BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Stealth fundie spew ...

This is one of those books that I "won" over in's "Early Reviewer" program. I was, frankly, surprised when this showed up, as it was fourteen months late, having been a May 2009 selection that did not show up until July 2010. They really shouldn't have bothered. All the info on the book made it sound like it was a Christian struggling with various obvious "issues" one might have with Christianity, but it really is simply a bible-thumping evangelical using these "sore points" to flog bible quotes on the unsuspecting reader. There has been several instances where Fundie presses like Howard Books have "snuck into" the LTER listings with "secular" descriptions ... I'm disappointed that Simon & Schuster (who recently acquired Howard) would allow this sort of deceit, as it reflects very badly on the whole corporation.

Anyway, fundamentalist preacher Ed Gungor's What Bothers Me Most about Christianity: Honest Reflections from an Open-Minded Christ Follower is hardly what somebody from outside the glassy-eyed flock would consider "honest reflections" ... the description given to LTER readers led with this: "with candor, reason, and humor, Gungor addresses ten tough issues of Christianity", except that he really doesn't. This is less what bothers him most about Christianity and more him struggling with points of history, doctrine, or behavior for which he doesn't have easy answers. At NO point does he allow consideration that the Bible is not the inerrant Word Of God, so what is really "bothering" him is that there are a lot of things which require excessive amounts of mental convolution to fit in with approved doctrine. On many levels this book reminds me of the "trolls" on-line who sweep into variously un-related chat rooms, spew something about biblical inerrancy and then proceed to "witness" until banned. While reading this book I was frequently wishing I had an eject/ban button to use on Rev. Gungor!

So, you want to know what "bothers" him about Christianity? Here's the list:
                    "It bothers me that God is intentionally hiding."
                    "It bothers me that reason alone doesn't lead to faith."
                    "It bothers me that God allows evil in the world."
                    "It bothers me that Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God."
                    "It bothers me that science and faith sometimes seem incompatible."
                    "It bothers me that so many Christians give Christianity a bad name."
                    "It bothers me that Gods looks like such a bully in the Old Testament."
                    "It bothers me that believers consistently misuse sacred text."
                    "It bothers me that the Christian faith includes a hell."
I don't suppose it would surprise anybody that he manages to perform enough convolutions and cherry-pick enough quotations to finally justify these all to some degree of (his) satisfaction, no matter how recursive and/or "convenient" that justification might be.

I will credit Rev. Gungor with at least raising certain issues, if to only to eventually smother them. I'm sure that within the author's flock, even admitting to these questions being "issues" is "edgy" bordering on "dangerous". He even, from time to time, comes up with perfectly lucid commentary such as:
Christian leaders began to justify using torture to keep heretics from gaining influence in the church. A heretic was anyone who held a theological or religious opinion or doctrine that was contrary to the orthodox doctrine of Christianity. This was extended to include opinions about philosophy, politics, science, art, and the like.


the Bible should come with a warning label slapped on its cover: "If you are already kind of nuts, this book will only make things worse"
One actually useful concept he uses here is what he calls "Blueblockers" (named for the as-seen-on-TV sunglasses that he used to wear which caused him to have a hard time perceiving color differences), which he then spins out to how so many people interpret biblical injunctions in terms of their cultural biases. As telling as this is in the examples that he gives, he is never able or willing to take the next step and look askance at the Bible itself ... in each of the chapters he ends with a barrage of justification that pretty much says "oh, it's OK", no matter how offensive the "bothersome" subject was.

Again, I'm very likely NOT the audience for which this book was intended (despite its publisher sneaking it into the LTER), I'm sure that this would be a "challenging" (bordering on titillating for positing "dangerous ideas") read for the sorts of Christians whose faith is a string of fairy-tale platitudes bolstered by reinforcing group-think ... sort of a roller-coaster ride that toyed with heresy but brought everybody back safely away from the hazards of questioning at the end. As noted above, this is more about being bothered that the author doesn't have easy answers to this string of quite valid questions (which he at times, as in the science vs. religion section, can't even frame accurately) and he ends up weaving a toddler's blankie of biblical quotations that's just enough to get everybody back to sleep.

Needless to say, I wouldn't recommend this to anybody outside of the Fundamentalist/Evangelical camp. If you have functioning rational mentation, this religious contortionist side-show will only serve to irritate ... however, if you have relatives of the "What about the BABY JESUS?!" ilk, this would make a lovely gift, one which might just seed some REAL questions! To this end, I'll note that Amazon has a "bargain price" edition at 80% off of cover, which would be your best bet for picking this up.

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Tags: book review
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