not read the book yet, I’m willing to bet that “10 Things I Hate About Christianity” is just one more installment in that convoluted genre.

    If you ever do write a book Michael, I pray that it will be a work written to build up the body of Christ, and not one more rock thrown from the inside of the church, at a stained glass window.

  17. piratemonk says

    Melton – Great Post.

    So often I’ve wanted to drive the mindless numbing coffee house malcontents out of the local starbucks with a horsebraided whip…but I digress.

    I am so weary of the buzz that the emergent, emergence, emergent church gets for essentially propagating an anarchist response to Christianity, or their experience with Christianity….

    Seriously now. If Mclaran spent more time concerned with Christ-centric thought and philosophical approaches to the problem I would have thing we wouldn’t have such a “movement”. [Mod edit]

    But to the book – I’ve been where Jason has been, cynical and hurt by “the church”. What is the take-a-way Jason wants us to have here? Is it anything more than, all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.. Was this book necessary or his need for self therapeutic exercise in his experience?

    I worry that the only answers that the mainline or for that matter “Christian booksellers” catch onto these days is some angry saint detailing their personal story of dissatisfaction and disillusionment, and I have to ask to what end?

    Why?

  18. Hear, hear, Melton!

  19. I also second Pirate’s comment–this genre is so narcissistic. At what other point over the last 2000 years have Christians made so much hay out of the “How-the-church-failed-ME” story? Give us a break already! And since when have emo-Christian whiners who cribbed the tired old lefty arguments against ‘organized religion’ get hailed as ‘a new voice’ or some other such by other Christians? I mean, what are we saying here? To be a ‘true’, ‘honest’, or ‘real’ Christian is to hate (however loosely) the church? Protestantism has come full circle, then: It kicked and clawed and fought to get itself a divorce from Rome, only to find itself hating its freedom from the same all the more. Sounds like Numbers 11:18-20 to me.

    When he suggests that we might not want to call ourselves Christians…

    Then please, Berggren: Don’t. Don’t claim to be at once a ‘little Christ’ and hate His body, however weak, scandal-ridden, and buffoonish it might seem, because He does take it personally, you know–Acts 9:3 and all that.

  20. >…“How-the-church-failed-ME” story?

    I never characterized the book this way and wouldn’t. It would be much more of a “How I’m not much of a Christian” story.

    I do agree that the “Hate” word creates an unnecessary mountain to climb.

    I’m not as adverse to calling ourselves Jesus followers, etc. since scripture doesn’t require us to call ourselves anything. Why aren’t all your churches called “the Way?”

    I think the emergent bashing has gone far enough. When I have to edit fecal metaphors, it’s not much of a discussion. It’s name calling.

    Breggern never calls himself emerging or gets anywhere near that term. He’s in Andy Stanley’s church, which would be Purpose Driven if anything.

    Younger evangelicals are evangelicals too, guys. Railing at people who aren’t as comfortable as you isn’t the recommended treatment of a brother. Breggern’s story examines how Christianity is difficult, but God works with us to make even the most unlikely part of the body.

    This isn’t Mclaren or the other guys you are scolding. Don’t tag the guy with those labels.

    ms

  21. The other side, or at least one other side, of this general “flavor” of books that some here classify as “emergent Starbucks whining” is another set of books that claim to identify flaws in the church, but are still clearly written with a more traditional evangelical institutional mindset.

    I’ll give you two examples: Craig Groeschel’s “Confessions of a Pastor” and Erwin McManus’ “The Barbarian Way.” Both written by pastors (or cultural architects or whatever) of very successful evangelical churches.

    The former sets up the reader to think that he’s going to admit a series of faults or deep-seeded thoughts that perhaps many pastors can relate to, but instead spends a little time doing that in each chapter, then moving to a quick resolution using scripture and trying to find a tidy evangelical teaching moment. In a chapter purporting to deal with the difficulty of unanswered prayer, he tells a story of praying over his air conditioner and getting it to magically work again. Right.

    The latter sets up the reader to be a call for Christians to act out of their comfort zones and reclaim Jesus’ original “barbaric” way of acting out one’s faith regardless of consequences and status and regard for comfort. So while one may expect something more along the lines of Shane Claiborne, going to the least and disenfranchised, we get stories about jet-skiing. Following Jesus is like engaging in x-treme sports. How’s that for attempting to be cool and hip?

    So for every “bellyaching liberal layperson” type book, there are also many feigned-understanding poser-pastor type books attempting to jump on the bandwagon but ultimately missing the point. I’d personally prefer the former, because I sense more authenticity from them.

  22. I agree wholeheartedly with Bill. I also am a Jeus Freak, Jesus Movement convert from the early 70’s. So, Michael, write the…….book. Please!

