Spirituality Review: Still Christian

still christian

Title: Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism by David P. Gushee
Genre: Spiritual Memoir
Rating: ★★★ ★ (4/5)

David P. Gushee has been at the forefront of nearly every schism, controversy, and watermark moment in American evangelicalism over the last 50 years. From his teenage mountaintop conversion, to his time as a professor at a fundamentalist Baptist seminary, to his successful career speaking out against torture as a Christian ethicsist, to the publication of his hit book Changing Our Mind, which shook up the evangelical world by championing the full inclusion of LBGTQ people in the church, Gushee has been red, blue, popular, derided, conservative, liberal, and everything in between. Still Christian accounts ongoing Gushee’s love affair with Christ and resulting divorce from evangelicalism with candor, temperance, and humor.

I expected a little more theological unpacking of the choice to “leave” American evangelicalism from Gushee, as this book as been lauded as an anchor in a swirling sea of  moral bankruptcy and theological confusion in the evangelical church. Instead, the book was quite simply a mid-career memoir, but a very good one, and one that cast a lot of light on the schisms and inner tensions that have been whittling away at American evangelicalism since the seventies.

Still Christian is delightfully dishy and covers enough scandal to keep even those well acquainted with the rise of the Moral Majority and push-back from writers and theologians on the Evangelical left interested, but Gushee deals with all people and events mentioned with humility, grace, and love. The heart of Christ is kept at the center of Still Christian, even if Gushee is all too aware how rarely the institutions in charge of seeking it out keep their promises.

Note: I received a copy of Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism in exchange for a fair review of its contents. 

Spirituality Review: The Divine Dance

Title: The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell

Genre: Spirituality/Christianity

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Divine Dance in exchange for writing an unbiased, honest review of its contents.

I don’t often re-read nonfiction books, but I’m confident I will return to The Divine Dance in the future, simply because the wisdom it has to offer is so rich and multilayered. Finishing this book marked one of those sought-after seconds of clarity in life when you really seem to “get it”, or at least glimpse with clear eyes some party of the Cosmic Design. No, seriously.

Richard Rohr is Franciscan priest, mystic, and spiritual director who has authored over thirty books on contemplation, Catholicism, and the Christian life. Mike Morrell, a talented author in his own right, is the publicity mastermind behind the The Wild Goose Festival, the Buzz Seminar, and the commercial success of such literary game-changers as The Shack. Together they make an sharp team particularly well suited to delivering one simple truth about the Godhead: the Trinity is eternally creative, eternally vulnerable, and eternally loving, no caveats needed.

Rohr and Morrell spend 200-odd pages unpacking the implications of this statement with the reader, walking alongside you in love as you wrestle with what the nature of the Trinity might mean for your life. Here’s a taste of some of these stunning potentialities: God loves you entirely because you are in and cosmically indistinguishable from the life force that binds the members of the Trinity, religious pluralism is both ethical and holy and can exist without sacrificing Christian identity, and “the foundation of authentic Christian spirituality is not fear, but joy” (123).

Let me assure you, this breaking open of culturally accepted ways of doing Christianity are not a modernist innovation. Its deeply rooted in orthodoxy and sound spiritual practice, and there are seven contemplative practices offered in the last chapter in order to give readers tangible ways of participating in the life of Trinity. The style is simple, almost conversational, and makes good use of anecdote and theory in equal measure. Furthermore, the authors dont shy away from critiquing the failings of the church, the damage done by a divided political system, and the emptiness of modern hyper-individualism without giving into the temptation to point fingers. The result is incredibly life-giving.

In summary, The Divine Dance proposes a new way of doing life, of viewing God, and of inhabiting one’s own body in light of truths that have been in front of our eyes for a very long time, but perhaps hidden from true sight. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in spirituality, meditation, or 21st century religion despite their religious background.