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Christianish
Author: Mark Steele 
Publisher: David C. Cook
277 Pages 

In his third book, Christianish, author Mark Steele makes a large claim: What if we’re not really following Jesus at all? Now while this could lead to deep theological disputes, this is not the direction the author chooses to take. Instead, Steele takes a more approachable and even humorous route. He chooses to not make the book into a list of the things Christians do wrong, but offer more subtle suggestions of how they could change their ways by following the example of Jesus.

Mark Steele’s approach to each chapter is familiar, if not formulaic: witty story, introduction of scripture reference, and finally expounding on the theme. For those not familiar with Steele’s writing, his stories rank better than last-minute youth pastor anecdotes, but not in the same strata as Anne Lamott, where meanings are intrinsic. Overall, the author is a good storyteller, readily assessable by those at various levels of spiritual depth. 

In terms of content, I felt that Christianish makes a stronger argument early in the book. Steele notes that we’ve been pursuing a “Christianish path” where “we please the right godly people and don’t feel guilt when our failings are seen by the world at large.” He then later furthers this idea that, “God’s intention was never for each of us to fake our way to an appearance of flawlessness. His intention was for each of us to become true and vulnerable in our pursuit of Christ while taking the glue of his powerto connect with the broken around us.” For Steele, following the example of Jesus is not confined to strict definitions of right or wrong, but instead attempting to live with the eyes and mind of Christ. As Steele says late in the book: “In a world that craves instant answers, it is through sweat, tears, and patience that we become the type of people who actually recognize the answers when we see them.”

This is a brutally honest critique of American Christianity (as this is the audience most directly referenced). Yet I think that Steele may be on to something. It may be that this book is only a part of a much needed assessment of 21st century evangelism; a refocusing of how we daily live out faith in tangible and yet biblical ways. Some may see this book as ‘harsh’ and ’abrasive’, but Steele backs up his points well with insightful interpretations of scripture and convincing discussions of the benefits of freeing ourselves to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

In terms of drawbacks of this book, they are minor, but unfortunate, because this topic has vast potential. First, the book focuses specifically on current Christians, specifically in Christian terminology and the examples used. Those who are familiar and comfortable and familiar with the Christian subculture won’t notice, but those outside Christianity may find themselves in foreign territory. Secondly, the chapters are separated by discussion questions. These disrupt the flow of the text and should be included at the end of the book. And finally, the best parts of the book are in the first few chapters. The rest of the book feels to much like it was written for a small group or bible study; each chapter self-contained. While this may be great when incorporating the text in a small group, more motivated readers may find too much repetition.

I have to say that I noticed something important as I finished this book. In a industry where we often put more importance on authors with great spiritual credentials, it is refreshing to see an author like Mark Steele step up and speak for the everyman to the everyman. The author is not writing this ‘at’ Christians, but ‘for’ fellow Christians. The author notes that he is not a theologian, yet I wish that more Christians, theologians or not, would allow themselves to assess if they are being Christianish or truly following the example of Jesus.

Shawn Dickinson


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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