Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Churched: A book review

Like a lot of people, I grew up in a church environment that was dysfunctional. Naturally, a dysfunctional church is comprised of a lot of dysfunctional people. And the church of my youth had a significant impact on the development of my worldview and my relationship to God.

So when I received the offer to review a book with the subtitle "One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess", my interest was piqued. Churched is a collection of essays about growing up in the tangled labyrinth of the fundamentalist church culture. The author picks several quirky fundamentalist practices (fire and brimstone preaching, the broad brush condemnation of all cultural influences, etc.) and flamboyant personalities (the fire and brimstone pastor, the over zealous Sunday School teacher, etc.) to explore in a David Sedaris-like manner.

The author does a decent job of describing the basic fundy shortcomings. The reader comes away feeling like that Ned Flanders would have felt right at home at the author's church. And I imagine that most people that grew up in a strict, tradition-oriented church will be able to relate to many of his experiences.

But I never got to the part of the book where the there was anything more than a critique of a bad church. It takes very little courage to take shots at any church. It requires great courage to help people get past their bad church experiences. In the end, Churched fails to provide any hope beyond the cynicism. There is no mention of the Gospel or the Risen Saviour that the author's church clearly was missing. And absent the "journey towards God", the book simply leaves you with a front row seat to watch another person's "holy mess".

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