Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lord Save Us from Your Followers: Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing Society? by Dan Merchant

This book is the companion to a film made by the author (naturally, I haven't seen it). Merchant interviews Al Franken, Rick Santorum, and numerous random people on the streets about Christianity and politics in American society. As expressed in the subtitle, Merchant wonders how so many Christians have strayed from or even inverted what Jesus taught*, and he wonders how to change that.

Toward the end of the book, he tries to make amends for the damage religion has done and puts his faith into action. First he confronts church mistreatment of gays by setting up a confession booth at Gay Pride Northwest. Like in Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz**, Merchant isn't accepting confessions—he is confessing the sins of Christians against the GLBT community and apologizing. Then he helps a church group that feeds the poor and washes their feet as Jesus would do—not preaching to them, just helping them.

This book turned out to be much more Christian than I expected, but that actually made it better.*** Anyone can point fingers at another group, but to acknowledge one's own failures within that group is much more difficult and more interesting. So even though it wasn't what I expected, I enjoyed Lord Save Us from Your Followers.

* Most incredible to me is the "prosperity gospel" which basically says people get rich because God rewards them for being good, which is pretty much the opposite of the whole "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" thing.

** Merchant fully credits Miller and his friend Tony Kriz (Merchant interviews Kriz about it) for the idea. In Blue Like Jazz, the two set up a confession booth at Reed College, a school with a secular reputation, and confessed to those who entered. I read that book a few years ago and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

*** I guess I didn't read too closely in the bookstore. My excuse is that the book cost me only 50 cents in the Half Price Books clearance section.

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