Thursday, June 07, 2012

Jesus Hates Dead Religion by Eric Metaxas

"…it was people who go to church and do not show the love of Jesus. it was people who know the Bible and use it as a weapon. People who don't practice what they preach. People who are indifferent to the poor and the suffering. People who use religion as a way to judge others. I had rejected that....Jesus had also rejected that. He railed against that. And He called people to real life and real faith.... So keep in mind when someone says 'I'm a Christian', it might mean absolutely nothing'

Eric Metaxas is super cool.  My dad ( who is the world’s biggest William Wilberforce fan ) and I went to see him speak at Tyndale here in Toronto a few years back (even shook his hand as he signed my Wilberforce book--- AUTHOR LOVE)and I remember thinking: “This guy--- if this guy is a Christian, I SO want to be one!”  Oh wait! I already was a Christian; but hyper-intellectuals like Eric Metaxas make me proud that we’re on the same “team.” 

Eric Metaxas doesn’t settle for ignorance or stupidity or shy from debate.  Famously, he has engaged in conversation with atheist Christopher Hitchens and he is the noted founder of Socrates in the City: a forum wherein dignitaries and scholars and theologians and writers can argue (in an informed manner) about a cornucopia of topics.  Yale-educated, funny and outwardly passionate about philosophy, academia and the world of the thinking, life-changing Christians, Metaxas is a beacon of thoughtful light in a faith of ignorance, prejudice and conformity. (He currently hangs out at Breakpoint)

I read and thoroughly enjoyed his banter-y series for WaterBrook: “Everything you ever wanted to know about God (But were afraid to ask)” and its sequels and was, of course, smitten with his conversational forage into the life of William Wilberforce and the mammoth work-turned-unexpected blockbuster that was his perspective on noted theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

You see, Metaxas hits on celebrities from my formative years. Celebrity, you ask, right word? In my house, yes.  Next to God was CS Lewis and next to CS Lewis was Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Should there be assigned seating at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, my minister father would have it thus:  CS Lewis, Bonhoeffer, William Wilberforce, Philip Yancey (so cool!), Guy who founded the Salvation Army…William…something or other… BOOTH! Yes, BOOTH!, John Stott and Ravi Zacharias.  They all get a table and dad would want to be positioned somewhere near so he could hear EVERYTHING.  Corrie Ten Boom might be allowed a drop-in before dessert.  But, he would want to meet her on her own time.  Christian heroes became Christian celebrities: inasmuch as they peppered Dad’s sermons and formed his voracious reading habits.  Metaxas, delving into the lives of two of these magnum Christian entities, fleshed out in conversational and bewildering and awed tone, his own appraisal of two men who lived by REAL faith.

REAL faith, you ask?  Well, it’s Metaxas’ undercurrent and casual thesis when we mete out his prayer breakfast speech.

But, to begin, let’s speak to the ease in which Metaxas continues his excessively readable nature.  When you read Wilberforce or Bonhoeffer or when you see him on 100 Huntley Street ( go CANADA!’s like our 700 Club; but with fewer moments of awkward judgment and un-PC behavior) as he spreads a smile for that astronaut who took communion on the moon, you feel as if you have been invited to tea and Metaxas is sitting directly across from you and telling you little secrets --- all the while determined to make you laugh, think and rejoice.  JesusHates Dead Religion has a precursor, a witty and beguiling prologue preluding the interred National Prayer Breakfast speech. Herein, readers are given first-hand look into Metaxas’ busy speaking schedule, his playful ideas for possible speech topics, his disbelief that he is the KEYNOTE speaker at a function attended by the Obamas and Joe Biden and, well, every big American ever, his pressure and stress at having to type a speech for transcribers (odd for someone who usually works off a short page of notes and a lot of conversational improvisation) and the long night before he is about to speak about faith to the president of the United States and one of the most powerful figures in the world.

Is Metaxas nervous?  Damn skippy; but not in the way I would be. I would be having a conniption fit; Metaxas believes that opportunities like this are a platform given by God. …..And what a platform! With his trademark wit and ease, Metaxas addresses some of the most famous politicians of our age in front of a group of over 3500 and he speaks honestly, blatantly and without the watered-down conservative, colouring-in-the-lines one might expect of a speaker at such a juncture. Instead, Metaxas owns his faith, his thought, his intellect, his belief ( and such a true one ), that Christianity has been muddled down by religiousity.  Indeed, Metaxas is of the lineage of Martin Luther and Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer---amazing men and thinkers who knew that to love God was to LIVE by God; not just tote his high-faluting and monumental consternation from lofty platforms. Prayer, Metaxas believes, is the first extension of ‘real’ faith: it is not practiced or dictated; rather a firm and floating communication: a two-way signal combining our hearts and minds with God’s.  Bonhoeffer learned this and was able to act in faith in a time of extreme pain and prejudice.  More still, Wilberforce was able to learn this and set the wheels in motion for social reform.  In both cases, these men were wrought of an unsettling time in history and were able to see through with God-given clarity. Metaxas does not shy away from the same undercurrents of evil in modern society.  He advocates questions, thinkers, believers, the expelling of religiousity in exchange for real, active faith.

I was convicted and moved.  In more than one fleeting instance, he inserts a few more political stances; but as I was not reading this from a political standpoint and as I know far less than I should ( or care to ) about American Politics ( I spend enough time staying informed on my own country’s policies), this was not the intent of my reading; nor did it colour it at all. 

This is a great sort of devotional, a battery-recharger, a momentary dive into the waters of someone frustrated by the complacency of modern religion and the taint it is giving our flawed world.

This is the best 4.99 I have ever spent on a book. 

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