Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review: True Religion

Not sure if you can see it, but the book is subtitled "Taking pieces of heaven to places of hell on earth."  This book was pretty appropriate for my reading this week, because we just sent my 18 year old brother and my dad off to Ecuador for a week and a half on a mission trip.  The book isn't solely about missions, but they do play a large role in the book.  The author, Palmer Chinchen grew up in Africa as the child of missionaries.  His book is written to urge Christians to act out what he considers true religion - caring for the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.  While he recognizes the needs of our own country, this book focuses on the needs of those in foreign countries, particularly Africa.

It would be hard to find a book related to Christianity that 100% agrees with everything the I believe (unless it's CS Lewis of course), but this book comes very close.  I totally identify with the author's passion for the oppressed and marginalized.  I also love his intensity about missions.  I wish I could say I've been on tons of mission trips, but I haven't.  I have, however, taken a 12 week in-depth seminary course called Perspectives on the Christian World Movement that changed my life.  This book reflects a lot of what was taught at Perspectives and really challenges the status quo of Christian faith. 

I think I'm most challenged by the author's encouragement to live a simpler life.  He quotes statistics about the percentage of items in American homes that are not necessities - and I believe it was somewhere around 51%.  It really got me thinking about the things I own and how so much more than 50% of our things are not necessities.  He also refuses to play golf anywhere the charged more than $35 - because he learned in Africa that a home could be built there for $35.  Knowing that you could house an entire family who is currently living on the streets, or build a well for people without drinking water, or buy shoes for an entire village makes it a little bit harder to spend $50 on a meal out with my husband.

Finally, I really appreciated that the author isn't just critiquing and aspect of Christian culture that he doesn't like, but he provides practical, realistic solutions for people to put into practice to move towards a global perspective and care for the needy.  My personal favorite was Barefoot Sunday - he asked all the members of his church to come to church in their favorite shoes, then take them off at the end of the service and donate them to Africa.  The people were challenged to spend the rest of the day barefoot as an exercise in experiencing what a large portion of Africans experience every day.  I'm working on coming up with a similar project that our students could try out here at school. 

Definitely check this one out.  It's an easy read and fairly short (200 pages in paperback), but will really make you question what you believe about loving your neighbor. 

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