I recently came across a program called Booksneeze, where free books are exchanged for blogged reviews. While I know that many people who read my blog may not be interested in reading a book review, some of you may be. And honestly, I can't resist free books.
Once I signed up, I found that the options were fairly limited--most of the available books were of the "spiritual growth" variety, and that honestly is not my cup of tea. I tend to be more of a sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian novel kind of girl. If I want spiritual growth (which I do) I read my Bible. But I decided to give it a go anyway. I chose to read the book, "Neighbors and Wise Men--Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places" by Tony Kriz.
The book is about the spiritual journey of a man who is discovering what it means to have faith and follow Jesus, and how those revelations can come from very unexpected places. From Albanian Muslims to super liberal college students in Portland, Oregon, he documents the ways that God has spoken to him through people who would seem to be against everything he believes in.
His style of writing is charismatic and draws you in--I read the whole book in two days. It's not sappy or full of "Christianese" which I really appreciated. His experiences (if not his reactions) were things I could personally relate to. I have lived as a missionary, been to Bible college, and been to secular college, and I know what it is to feel super righteous and also like I've lost touch with all I'm supposed to believe in. Reading about his journey made me laugh out loud and cry and feel the need to meet the author so I could give him a good fist bump.
While I certainly had a positive emotional reaction to this book, there were a lot of things I had to disagree with on an intellectual and spiritual level.
Let me preface this by saying that I believe in a God with whom all things are possible. If He wants to teach me something, or reveal something to me, I know He can do it in whatever way He chooses. I have no problem with learning a lesson about God or myself from an unexpected place. There have been times when the words of a Jehovah's Witness have spurred me to go read my Bible and find out where exactly it says in the Bible that the Trinity is real. Did the Jehovah's Witness speak truth about the Bible? No. But it forced me to figure out what exactly I believe and that was what produced spiritual growth in me. So in that way, yes--I have learned about the Lord by way of an unbeliever. But I would hope that I would have made an impact on them as well. In this book, Tony Kriz speaks a lot about the spiritual impact various unbelieving people had on him, but there's not a lot about what kind of impact he had on them.
In the Old Testament, Abraham kept himself separated from the vices and immorality of the world, while his nephew Lot made his home right in the midst of those people. The result was that Lot, being so at home with immoral people, lost all his influence for good. His reputation among those people was ruined. Tony Kriz likewise admits that there were quite a few people over the years who asked him to step down from his positions of leadership because of the fact that his methods or attitudes were pretty unbiblical. I guess my main beef is that while I too to want to live like Jesus, to love people and serve them, to be generous and not view unbelievers as beneath believers, I can't reconcile the idea of claiming to follow Jesus while not following His word. It just doesn't compute.
But as I said, it is a beautifully written, approachable book. There were so many things in it that struck a chord with me and caused me to evaluate my love for others. For that reason alone I will say that I loved this book. I don't love the sort of mushy emergent downplaying of the word of God, but I love the honesty of his journey and the fact that he doesn't claim to have it all together yet.