Thursday, October 13, 2016

Outlaw Christian by Jacqueline A Bussie

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware a free book isn't enough to assuage my cutting honesty. If I've failed to write a bad review, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

In many ways, Outlaw Christian is part of a recent trend - mainstream Christian books emphasizing the importance of doubt to faith. Don't get me wrong - this is a wonderful development, certainly better than the alternative. At the same time I'm a little skeptical when a challenging position becomes mainstream, almost as if the system is embracing the danger in order to denude it. I don't believe this is the author's purpose. Her writing is deeply personal and heartfelt; she is genuinely interested in sharing "good news" with people who might otherwise have given up on faith. At the same time, I'm not sure if the publisher has the same pure motives.

There are really two halves to Outlaw Christian - almost as if there are two books in one. The first half is very wordy, in many ways. There is a lot of explaining - about anger and doubt and theology and scripture and the ways in which Christian culture has tended to rob life of its complexity and joy. It's honest and I agree with it, but it sounds an awful lot like every other book about doubt and faith. This first half gives the impression of fighting a battle between co-option and co-operation in naming the relational sins of this culture and presenting alternatives. It's also wordy in that there are too many words. The writing is dense, a bit awkward, and repetitive; it was hard to find motivation to keep reading.

When you get about halfway through, though, it's a joyful ride to the finish. The second half of the book is less formulaic and more built around narrative. Bussie tells stories - her own, those of her students, and those of people around the world. The second half personalizing the more esoteric conversations of the first half into powerful examples of the kind of "outlaw" life she wants for those who need it. It is powerful, emotional, and vulnerable in ways that signify her authenticity and connection to the material.

I struggle with how to rate this book or even how to recommend it. I really did not like the first half - even though I agreed with most of what she presented and find it important information for Christians (and anyone else) in the world, it was boring and impersonal. It wasn't fun to read. The second half, though, was brilliant, poignant, and important in a whole different kind of way.

Maybe that's the point of a review, then - to present the whole picture and let the reader make up their mind. Do with this what you will (but if you start on chapter 5, I doubt you'll have any complaints).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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