Before you read my review, let me give you my spiritual background: For the first 45 years of my life I identified myself as a faithful and dogmatic born-again Christian. During this time I read as many apologetics and other Christian literature that I could get my hands on (400-500 books)and listened to thousands of lectures and sermons on the truths of the fundamental religion. During this entire era, however, there were major tenets that failed to pass the 'common sense' test that I and most people live their lives by. Approximately 25 years ago I decided that it was time to put aside all my previous experiences, no longer see myself under the 'Christian tent', and to set off to find the 'truth of God'. This search has taken me through all other world religions, quantum physics, cosmology, metaphysics, philosophy, mathematics and a thorough review of the Bible. My life, I am sure, will end before this trek is completed. Because of these diverse dual backgrounds I, hopefully, can give a broader review of this book than most other readers.
Kinnaman preformed a very precise and accurate view of what is wrong with today's Christianity, but he did so from 'inside the walls of the convent'. Or more plainly stated, he did so through the eyes of a person fully committed to the current Christian mores. His views that the Christian religion is being viewed as homophobic, judgmental, hypocritical, close-minded, hostile to persons outside their circle, uninformed and shallow all ring true and are taking place outside of the convent walls in a growing manner. The lay person's concept of Christianity and how the church actually views itself lie in exact opposite directions. While the author's intentions are pure, based on his belief system, in his search for a way inwhich his church can become more relevant in our present world, his solutions seem very dogmatic and superficial in themselves. Instead of examining the potentially false or questionable beliefs that the church has inflicted upon the world, he, instead, reinforces that fact that the religion itself has no faults and, instead, it is only in the manner which it is being portrayed to the world that is wrong. In other words, if the church members would learn to 'sell' their beliefs in a more Christ-like manner, the world would suddenly crowd to their doorsteps. While Christian 'salesmenship' may, in fact, have become more "I-centered" than in past decades, this is only a small part of the reason that Christianity has lost its credibility.
My research over the past 25+ years has shown me that the major problems that the Christian church is now experiencing have very little to do with 'salesmenship' and far more to do with 'relevance'. Three decades ago the Christian church aligned itself with the Republican party and that under this agreement both groups would benefit; the Republicans would become elected because the Christians would turn out and, because of that, the Republicans, in turn, would actively deal with a handful of issues that the Moral Majority deemed critical. Those issues were abortion rights, disallowance of homosexuality in the political arena and the clear definition of life as beginning at the moment conception. These are the three issues that drove the faithful to the polls. It was done, on their sincere part, as a way of bringing Bible 'truths' to the civic arena. As history has now shown us, the Republican party, however, never had any intention of resolving these issues. For if they did they would, in turn, lose their immediate identification with the conservative Christians that elected them into office. In other words, if they had actively dealt with the Christian issues, the Christians would no longer be motivated to go to the voting booths for them; their problems would have already have been solved and they wouldn't need the Republicans any longer. Because of this allegiance with the Republicans over the years, however, the reputation of the Christians has become badly damaged from its association with the slander, corruption and lack of ethics that go with any political party. Any and all of the mistakes that the party has made, all of the war-mongering they have done and their failure to be the 'family-values' party has all come back and has been laid at the feet of the Christian leaders who put them in alliance with the party in the first place. The Republicans, because of this allegiance, did not become any more moral. The Christians, however, were now viewed as becoming more amoral.
Other reasons for the waning of the 'popularity' of Christianity with the younger generation is equally as far-reaching. Science has made great strides in expanding our knowledge of the physical universe around us over the past decade. For Christianity to not only ignore these findings, because they don't fit into their Biblical definitions of the world, but to mock them outright not only smacks of dogmatism but ignorance as well. Every creationist 'science' museum that is opened that professes the age of the earth as being 7K years old is ridiculed by anyone who has ever read a book beyond the level of "Dick and Jane". Each time the church promotes the existence of 'Satan' and fails to examine the psychosocial causes for the world's social problems proves themselves to be people who grab onto easy, fairy-tale like answers for very complex and deep-seated problems. The church's continued identity with the Republican party removes from them the concepts of anti-war, anti-poverty and social compassion which they have stood for over the ages. These are the concepts that this particular political party has always refused to deal and identify with. Everytime one of their religious leaders attacks a progressive politician simply because he/she is not conservative, they make a mockery out of their premise of being 'loving and compassionate Christians'. And lastly, each time they intimate that the problems of the world are caused by God being angry at only those persons who do not identify themselves as Christians, the antagonism that the rest of the world feels for these baseless and empty remarks increases geometrically (Katrina, 9/11 and the AIDS epidemic are current examples).
The author and other Christian leaders must come to realize that if the church's goals are that more and more people should come to believe in the 7 tenets of evangelicalism, I am afraid that they are doomed to failure. People are becoming much more well informed and that, unlike what the church wishes to think, is a very GOOD thing. For it is only with educated and clear thinking minds that people can reach objective decisions for their lives. Blind faith has historically proven to lead countless populations down blind allies and more soldiers have died under the banner of 'their God' than any other cause. Unless the Christian religion can alter its belief system to incorporate scientific facts as they innerrantly reveal themselves, the Christian church will go the way of the pope that imprisoned Copernicus for stating that the earth was not flat. The mere 10% of the American population who label themselves as being evangelical, born-again, fundamental Christians will never grow beyond this insignificant mark. It will never disappear altogether either for there will always be a group of people who refuse to examine facts that exist outside of their dogmatic belief system. "Faith in spite of facts" will always be their credo.
on November 30, 2008
After some time & thot I have been driven to delete my previous (unkind) review. The book does have some honest & necessary reminders for all Christians (& would be Christians too--if you care to read between some lines & use some God Given Wisdom).I have been reading another book by John Townsend & Henry Cloud about " SAFE PEOPLE ". Sobering read as well which gives me pause to think long & hard about how I view, recieve or respond to people (Xtian or otherwise) who do not necessarily have the exact take on philosophy, Religion or Ethical Behaviour I do. Worth getting a copy folks. Whether I agree or strongly disagree with a persons behaviour or belief systems ,I am STILL OBLIGATED TO GET ALONG ) live peacefully with all as much as is Possible ( Ro,12:18.) And again...2 Tim.2:24-26---NOT Quarrelsome,Gentle & able to teach,patient , in humility correcting those in opposition..that they make come to their senses & escape the snare of the devil (as from NKJV).One of your writers in UN-christian used a single word for what he really desires to see become a part of Christian methodolgy & walk...."TENDERHEARTEDNESS". Summarizes it completely. While I have Issues with many of the 'assumed' & often incorrect or tainted views of 'Babyboomers' I do FINALLY understand that out Sour Faced , Loud Voiced Provocativeness ( at times ) is Deadly Toxin & yields no(or precious little) Dialogue nor is effective in winning anyone. 'He that winneth souls is wise'. That is more than just buttonholing people in hopes of a quick convert.It is most certainly more than spending 5 or 10 minutes with someone & seeing no Change..to say to oneself ,well too bad ,did my best...outtahere. It is a LifeStyle backed up by Wise speech spoken in Love...Watered by Prayer & open to doing as Spirit directs one to do ( & sometimes not do). Thanks.