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Book Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism


Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    David P. Gushee(Author)

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In this provocative tell-all, David Gushee gives an insider s look at the frictions and schisms of evangelical Christianity, based on his experiences that began with becoming a born-again Southern Baptist in 1978 to being kicked out of evangelicalism in 2014 for his stance on LGBT inclusion in the church. But Gushee s religious pilgrimage proves even broader than that, as he leads his reader through his childhood experiences in Roman Catholicism, his difficult days at the liberal Union Seminary in New York, his encounters with the Christian Right, and more. In telling his story, Gushee speaks to the cultural divisions of a generation, as well as of today, and to those who have themselves been disillusioned by many battles within American Christianity. As he describes his own struggles to find the right path at different stages of his journey, he highlights the turning points and decisions that we all face. When do we compromise, and when we do we stand our ground? Is holding to moral conviction worth sacrificing friendship, jobs, and security? As he takes us through his sometimes-amusing, sometimes-heartbreaking, and always-stirring journey, Gushee shows us that we can retain our faith in Christ even when Christians disappoint us.

Memoirs are fragile genres for theologians, but Gushee's memoir is a must read for Christians and non-Christians so both kinds of readers will better understand the challenges of being Christian in this fearful time. Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law, Duke University Divinity School David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University. One of the leading voices in American Christianity today, he is the author or editor of more than twenty books, including A Letter to My Anxious Christian Friends: From Fear to Faith in Unsettled Times. An award-winning blogger for Religion News Service, he is the President-Elect of the American Academy of Religion and President of the Society of Christian Ethics.

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Book details

  • PDF | 214 pages
  • David P. Gushee(Author)
  • Westminster John Knox Press; 2 edition (September 15, 2017)
  • English
  • 3
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Review Text

