I started out by trying to read Letter to a Christian Nation
by Sam Harris. I couldn't get through it. It was just so angry. It's not just that the author isn't a Christian and is opposed to mainstream Christianity - I mean, those things are true of me, too. But it seemed to me like he was mocking Christians, trying to tell them that ANYONE who identifies as Christian is deluding themselves. Even if that were true, which I do not believe, I don't see how his book could change anyone's mind.
When I complained about this to hanseth
, she recommended that I try Why the Christian Right is Wrong
instead, so I did. The author of the book, Robin Meyers, is a Christian minister, so he is more sympathetic to Christianity in general. He is not trying to show up the fallacies of believing in the Bible - instead, he is saying that if you call yourself a Christian, you should act like one, and our leaders aren't doing that. He also points out repeatedly that Jesus saved his most righteous wrath for the sin of religious hypocrisy.
The book, essentially, is an expansion of a talk Meyers gave at a peace rally a few years ago. If you haven't read the talk
I highly recommend it. Basically, he analyzes the actions of our current government leaders from the perspective of Christian principles and theology. It's... very striking, and the talk itself was one of my favorite parts of the book. I had been carrying around a lot of bad feelings about Christianity for a long time, based on the tendency of many people who identify as Christian to be judgemental, evil, and downright Republican. However, this book made me realize that this is not the heart and soul of Christianity. In that regard, it is a hopeful book. However, in most other regards, it is not. I consider myself to be reasonably informed on political issues, but much of what the author had to say was unfamiliar to me. Even more depressing Shrub quotes. Le sigh.
Another favorite part of the book was an excerpt from a similar essay
. The essay, "The Christian Paradox," tells us that only 40% of Americans can name more than four of the ten commandments, and twelve percent believe that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Yikes. What does it mean to say that you're Christian if you don't know basic facts about your own religion? Hell, I'm one of the 40% who can name more than four of the commandments, and I'm not even a Christian, nor was I raised one. The essay goes on to say that three quarters of Americans believe that "God helps them who help themselves" is a quote from the Bible. Both the essay and the book talk about just how un-Christian that idea is. A Christian life is meant to be a life of quiet faith and charity. Trickle-down economics are never mentioned in the bible. (The quote is by Ben Franklin, and, imo, is actually a fairly pagan idea.)
My third favorite part of the book was the last chapter. Although Meyers gets bogged down a bit in restating some of his arguments (seriously, guy, if we're not convinced after 150 pages, it's not gonna happen), I liked his practical suggestions. Though the "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" rhetoric seemed a little too harsh for me, and divisive in the way that our current government is divisive.
Anyway, I'm sold. I think it would be just wonderful if everyone in this country who calls themselves Christian sold all their property, gave the proceeds to charity, and spent the rest of their lives doing good works. I think it would be outstanding if people GAVE, without putting limits on who was worthy - loving their enemies, not just their neighbors. That would really be Christian.
The book was really well-written. I recommend it, although I found it somewhat bleak. It's hopeful in terms of thinking about Christianity as a whole, just not when thinking about our current situation. Three stars.