  23. Im — First do the reality show.

  24. Michael –

    Funny thing is that, when I first started reading this article and hearing your desire to publish and, then, hearing you share that people were encouraging you to take your blogging material to formulate a book, I thought that would work. The reason why I thought that would work? Blue Like Jazz popped into my mind. More and more books coming out in the past years read like a blog, or a journal. Short sections of 2 or 3 pages, and everything is not necessarily connected. I am not saying that’s bad, all I am saying is that you could take 100 of your best articles and string them together in a book and have it published. Or you could spend a little time taking 10 or so articles and, then, using them to build on and create a book.

    Anyways, you don’t need my encouragement to publish a book. But, if He is the one truly stirring it in you, then it is worth considering.

    Thanks for your thoughts each day.

  25. Jeff, thanks for your reply. For evey book expressing criticisms of some form of Christianity theres an equal amount of people firing back with their own whinges at the book . . . I guess thats physics for you. . .

  26. Melton,

    I was sitting in Starbucks, sipping my soy mocha and trying to read your post, but it was difficult with the small font of my Blackberry.

    I agree with some of your concerns, but, where do you find the balance between the traditional church (small c) conformists . . . “my Church right or wrong because that’s the way God ordained it” . . . mentality and the anarchist or the Caulfield types who walk the streets with their hands in their pockets calling everyone a phony and a sonovabitch?

    I agree that deconstruction for the sake of deconstruction doesn’t help Christ’s body nor does cynicism for cynicism’s sake. But where doe the reformers come in? Those who look at problem and say, “There must be a better way” then seek to create that better way? I am concerned about some aspects of the emerging church movement and the baby has gone out with the water.

    It was the religious conformist that Jesus drove from the temple with a whip not the anarchist.

    And ditto Michael, there’s enough material for sever books in your writing.

  27. cey,

    Love it! My wife has read those books! But Michael, you should totally do the sci-fi version, kinda a 21st-century allegorized version similar to “Out of the Silent Planet”. Maybe “Out of the Silent Megachurch”? Complete with cute, fuzzy little emergents living in a utopian but primitive culture, and TR’s flying around in X-wing fighters. zzzzZZZAP!

    In my little corner of Christendom, nobody’s ever even heard of any of the malcontented laymen, or of an emerging church (except maybe a couple of indy pastors), so this is all a bit of an eye-opener, hanging out here. I can just see what would happen if I tried to have a serious discussion on these topics in my church… To give you the idea, last Sunday the pastor used a literal chainsaw in his sermon to cut down a little dead tree, to show us what God will do to those who don’t TITHE! I exaggerate not. Wish I had it on video.

    Maybe I should write a whinybook…

  28. Yes, I said “whinybook”. I’m wordsmithing, here. In fact, since I said it first, maybe I should copyright it… Accent is on the first syllable, BTW.

  29. Hmmmm.

    “Evangelicalism is just fine. Stop the criticism.” vs “Evangelicalism is waning and threw a bunch of unnecessary obstacles into my faith journey.”

    “Trendy postmodern coffee bar critics” vs “Staunch conservative theology defenders”!

    Who will win? I’m on the edge of my seat.

  30. Mr. T,
    “Who will win” and who will just walk away shaking their heads. Too many people are willing to die on the field of their pet opinions.

  31. Anyone want to know what Jesus has to say about all this …? Matthew 11:28

  32. iMonk,

    This review brings two thoughts to mind:

    1. This was a phenomenal essay/review and you have stated your ideas with great clarity. Let me be one more voice to say PLEASE WRITE A BOOK! With the popularity of this website I would assume some publishers would be knocking at your door. If not, they definitely should be.

    2. This past Sunday, just for kicks, I attended a Greek Orthodox service here in St. Louis. It is so vastly different from the typical evangelical worship scene that most people would be shell-shocked. (I was too, a bit.) What I really appreciate about the Orthodox tradition is that it hasn’t changed in a long, long time. (Or at least, it hasn’t changed very much.) Evangelical Christianity is constantly searching for the new, the hip, the cutting edge, especially in worship. I sense in these “postmodern” authors a real fatigue with a Christianity that is always swaying with the culture. It’s neat going into an Orthodox service and experiencing the liturgy of John Chrysostom as it has been done for a very long time. It’s refreshing to have a tradition that is rock solid and unchanging. This is both a strength and a weakness, I suppose, but there is an undeniable longing for this kind of depth in evangelicalism these days. You have touched on this theme many times over the years.

    Thanks for the great essay.

  33. BLD, you aren’t alone. I haven’t read Blue Like Jazz, either. Or The Shack.

  34. Thanks for the review and dialogue. Good writing.

    You should write a book!