  • By Bill on September 1, 2017

    I love it when I get to review books which I can recommend without hesitation or caveats and am glad to say that David Gushee's Still Christian: Following Jesus out of American Evangelicalism is one of them. This is a book which should be of interest to quite a few different people for different, if compatible, reasons. Before I get to that though, let me start by describing the book a little. Still Christian is in the format of a memoir, Gushee isn't trying to persuade his audience(s) to do much of anything other than maybe to be more aware of what Evangelicalism is, and how it has come to be what that. It is a fairly short memoir because it focuses with pretty laser-like intensity of the single story of the role of Evangelicalism within Gushee's life. Thus it isn't the sort of full-orbed analysis of Evangelicalism as a historical, social, theological phenomenon of the sort that we are all probably waiting for Mark Noll to write. Instead, this book is important because it will provide you with a narrative (and if you spent any part of the 80's, 90's, 00's or 10's as an Evangelical it will likely be a decidedly relate-able narrative) through which many of the beauties, thorns, and ultimately rot of evangelicalism can be more easily recognized.In terms of style and readability, Gushee has a warm and winsome style and the book is tremendously easy to read. I blew through it in less than 48 hours (probably 4-5 hours of reading time over two evenings).So who will benefit from and enjoy reading this book and why?Ex-Evangelicals:For those of us who grew up or spent significant time as evangelicals this book is incredibly easy to relate to and will almost certainly give you that "you are not alone" encouragement—particularly given Gushee's status as a Christian Ethicist and president of the Society of Christian Ethics and of the American Academy of Religion. Of course much of that has to do with shared experiences (his comfort with Evangelicalism was shaken by the "Women in Ministry" debate and by the Evangelical right's celebration of torture and his final break occurred over his affirmation of the full inclusion of LGBT folks), but it has a lot more to do with his carefully recorded process as he worked and lived through those experiences. Throughout the book he is unwaveringly gracious towards those with whom he has disagreed. Where people come across negatively he nearly always has something positive to say about them as well and even though Al Mohler does not come off especially well, he refuses to engage in any personal denouncement of him. Neo-Calvinism receives his single full-throated denouncement in chapter 7 Finding a Home and Leaving It where, when discussing the various perspectives operating at Evangelical colleges (and specifically Union where he taught) he says:This is my best chance to say that I believe the resurgence of a doctrinaire Calvinism in contemporary evangelicalism is among the most odious developments of the last generation. I abhor its version of God and most of its version of Christian ethics, and I believe it could only have emerged among relatively privileged, hyper-cognitive, compassion-challenged white men, as it has. But I digressThat passage stands out because it is such a total break with the otherwise irenic tone he takes throughout the book. I am not condemning him for including it, but thought the fact was worth pointing out.I think what gave me hope in reading this was not just that I could identify so much with Gushee's experience, but that he seems to have managed to get through it with so little bitterness and so few scars.Evangelicals:I am frankly not quite certain whether evangelicals will enjoy reading this, I do know that those evangelicals who seek to be well informed will appreciate reading this. This is a memoir by someone who was one of you, who experienced the "tent" of Evangelicalism shrinking around him (though his ultimate exit did involve movement to a place you had told him you would not go), and who will describe to you, winsomely and charitably, what it was about you that has caused him to feel relief on leaving. Surely this is something Evangelicals want to know.Successful organizations need to conduct exit interviews. When someone leaves them, if they do not take the time to find out why, they are almost certainly doomed to eventual collapse. This is a charitable and kind voice (though he doesn't pull punches either) who will tell you what is going on and will challenge you to think about your culture as well as your practices. I don't think the goal of this is to convince anyone to leave or stay within evangelicalism, but it is a vital perspective for anyone who wants to understand evangelicalism as it is today.non-Evangelical Christians:If you are not and have never been an Evangelical, you are likely nevertheless well aware of them. As one friend of mine put it: "The thing about Evangelicals is that they do things". For better or worse, Evangelicals have come to "represent" much of Christianity, or at least Protestantism, to the western world. While there are many great resources out there to help you understand the genesis and theology of evangelicalism (I have mentioned Mark Noll haven't I?) this book will be your best tool to date in understanding the experience of Evangelicalism from the inside. It is rare to get a reflections from someone who was so recently a member of a "tribe", is now excluded from that tribe, and is nonetheless, compassionate, gracious, and fair towards them.non-Christians:Remember how 81% of Evangelicals (who voted) voted for Trump? If you think that understanding that dynamic is important to navigating the world. Or more broadly if you realize that political Evangelicalism is still a major power player in US politics and in globalizing culture, then you probably already know that it is important to have an accurate understanding of this group of people. This book will provide some stunning insights into what is really going on with that. It is, for you, serendipitous that Gushee is a professional ethicist as his perspective is one you will find particularly enlightening.A Final Addendum on Fortuitous TimingI can't think of it as anything but God-given grace that this book was released the same week as the Nashville Statement. Still Christian provides a lens on what is going on with the so called Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the Southern Baptist Convention, and so the rest. It is no coincidence in my mind that Al Mohler figures prominently in both works (his is the seventh signature on the Nashville Statement). In Chapter 6 Finding a Voice While Not Losing a Soul Gushee recounts his experience with Mohler at Southern Seminary:Al Mohler, only thirty-three years old when he was named president, turned out to be a relentless implementer of the conservative agenda for Southern Seminary. He was committed to purging any faculty who strayed from conformity to the seminary's doctrinal statement, elevating faculty voices that would take visible conservative stands on key culture-war issues, and moving the school to a traditionalist position on the top question of the moment—namely, whether the Bible permitted women to be ordained or to serve as pastors in local churches.......a new policy came down from the administration, one that would change everything at Southern. At an epic, miserable faculty meeting, the president [Mohler] declared that those who believed that women should serve as pastors would no longer be hired, promoted, or tenured at Southern Seminary. While some details of this policy remained to be addressed, the implications were clear enough. A school that had, over the years, worked its way around to a largely egalitarian understanding of gender roles was now, by decree, overnight, a place that required faculty both to believe and to teach that Holy Scripture clearly bars women from the highest office of church leadership. Dissenting tenured faculty members might survive but probably ought to leave, untenured faculty members who held the now-erroneous belief had no future at the school, and no new faculty members would be hired who were egalitarian.This meant the end for pretty much all female faculty members. I vividly remember one of my younger female colleagues getting up from the meeting in which the policy was announced, running from the room, and throwing up in the hall. It's not every day that you are professionally executed by public decree. It just might make you physically ill.If that doesn't frame the context for the recently released Nashville Statement I don't know what does.

