May 18, 2009

Review: I'm Fine with God...It's Christians I Can't Stand by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz

BOOK #: 39

CHALLENGES: Triple 999 Challenge

RATING: 4 Stars

This book was just what I needed to read during this time in my spiritual journey. I have been full of questions and disappointments and resentment and frustration with the Christian faith. This book helped me to resolve most of these problems and to look at Christians in a new light. I was also more than pleased to see Bickel and Jantz agree with me on many issues that I have had with Christians.

In this book, Bickel and Jantz, two admitted Christians, commit to unblurring the lines between Christians and those Christians who "give the rest of us a bad name." They talk about how God is nowhere to be found in many of the viewpoints that Christians have become known for. They said how those few outspoken Christians have taken the truth about the religion and twisted it and misinterpreted and misrepresented it to the point that even Christians don't feel they can call themselves Christians anymore. It has that negative a connotation to the global community. And that's ridiculous.

Some of the topics that the authors let loose on include Christians who "think they have a monopoly on the truth", Christians who "fixate on the end of the world", and Christians "who are paranoid." The book is written for Christians by Christians so hopefully those who need to get a reality check will be able to read this book and absorb it more readily than from an "outsider" of Christianity. But, still, most likely, those who need to read the book will not be the ones who do.

I like the no-nonsense, no-holds-barred approach to these issues. They tell it like it is. They let you know that they are certainly not perfect, but that they are also telling others they are not perfect, either, which is never an easy thing to hear. They have a firm belief that, "Christians cannot expect to speak with authority in the culture when they have marginalized and compartmentalized their own position in society." Tough love. They are speaking, of course, of those Christians who wish to cloister together and put themselves in a bubble. Those who say you shouldn't associate with non-Christians (um, do they know the story of Christ?) and those who have gone so far to the right that they have practically fallen into the abyss.

They speak of people in the Bible who went out and associated with others and were a part of the larger community, integrating themselves into it and leading by example, rather than dictating rules to them and building barriers. "Notice that none of them condemned the culture. None of them used the faith as an excuse to take over." They note that "some Christians find fault as if a reward is being offered for it." I 100% agree. And it is the least Christ-like behavior to follow. That is not bringing in the crowds to Christianity, but repelling them full force.

I have had a lot of trouble with this religion because I have met so very many hypocrites. I don't mean those Christians who aren't perfect, because no one is perfect. I am speaking of the pretenders. Those who are holier than thou, who think they are better than other people because they are Christian, those who talk down to people who don't believe as if they are ignorant children (in my experience, athiests and those of other religions know more about Christianity than most Christians). I get frustrated about the exact same things that are talked about in this book. I think there are many people out there that are frustrated about these things and I think it is important to bring it out in the open and talk about it.

I am a Catholic, baptized in the Catholic church, but there are several stances on issues by the church that I have trouble grasping an understanding of. Abortion, for one, birth control, for another, and the way laypeople are taught (or not taught) about their own religion, and about how to express what they believe to nonbelievers. I became a Catholic at 26. I had to take a 7 month course on the Catholic faith to make sure I understood it. Those raised in the church get none of this training. My ex-fiance was one of these people. He had no idea why he believed what he believed. He learned the whys from me and that makes no sense at all. It is like how immigrants who become citizens know more about American history than most Americans. It's sad. I think that also a big issue is that the most outspoken Christians are the ones who have the strictest and most close-minded faith and the ones who do not know why they believe what they believe. They are the ones behind the negative view of Christians and I think this book is helpful in showcasing some of these nut jobs, if you will, and giving evidence of how they may have good intentions, but their execution is seriously flawed.

I learned so much with this book. It raised a million thought-provoking questions. My mom is reading it now and I cannot wait to discuss it with her, as she is a stronger believer than I am. I am Catholic, yes, but I also adhere to principals in Buddhism and Taoism and I feel a more spiritual connection when I integrate these philosophies into my personal understanding of God and wholeness.

I will probably be having a giveaway for this book once my mom finishes reading it. It is definitely a book I think needs to be read by Christians everywhere, especially those who are discontented with Christianity and those inquiring why there is so much hostility and indifference to the religion and what to do about it.

I will leave you with this quote from the book for you to think on:

"Instead of spending our time lashing out at the culture (which Christ never did), we should put our time to better use by trying to conform ourselves to Christ. If Christians are going to project the correct image of Christ in our culture, we need to carefully choose our spokespersons and representatives."


  1. Really good review, Rebecca.
    I'm glad there are books like this out there that can explain the Christian faith like it is. I am a Christian myself, but I think I should check this book out because from the way you described it I think I can definitely understand where it's coming from...;)

  2. Sounds really interesting. One of the reasons why I have stopped going to institutional church is because a lot of Christian practice are more self-righteous acts than truly following Christ. It isn't the church I'm resentful at, it's how worship and rites are being done in a non-biblical way, and church insiders don't even notice. Who do we follow, Christ or the institution? They're not one and the same. Thanks for the review.

  3. Great review. This book sounds really interesting and I think I may have to pick up a copy and check it out myself. Actually, I know quite a few people who ought to read this book and maybe take some notes ;-) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Hey Rebecca - have you seen my site No Coward Soul? ( I haven't updated in a while, but I'm a progressive Christian theologian - (I'm preaching this Sunday and using "Namaste" as our call to worship, for example) - and I'd be interested to hear your own views on the theology of Christianity. I may have to check this book out. I would be interested in the background of the authors.

  5. wow, am I glad I read your post today. I was brought up with very cristian relatives, but with their actions I have definitely grown distant from any considered christian. I never could understand as a kid, how the bible sunday (or saturday in my case) school classes could preach forgiveness and understanding, and at the same time the kids would be rude and judgemental to every new person who came. I also could never get the anger coming from christian groups - anger at gay/lesbian, people with AIDS, and all the other things that make some christians so angry. I also have a hard time with the Jehovah's witness's belief that there is only room for a certain number of believers in heaven. It doesn't make sense.
    I really believe that there is a god out there, but since there are so many similarities to all the religions, I don't think anyone knows the true god. So I just believe in my own way, and try to be a good person.

  6. Loved your review. I'm not Christian myself, but I was raised and live in a very Catholic society, and my being non-religious has caused some people who claim to follow a religion of love and acceptance to make my life quite hard. I think I'd be interested in this book.

  7. A refreshing review. THank you!

  8. Great review. I can't wait to get my hands on this book. It appears to address all of the age old stereotypical falsehoods associated with christianity.

  9. well-done review! I connected with your thoughts on so many people "going thru the motions" at church, following the order of the service by rote, without knowing why certain parts are included in the service, or what they mean/symbolize.

    Comparing pre-conversion class to the training/education new US citizens get is apt.


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