Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Review: Christianity for the Rest of Us

I approached Christianity for the Rest of Us with a great deal of hope. Over the past few decades I've found the public face of Christianity in America to be growing more and more one sided. It has seemed like only one particular brand of Christians have gotten their message in the media; and if we believe them, that theirs is only brand of Christianity that is correct, and that it is also the only one with any chance of growing. So I was eager to pick up a book promising that there is healthy, vital, thriving faith among Christians who don't fit the current mold.

Diana Butler Bass did deliver on this promise. I was inspired by the stories of some of the congregations reclaiming ancient Christian practices and being transformed. It was great to read of mainline congregations who are figuring out how to be church again and beginning to grow. But at the same time I was a bit dissapointed with Bass' approach. It was set up as an us against them polarization wherein she totally disregarded the contribution of conservative evangelicals to the kingdom of God. For too many pages she played the bully, tearing down the other in order to build herself up. Even though I consider myself to be fairly progressive, I found no need for her constant tactic of tearing down the evangelical megachurches. In my view, there is a need for each type of church, each type of Christian. We all have our own gifts and God brings them together to build up the kingdom.

If you pick up Christianity for the Rest of Us you'll find stories of hope for mainline churches. We can grow. We can thrive. And there are some congregations we can look to who set the example. The hope is there and it is real, you just might have to sort through a bit of Bass' hostility to find it.