I know the cover says the title is, “Onward,” but that is not the correct title. The entire book is about how we should not be trying to make Christianity a part of normal culture, that we should embrace our strangeness….and then they titled it off the last word in the book. Wrong choice.
I think we talked about this a long while ago, but Christian book stores are dying fast, too fast if you ask me. I don’t think people are buying less Christian stuff, I just think that this particular market is being clobbered by Amazon. I got this book from a store that was closing over by Arrowhead Mall. I have a book buying compulsion and mix that with a clearance sale and I might as well just give them my wallet and walk away. This is one such book that I picked up.
This book caught my attention because of our podcast. We want to engage culture as Christians and I was looking for tools to do that. This book is not that. In all honesty, if I’d just tried even a little, I would have see that. This book is less about tools for engaging culture and more of a response to the current culture. I split this book into two major parts: The Church and The World
The first five chapters address the Church. The shocking statement at the beginning to grab your attention is that the author hopes the Bible Belt falls. After we are all thoroughly shocked by this Southern Baptist in the Bible Belt saying this, he compares what the Church of the Bible Belt is to what the Church should be. For Example, Christians should consider themselves citizens of Heaven before their considerations as citizens to a country, and further to a political party. He goes on to discuss how the Church should not be trying to mirror popular culture by making rap songs about how cool chastity is. The last section he addresses the animosity between people. The mission of the Church is people. You can’t forsake them because they vote red or blue.
Please note that I am speaking in broad strokes. I just summarized over 100 pages in a few sentences there. The main lesson I took from this part of the book is that we have to be authentic, true to our selves as Christians. The more we try to make the Church like the world so she will fit in and be more acceptable, the greater disservice we do to her. She is beautiful and lovely and totally crazy pants. If you think about it. This faith believes that God bound himself to mankind, died, and rose after three days giving those who believe everlasting life. That’s not the poetics of Ecclesiastes. That is the meat and potatoes. We are a strange bunch and we should embrace that.
The second part of the book is address the topics where popular culture and Christian culture clash. For example, abortion, family values, religious liberty, etc. These use to all be social topics, but we have ingrained politics into all of the social issues that this book can feel like more of a political book than it really is. I’m not going to go into all of his points on the topics because they are not new perspectives. He is a conservative Christian and has those values.
This second part is where I finally got into the book a bit more. The first part bored me a bit because I know my Bible pretty well and it was mostly stuff I agreed with. It was necessary to lay out though because it was the framework from which he was addressing these topics. If the first five chapters would not have been established, these chapters would have came across as another bigot hating everyone. These topics are very difficult to navigate. I find that there is so much passion behind these topics that if someone is caught wavering from uncertainty of any kind, they are pounced on. What I liked about this book is that he points out that both the Christians and the Culture pounce on people.
Overall, this is more of a general read, a beginners book to being a Christian in today’s’ world. This isn’t an overly theological or political book. If you are someone who doesn’t quite have a firm foothold on their stance as a Christian, I think this would be a good start. I believe that after reading this book though, it would be necessary to do additional reading, or have meaningful conversations on the Traditions and really find out why you have taken your stance. I think it is okay to embrace the strangeness of Christianity and there is freedom in that. There is also, to the surprise of most, a lot of respect for conviction that operates from a place of love.
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