  35. Mikee,
    For what it is worth. I totally agree with your criticism of Blue Like Jazz, regarding it’s scattered unorganized approach, that being said, I believe one of the reasons that it works is because it is uniquely authentic. You are a very smart guy and I don’t need to say this to you, so lets put it in the form of encouragement. One of the things that comes across in your writing is your authenticity, it is a breath of fresh air. I believe you do have things to say that matter to people. I am not a prophet, nor do I play one on TV, but I really do think you will find a way to express yourself in book form if you can find a way to reduce the amount of work you do. Face it, you are a very busy guy, but if you arrive at the place in your life where you could have time devoted to writing, I think great things could take place.
    But what do I know.
    Mike

  36. After having read the article on the web “More Americans say they have no religion,” which is about more Americans not being members of organized religious groups, it is my opinion that, no matter how many books are written on the subject, religion is a dying enterprise. I stress the word enterprise because, let us face it, religion is a business.

    And, having experienced first-hand the horrible effects of our present economic predicament (I believe it is a depression and not a recession as many lead us to believe), I feel that religious organizations should start paying their fair share of income taxes. I believe that the current system is outdated and, frankly, unfair. Please entertain and promote this idea. If you do, you will be contributing to a better and more fair America where everybody pays their dues.

    Who knows? Maybe you can write a book on this very subject as well.

  37. Marvin Destin says

    I live in the belly of the hedonistic liberal beast. San Francisco, California. The hostility here for Christianity and Catholicism is substantial, tangible and intense. And as the bomb scare at my church recently demonstrated, real and worse, growing exponentially. The local newspaper printed the names and addresses of people, who donated to prop 8.

    I find much of your post very true and accurate. At the same time I find it somewhat understated and self centered.

    Recently I engaged in a political discussion list in debate on Prop 8. I was startled to discover that rational arguments, many of which included very old traditional concepts found in the Baltimore Catechism literally labeled as “evil”. Veiled threats accompanied the labeling.

    At first I was basically incredulous because the concepts I was putting forth in the discussion were so old and had been in the public square for at least the last 50 years. I was shocked to realize that something really important has changed in the culture. And its very biblical. Sin is good. If one can even bring the term itself up. And that is what has really happened. You cant. You can not assert that such a thing a sin exists.

    The Marxist paradigm has emerged which includes what is called “jamming” ie the total suppression of any speech or ideas that the left doesnt like. This is taking many forms.

    As such while I couldnt agree more with your suggestion that Christians are threatened and need to reconnect with the conceptual underpinnings and “technical” infrastructure of Christianity itself in the interest of defending our Faith and the practice of it, there is more we must do.

    The enemies of our Faith have done what? They have exploited legal channels to go after those who practice Faith on several bases and they do this on a micro level so as to bwring legal and financial powere to bear against individual people at a million diferent places in our country if not the world. 1st Amendment powers to enable their basis. The Establishment clause to mutate its interpretation to exclude the meaning of the “free expression” of faith while they mutated the part that prevents the Government from “establishing” a religion.

    Christians somehow expect their Church to fight FOR them. But our enemies have already cut off this path by on the one hand claiming that the issue is a political issue and therefore Churches have no standing. Very cunning. Pro-Atheist judges have upheld this tactic.

    In short we need to do what our enemies have done. We need a well funded and very aggressive SECULAR legal entity like the ACLU that has the money the ACLU has to fight all the micro battles like the ACLU has.

    When some atheist sues to take down a cross on a far away hill thats “offending” them,that has been there for decades, we need to sue that individual personally because they are offending our rights. That is the dynamic. Individuals cant withstand legal battles. The offended atheist has the ACLU. The student prevented from saying Jesus Christ at their valedictory speech has no one. That is the dynamic of this cultural war. We need to take legal action on a far greater scale than we have been.

    If the concept of someone being offended is grounds for a lawsuit then we have to take the things that violate OUR rights to free expression and have the wherewithall to sue them back.

    The ONLY reason we are where we are is not failure of people to know enough scripture. We are up against far nore than our inability to discuss the technical nature of our Faith and respective congregational dogma.We are not up against a battle for faith legitimacy. We are up against a remorseless foe who will constantly change the grounds of their argument to make it very difficult to react to any specific avenue they take.

    You are forgetting we are not up against other people. Liberalism is the instrument of Satan.

  38. Anybody care to explain to the uninitiated what a CCM group IS and why it would disillusion anyone?

    “Several things interest me about this book. One is Berggren’s own background as part of an early CCM group. This is an experience that appears everywhere in the book, and it’s no surprise to me that someone coming through that experience finds they have a lot of things to “hate” in their religious experience. CCM would be enough to disillusion John Piper.”

  39. Contemporary Christian Music.

  40. Thank you. I detest acronyms.