Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Starving Jesus

Authors: Craig Gross and J.R. Mahon
Type: Theology/Ecclesiology
Shepnerd Rating: 1 star

“Dangerous” is the first word I think of when it comes to this book. The authors will like that, patting themselves on the back for “offending” in the name of Christ. But this is not the kind of offense that should be spread around.

The book starts off well – with some spot-on critiques of the modern church. The premise is that American Christianity has become like the Pharisees – buildings that do internal programming for the “included”, and leaves the desperate, addicted and outcasts without the gospel. It’s true – in America we are far from the body Christ intended to create. Many of the ideas have been batted around emergent (a group they seem to love/use and hate/lampoon) and missional conversations for years. The solution – according to these two is three fold – Give, Fast and Pray. The give part goes okay. Then it all comes crashing down.

The authors advocate a 40 day fast (with water and juice – if you feel that is okay with God). It’s medically dangerous, physically damaging, and spiritually harmful. Let me count the ways:

1. The book doesn’t encourage a doctor’s help or advice even though that kind of starvation has potential harm written all over it. What about people with undiagnosed diabetes, hypoglycemia or other conditions? What about the fact the human body is not wired to go that long without food? Just because the author’s bodies are able to sustain this and they don’t die doesn’t mean it’s a good idea – it means God saved them from themselves.

2 The book ridicules anyone who thinks this “might not” be a good idea for people. Mahan writes “Our tendency is to listen to the doctors and health experts of the world. It’s an easy trap” (pg. 177) - My experiences is that a minister who tells you to ignore science, health and people who are trying to keep your body alive like doctors – is the trap.

3.The book uses weight loss (a vulnerability in many people’s lives) as a motivation for a “spiritual fast”. Weight loss is a medical/health pursuit – not a holy quest. Yet it keeps talking about the physical weight they lose.

4. The premise is flawed. The premise is that in Matthew 6 Jesus tells the Pharisees “When you fast, do not look somber…” not "IF you fast" – However – it may shock these “ministers” to discover that the Bible was not written in English – and the Greek text does not use a time indicative word like WHEN. It also does not say the fast has to be food. Christians for centuries have used lent as a fasting time without starving themselves.

5. The book makes fun of anyone who does not agree completely with the authors. It’s a very “my way or the highway” presentation. Anyone who disagrees is called “big-toothy-grin fake super Christian.” Which is the other sad part of the book = two Christians who claim the ability to love anyone in the porn industry where their ministry is focused – but cannot love the faithful who seek God in other ways.

Yes, the church is flawed and in many cases ineffectual. Yes we need to get into the world living the gospel message of freedom from sin. However, there are parents, grandparents and beautiful souls who pray with sincerity in church, believe with everything they have and raise their kids to know Jesus Christ is Lord. What do these people get for lives of goodness, love and devotion? From these authors they get ridiculed, talked down to and taken for granted. Driving around in an RV starving doesn’t make you more holy – just more mobile.

What starts out as a well intentioned voice for helping the church overcome apathy and materialism disintegrates into self-promoting (the last 3 chapters are all about their trip), and dangerous advice.

1 comment:

jr said...

Thanks for the critique... you got a few things wrong, but I forgive you...


feel free to write anytime... jr@jrmahon.com... I would answer any of your questions about the book....