Craig Gross and J.R. Mahon’s Starving Jesus

I probably read this book because last week a lady in my church said, “Do you have something against people who’ve written books in the last 200 years?”  She was giving me some good-natured ribbing about my penchant for quoting church fathers and, in general, lots of folks who are over 200 years old.  I told her that, no, I didn’t have anything against people who’ve written books in the last 200 years but given that people are dumber now than ever before, what’s a guy to do?

So she’s probably to blame for the fact that I picked up Craig Gross and J.R. Mahon’s Starving Jesus.  (By the by, I do in fact read lots of books that are less than 200 years old!)  Now, let me just say that I like these two dudes.  They run the xxxchurch anti-porn site.  They’re a little over-the-top for my tastes, but I mean that in the sense that I would have said the prophets were over-the-top had I been alive during their day.

Their basic thesis is that most evangelical believers are comfortable and inactive.  Are they right?  Yes.  We’re also selfish, short-sighted, greedy, materialistic, biblically illiterate, and culturally indifferent.  I say “we” because “I are one!”  I’m proud of Gross and Mahon for saying “we” too.  They’re not self-righteous, though, at times, their strident jeremiad smacks of it.  Just when I was tempted to say, “Yeah, but who are you two punks and who made you so high and mighty,” they said it themselves.  In fact, they are painfully and refreshingly candid about their own faults (see the story about taking in a family from New Orleans if you don’t believe me).  I appreciated their confession and their honesty.

So, basically, these guys want us to get out of the pews and into the world.  They decided to make this call a reality by (again, prophetically) going on a 40 day tour in an RV calling on Christians to get active.  Oh, and they fasted those 40 days…and they chained themselves to a pew that they hauled all over America to make the point and stir up interest.  They’ve ironically (ironic because of their constant lampooning of the Evangelical penchant for packaging and promoting itself) created a cool website with a documentary film showing their “40 days of nothing” (brilliant!) tour.  Their tagline:  “Do something.  Give.  Fast.  Pray.”

You know, I got really frustrated with these guys and some of their language.  For pete’s sake I hope that young guys finally realize that saying “sucks” and “crap” and things like that actually limits our effectiveness in the long run (they’d roll their eyes and call me a prudish fundamentalist for saying that, but it’s true).  Don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate the power of provocative speech.  I was listening to some of the early John Michael Talbot tunes the other day and was struck by his condemnation of the “damned self-righteousness” of many Christians.  Right on.  But this potty-mouth stuff feels less like strategic provocation than it does juvenile bad manners.  There is a difference.  But, so help me, I still prefer this kind of raw transparency than the drivel that comes off of evangelical presses today.  These two guys are in the trenches and are making a difference.  I appreciate that and I’m challenged by it.

It was nice to hear somebody other than Richard Foster and Dallas Willard calling the church back to fasting.  This was very, very convicting to me.  And the the story of Ollie in Byron, GA, at the end of the book is worth the cost of the book.

I don’t know:  this book is a bit of a random, angst-ridden, frustrating mess…just like life is.  I loved this book and it has me thinking like few books I’ve recently read have.  I’ve given it to our youth guy and demanded he read it or he’s fired.

God bless these two muckrakers.  May their tribe increase…just with a little cleaner language. :-)

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