Thinking Out Loud

February 9, 2018

Growing Up in a Strict, Ultra-Conservative Christian Home

This is a review of a book. Its inclusion here does not imply endorsement.

On Wednesday, I read a 390 page book in a single day. That’s somewhat unusual for me, but the weather, some really great writing, and a fascination with the story combined to make this possible.

Rapture Practice: My One-Way Ticket To Salvation by Aaron Hartzler is his true story. It is published by Little, Brown & Co., not Hachette’s Evangelical imprint, FaithWords, though in my opinion it comes oh so close to fitting in there, especially the first two-thirds. That’s probably why it took me five years to be aware of this 2013 title; that and the fact it was marketed as a Young Adult memoir. I’ve missed being in the target audience by many decades.

We first meet Aaron as a four year old, being groomed for the role of church play actor; though as he grows up, it’s a different type of acting which captures his attention. There are are short scenes from his early school and summer camp experiences, with most of the book taking place in his high school years. It is in high school he really starts acting only the role he is playing daily is one of a church kid who is at odds with the ultra high standards and beliefs of his community and especially his parents.

He’s placed in a Christian school, but his interest in popular music proves too much for his ultra-straight parents and as punishment he is placed in an even more conservative Christian institution. But the punishment in many ways backfires, as these kids seem to have more after-school freedom than anything at his prior school, some of them without having to employ the cover-up tactics that Aaron finds necessary…

…The book is a wonderful time capsule of Christian culture in the 1980s including some things I had forgotten such as Sandi Patty’s divorce and Amy Grant’s admitting that she visited a topless beach. It’s also a reminder of backyard Bible clubs, dressing up for Sunday services, guest missionary slide shows, Pioneer Girls & Boys Brigade, purity rings, and denominational talent contests.

While Aaron is raised with corporal punishment, when he gets too old to spank, his parents disciplinary method of choice is basically shaming. Honestly, this is hard to read, and enduring this with him means I’m often rooting for Aaron instead of his parents. I keep feeling that any choices Aaron made in life — and the book stops many years shy of its own publication date, but I did some further research* — happened because his parents forced him there…

…More remarkable is that I got this book in a load of bargain titles from CBD. Yes, Christian Book Distributors. I can say with confidence that this item totally escaped their usual vetting process, and as it turns out is currently not listed at the site. Nonetheless, I’m glad I got to read it. It may be marketed as Young Adult non-fiction but I think parents should read it as a cautionary tale.

No kid should have had to grow up in that culture of shame.


*There are some reviews online for this book which contain what I consider a giant spoiler, including some editions of the book with a different subtitle also containing that spoiler. I think for me it was more important to let the book take me there rather than begin with some aspects of the story a foregone conclusion. If possible, look for the book with the cover above. The other subtitle was a publishing blunder.

 

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August 2, 2014

A House is Known by the Company it Keeps

Our Big American God - Matthew Paul TurnerWith all the buzz on Twitter, I would love for this space to contain a review of Matthew Paul Turner’s Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever Growing Deity but alas, getting review books from Hachette Book Group is like pulling teeth and only once — with Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book which, by the way, is coming out in paperback in September — have I been successful. (I really wanted to review Rob Strong’s The Big Guy Upstairs so I could present my conspiracy theory that Strong is really Rob Bell; a theory I maintain despite the lack of physical resemblance…)

But I found it interesting who is on the list of review citations appearing at Ingram Book Company, the world’s largest book distributor.  It’s certainly A-list, but it’s also a list of progressive writers who would be unlikely to say anything negative. (Not that they would; from what I hear the book is a must-read.)

Here’s a sample:

  • Ed Cyzewski author, The Good News of Revelation and A Christian Survival Guide
  • Jon Acuff, New York Times bestselling author of Start
  • Micha Boyett, Author of Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer
  • Nish Weiseth, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World
  • Frank Schaeffer, author, And God Said, Billy! 
  • Peter Rollins
  • A. J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically
  • Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist
  • Timothy Kurek, author of the bestselling book, The Cross in the Closet

Okay, so maybe I’m not quite in their league, but I’m not asking to be part of the print edition, I just want to review the book on the blog. Jericho Books, are you listening? Still, it’s interesting to see the omission of endorsements by Max Lucado, Jerry Jenkins or even Bill Gaither. (Does Bill read?)

Oh and by the way book marketing people, Peter Rollins looks really lame on this list, so I will say what the online product detail didn’t: Peter is the author of at least seven books and an unpublished PhD thesis that “offers a survey of religious thinking in the aftermath of Marx, Freud and Nietzsche. It engages directly with Martin Heidegger’s critique of onto-theology and explores the religious significance of Jacques Derrida’s post-structural theory and Jean-Luc Marion’s saturated phenomenology…” (Wikipedia) Hence the doctorate in “Post-Structural Theory.” But onto-theology is out of my league also.

And that’s just a sample of what my research department would provide Matthew Paul Turner if Hachette/Faithwords/Jericho wants to ante up with a print copy, mailed to my lavish executive offices (see yesterday’s post) in the next 72 hours. 

