While in many ways I occupy a different space on the theological spectrum and I come from a much different church background- I share in common with Becky Garrison, the author of ‘Jesus Died For This?’, a holy discontent with the state of our collective Christian culture. This discontent is an unsettling suspicion that maybe we are not as mature in our Christian discipleship (in our following of Jesus) as we think we are- a realization that can bring both uncontrollable laughter and bitter, inconsolable tears.
In her book ‘Jesus Died For This? A Satirist’s Search For the Risen Christ‘, Garrison weaves an intensely personal narrative through a veritable holy tour of the modern and post-modern Christian world- but this is no solemn pilgrimage. Becky is armed to the teeth for this journey with the sharp wit and sarcasm of a prophetic holy fool who in the flurry of humor disarms our religious illusions and calls us out into an authentic, embodied pursuit of Jesus.
She starts the book off with a tone that she carries throughout – it’s the voice of the spiritual refuge laughing and weeping in search of home- it’s the voice of one who has learned of grace and in turn the need for brutal honesty- and therein lies the force of Garrison’s humor:
“Although I possess this inborn hunger to connect with the Jesus whom I encounter in the Gospels, I often wonder if he’s truly present when Christians gather together in his name. Are we really trying to put his teachings into practice or playing the Sunday morning God game? Watching the Christian cliques gather- the holy hipsters, the Promise Keeper/Suitable Helper couples who put Ken and Barbie to shame, the prayerful powerbrokers who keep the minister and the church coffers on a tight leash- reminds me that I’m not the “right” kind of Christian…
…Then again, take a good look at Jesus’ crew. They were the unclean, the unchosen, the unloved- the very people discarded by the religious establishment. What a bunch of missional misfits. No way would they be allowed to play on most Christian teams.
Here’s what I don’t get: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection turned his followers’ lives upside down. So if those disciples were willing to give up everything they had, including their lives, to follow Jesus, then why are many Christians, myself included, such misguided messes? In the words of Mike Yaconelli, the founder of The Wittenburg Door and my first editor, “What happened to the category-smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional gospel that through the first century spread like wildfire and was considered (by those in power) dangerous?…” (p.11)
“Ever wonder what Jesus thinks when Christians pretend to glorify his name while placing themselves in the center ring? Does he ever turn to his dad and go, “I died for this?” (p.12)
This book is wonderfully offensive to all shades and flavors of Christian faith. There is a bit of a gut-punch in their for all of us. And if we’re willing to leave our self-righteousness and pseudo-piety behind we will discover that there is indeed a promised land for those of us who are willing to look in the mirror, laugh at ourselves and strike out like the author did- on a soul-searching journey towards the risen Jesus.
(Editor’s Note- Disclosure: Sustainable Traditions receives free review books including the book reviewed above. SustainableTraditions.com is an independent website free to express opinions and reviews unhindered by any contractual requirements to any publishers or organizations.)
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