Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Book Review: Who Stole My Church?
I began our meeting with words I'd rehearsed several times during my drive through the rain to the church: "I feel as if I've failed you."
I honestly don't know what to think about this one. It is fiction. But if it's to be considered truly fiction, then it's didactic fiction. Fiction meant to teach, to illustrate, to amuse, to persuade. Because this "fiction" book is all about trying to persuade the reader to share the author's view point: that the church NEEDS to change--and change drastically--if it's to survive or thrive in the 21st Century. His points are many. The main point being is that the church has ALWAYS changed and adapted throughout the centuries. That the "traditions" of today--or even the traditions of yesterday--were new and controversial when first introduced. Another main point, perhaps it should be THE main point, is that the church does not belong to you and me. It doesn't belong to one generation over another. The church belongs to Jesus, the church is his bride. And he paid a price for his bride, and the church MATTERS to Christ. The church is not something that one individual can "own" or "possess" or "control" or "manipulate." Well, not if it's a healthy church. Not if it's a gospel-driven, Bible-preaching, church.
So essentially the author has made himself and his wife into characters in this fictional church, fictional community. He has created a dozen or so characters and put words in their mouths. He frames the novel into a dialogue between people with different--sometimes very different--points of view. His character then tries to reason and persuade this committee to see things his way.
I could see some of the author's points. But not necessarily every point. For example, he stresses over and over again how today's generation is not familiar with hymns and that singing hymns in church is a turn off. That these 'new' believers will go somewhere else. That if the church is to stay relevant, then it needs to set aside hymns and embrace the songs these 'young' people want to hear, want to sing, etc. The way he phrased it--and I'm not sure he quite intended it to be like this--was that today's generation just can't be bothered with hymns. That hymns weren't worth introducing to new believers, a new generation. It almost sounded like an excuse, today's generation doesn't want to work at learning them or today's generation can't appreciate them, doesn't want to even try to appreciate them. I'm not sure that's fair or true. But it sounded like he was making big assumptions. I *do* think there is value in knowing hymns, in singing hymns. I do think there is great value in some of the lyrics. The lyrics MEAN SOMETHING. And they can be a great foundation in the faith.
I just don't think you can "outgrow" songs like Amazing Grace, Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus, The Old Rugged Cross, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, etc.
I think the book has some value. But it also could be slightly annoying in places.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible