Monday, July 17, 2017

Outlaw Christian by Jacqueline A. Bussie, 2016

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Jacqueline Bussie knows that too many Christians live according to unspoken "laws" that govern the Christian life: #1: Never get angry at God; #2: Never doubt; #3: Never question; #4: Never tell your real story; #5: Always speak in cliches about evil and suffering; and #6: Always believe hope comes easy for those who truly love God.

Living according to these rules is killing real Christian life;
Outlaw Christian proposes a rebellious, life-giving, authentic alternative. Through captivating stories and with disarming honesty, Bussie gives concrete, practical strategies to help readers cultivate hope, seek joy, practice accompaniment, compost their pain, and rediscover the spiritual practice of lament. Tackling difficult questions without political divisiveness, Bussie speaks to both progressive and conservative Christians in ways that unite rather than divide. And in doing so, she provides a new way to handle the most difficult and troubling questions of life in a broken world that God will never abandon.
(288 pages)

I moved eight times over the course of my childhood, which means I've attended nine churches (plus visiting dozens more). We've found several good permanent churches over the years, but they've been in a variety of denominations. Over the past 18 years, I have been a part of Presbyterian, Church of Christ, and even non-denominational churches. There are even more denominations, I'm sure, that I simply can't remember at the moment.

I say all this simply to point out that my family has never stuck to a specific set of "laws" tied to a certain sect of the church. We're definitely not revolutionaries, and most of my parents' (and my) beliefs likely fall most closely in the "moderate" area of the political/religious scale, but I was raised to pursue my own ideas about God and religion rather than to parrot the dogma of any one specific church. For a long time, though, we faced limited church options and wound up attending a rather strange conservative church. Looking back now, I realize that I gained a bitterness and disrespect for the church from my time there because I was constantly in interaction with people who had their own set of rules about what it took to be a "good Christian" that didn't match my own. Now that we've been away from that church for almost two years, that outlook is fading–largely thanks to books like Outlaw Christian that introduce me to other people who share some of my criticisms of church culture but still participate in it and pursue a meaningful relationship with God.

Reading Outlaw Christian, I get the vibe that Bussie is someone I would legitimately like if I ever met her in person. She's thoughtful about her faith and honest about her struggles, patient with those who disagree with her, and open-minded/nonjudgmental while still confident in her own beliefs. She tackles the hardcore issues like death, grief, hardship and abuse, arguing that we should feel comfortable bringing our anger and doubts to God instead of letting them fester while we do our best to feign perfection. I really like her arguments against the misconception that a Christian has to be happy all the time.

Just a note, her points are great and sort of organized by topic by the different chapters, but they meander a little bit. I didn't mind, but others who are a little more finicky than I might. Also, I really want to take Bussie's college class on religion now. Any chance you'll be heading to St. Andrews, Scotland any time soon, Dr. Bussie?!




Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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