Post-Christian: What’s Left, Can We Fix It, Do We Care? By Christian Piatt
Challenging traditional orthodoxy and the viability of the church, Christian Piatt brings a message of hope to his readers in his new book, Post-Christian. I had a quite visceral and painful reaction to the book after I first read through its contents, but after going back through its pages, I appreciate much Christian has to say in the book. The main thrust of Christian’s argument will certainly ‘piss you off’ but it also is supposed to bring ‘hope, love, and inspiration,’ not forcing our hand to go to church but causing us to lead lives of importance in following after Jesus.
Christian raises some very provocative and telling questions in the first chapter entitled The Gospel According to Kerouac. After spending some time critiquing how our society is ever so hungry for meaning and tries to avoid loneliness through technology, he writes, “For decades, evangelists in our culture have sold Jesus as the solution to this hunger, and that by accepting him into our hearts, we will no longer experience such longing. But this is a false message. Truly, fully embracing the teaching and values of Jesus at the core of our lives causes us to be perpetually restless; discontent with things as they are” (23). Hungering for meaning, for a life worth living is not the problem, it is the way we deal with our restlessness that is the issue at hand. Maintaining our churches for the sake of promoting the way we’ve always done things eliminates the radical call of kingdom living. Gospel living is risky because we know that ‘God’s spirit is wild, chaotic, and even a little bit dangerous’ (25).
In the chapters 3 and 4, Christian goes after the doctrines of God’s sovereignty, election and propositional truth. In speaking about God’s sovereignty, Christian writes, “Any number of natural disasters are attributed to the wrath of God, and in most cases, the ones suffering the brunt of that divine judgment happen to be the same ones particular Christians who maintain this image of God condemn as falling short of God’s expectations” (34). Now, there were a few Christian media personalities who blame these disasters on God’s wrath and sin of humanity, but this is not the normal reasoning people in the pews give for these awful events. Furthermore, fully believing and living out trust in God’s sovereignty should be the impetus for humility, because many events in our world are beyond our control or interpretation. Lastly, Christian has a big tendency to point out the worst examples of people in conservative Christian circles and stretch those examples to include others (Jerry Falwell example on pg. 35).
By far the best chapter in the book was the one entitled Carrying Each Other. Christian, in his study of Brene Brown’s work points out that, “And if Brene Brown is right, the greatest act of courage that Christians can model – both as individuals and as larger institutions – is to be profoundly vulnerable, despite the risks” (159). The challenge to not just share what you believe but how you live is hugely important. More than this, being open to share doubts, hopes, frustrations, and dreams goes a long way in producing healthy communities of faith. My only pushback on this point is that there must be room in these conversations for people to acknowledge people’s experiences without agreeing that these feelings, beliefs, and experiences are always good and true.
Overall, the book had some good insights about how to include people of all walks of life into a vision for living out faith in Jesus. I didn’t agree with much of the book by way of its lack of orthodoxy but I appreciated the way Christian was able to push people out of complacency toward a life of mercy.
Thanks to Jericho Books and Evangelicals for Social Action for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.