  • By Eugene Rossi on November 25, 2017

    This book caught my attention as I was scrolling through facebook, as I have been drawn to many of these types of stories lately about Christians who become prominent figures in the church and then become disillusioned by it. Whether I agree with all of an author's conclusions or not, I have lately found it to be very enriching to simply listen to peoples' stories, see where they're coming from, and how their stories are similar to mine. That being said, I was anticipating at least some of Gushee's book to be an indictment of conservative Christianity and a proselytizing for leftist politics and theology, and ultimately I was not disappointed.However, most of the book has little to do with arguing with the reader, and everything to do with telling his own spiritual journey over the course of nearly 40 years, which he does very well. I appreciated his honesty and willingness to stick to his convictions throughout the book. Personally I do not come from a Southern Baptist background, so I was pretty surprised how divisive their denominational politics were during that point in history. I really enjoyed reading this story, as it was captivating and very inspiring to see that he struggled with many of the same pressures and questions that I still wrestle with today. At many times, it felt like I was looking in a mirror and seeing a reflection of my own life and spiritual journey as I read about his.However, the tone makes a distinct change in the last 20 or so pages of the book in which he describes his experience of coming out in full support of LGBT relationships and theology. On one hand, I totally get where he's coming from and I'm sure he and I would agree on a lot of points regarding the issue both theologically and politically speaking. However, after all his talk about tolerance and mutual respect during his previous theo-political battles earlier in the story, he makes it abundantly clear that in his view, there is no common ground on this debate, as he states on page 143:"On this issue, it is increasingly clear - you are either fully with LGBT people, or you are not. You are either fully heartbroken over their suffering, or you are not. You either see Jesus as just the kind of Savior who sides with rejected people like this, or you do not."Really? So in other words, it doesn't matter how much we agree on, even if it were, say, 90%; theoretically, if I stray just a little from his [relatively new] theological convictions, I am completely opposed to everything about LGBTQ people, hate them, and have no compassion. It then becomes increasingly clear that the author is ultimately pushing his own brand of fundamentalism, which liberals often do.Gushee describes how the grief over the loss of his mother influenced him during his initial writing on his new view of the LGBTQ question, and even admits he should've waited a few years to go forward with his writing on it. Honestly, I think he still had a good deal of greif, bitterness and unforgiveness during the writing of this book which becomes fairly noticeable in the last two chapters.He also continuously refers to "White Evangelicals" throughout the book, and makes sweeping claims about millions of people. Yes, the majority of white as well as many non-white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump and generally vote Republican in most presidential elections. However, that is a far cry from "most white Evangelicals" being staunch complimentarian, anti-environmentalist, pro-torture, pro-war MAGA hat wearing, card carrying "right wingers." If anything, those descriptions are closer to Southern Baptists and Independent Fundamental Baptists he worked with, whom he frequently confuses and substitutes with phrases like "most White American Evangelicals," when in fact those are very distinct sub groups of the broader Evangelical population. Moreover, most non-white Evangelicals in parts of the world such as Asia, Africa, and South/Central America are also in sharp disagreement with Gushee's theology on LGBTQ issues, so what does this say about his seeming rant near the end of the book about what he refers to as "White, straight, male christian orthodoxy" (p. 141)?So, in conclusion, as I said, this book makes for an excellent story that will hopefully engage your heart and mind, as it definitely did with me. To tell the truth, there are many questions I'm still very unsure about, and reading his testimony did offer much encouragement. However, if you're more of an undecided Centrist with somewhat Libertarian/Conservative political leanings, you might just be a little put off by his identity politics and how he goes off the handle a bit at the end. Overall good story to read, but he ultimately errs more on the side of fueling theo-political rivalry and distrust of those with different viewpoints, ironically in much the same way his hardline Conservative counterparts did in the past.

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