#unreview

#ainttoproudtobeg

 

March 6, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Jesus is the Light of the World

Regular readers will know this already, but I’ve never quite come out and said it: I find it somewhat snobbish when bloggers publish link lists where anything older than 2-3 days is considered obsolete. A true link sleuth will unearth some great material and won’t be concerned if the post is dated 30 days ago. If it was true then…

  • Essay of the week: Church Planting in Montreal. A somewhat typical couple has been living together for ten years but has never gotten close to having any kind of spiritual discussion. And that’s just one challenge. The Quebecois version of Hybels’ “unchurched Harry” is quite different from “Harry” in the rest of North America. 
  • Runner up: Remember that feeling when you were young and you came home from school only to find nobody home and you immediately thought everybody had been raptured?  Well, it happens to not-so-young college students, too.
  • Okay, so that video about how to write a worship song wasn’t the first time Jordan at BlimeyCow waded into Christian music criticism. Or church camp. And different types of churches
  • While everyone else on Sunday night was watching The Bible miniseries on History, one blogger was putting the final period on his review even as the credits rolled. I guess that way you get to say, “First!”  (The cable channel show beat all the big networks in the ratings.)
  • If you know people whose Christian faith is characterized by what they are against, may I suggest you copy and paste this article and email it to them.
  • For people who don’t know how to use a “table of contents” in a book, The Alpha Bible presents the Bible books in… well you know.
  • Given the success of The Book of Mormon, a Broadway production by The Foursquare Church denomination on the life of Aimee Semple McPherson probably seemed like a good idea at the time
  • The idea of gospel tracts probably seems somewhat archaic to most readers here, but the concision of these short presentations actual suits present attention spans. Now 31 Good News tracts are available on audio.  
  • Matt Hafer comes out of church leadership hibernation with five ways for pastors to tell if people are truly on board.
  • I know I often link you over to Christianity 201, but I really want you all, if nothing else, to catch this video.
  • In some ways connected to a link we had here last week, a Christianity Today women’s blog suggests a little bit of Christianese is OK.
  • As someone whose entire wardrobe was purchased at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, this is scary: Pat Robertson allows the possibility that those shirts and sweaters could have demonic spirits attached. (That’s why Pat buys professionally tailored suits, I guess.)
  • Once we know the name of the new Pope, the new Pope has to choose a name. Past Pope picks included these. (You remember Pope Urban, right?) 
  • How is it possible that this great song by the Wheaton College Gospel Choir has had less than 2,500 views in two years?  If this don’t bring a smile to your face, your mouth is broken. Watch, copy the link and share.
  • Jon Acuff finds himself in a prayer meeting with someone who gives a whole new meaning to the phrase too much information
  • If you missed it January, Shaun Groves shares songwriting secrets for worship composers. But ultimately, “I think worship writers have parted with standard songwriting practices because they’re creating with the live experience in mind. So their priorities are much different from those of a traditional songwriter.”
  • The people at Thomas Nelson flatly refused us a review copy of this, but I’ll be nice and tell you about it anyway. Jesus: A Theography is a new book by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola combining theology and biography with –[free review time expired]
  • …Mind you, that was already better than this guy’s review. “After a while, I finally put the book down and said enough.” (When you accept a free book you do agree to finish reading it.)
  • Remember Anne Jackson? Well she’s still kicking around, still writing, and apparently this Friday is a special day
  • Nadia Bolz-Weber, the Lutheran with attitude, shares her struggle preparing to preach on The Parable of the Vineyard. (Open the audio link in a new tab, then click back to follow the text; the whole sermon is about ten minutes.) Actual quote: “…you’d think that I’d totally remember a parable where poop is mentioned.”
  • Meanwhile Steve McCoy’s kids, age 12 and 14, are taking sermon notes while he preaches.
  • On our fifth birthday, we introduced you to Derek the Cleric. We had a tough time that day choosing between two cartoons and thought we’d stretch the written permission we received to do just one more.

Derek The Cleric - Powerpoint

February 20, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Cleveland City Mission

Who needs LinkedIn when you’re linked in here?  The picture, Gasoline Gospel is from Shorpy.com; captioned “August 1937. ‘Gas station and gospel mission in Cleveland, Ohio.’ In addition to Koolmotor ‘Gasolene,’ a long-defunct Cities Service brand, we also seem to have at least a couple of the major food groups represented here, as well as two verses from the New Testament. Photo by John Vachon.” Click the image to see the entire picture full size along with more glimpses into history.

  • Start with this one: 33 Ways to Know You Were a Youth Group Kid.
  • Nick Vujicic, born without arms and legs, is the father of a newborn baby boy
  • Got 19 minutes? Meet Atheism 2.0, an atheism for people who are attracted to the ritualistic side, the moralistic side, but can’t stand the doctrine.
  • First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas is just days away from the opening of its new $130 million facility. And don’t miss the three videos which rationalize that expense.
  • A sixteen-year old in Texas is suing her parents who are trying to coerce her to have an abortion she does not want. (See update in comments section.)
  • Rick Warren has shied away from TV and radio, but is launching a 30-minute daily radio show to air in the top 25 U.S. markets.
  • Early artwork has surfaced for the new Left Behind movie; which is actually a remake of the original (book one) story; this one with Nicolas Cage.
  • Also at Todd Rhoades’ blog: Should churches have Tweet seats
  • When a U.S. Lutheran pastor attended an interfaith prayer event following the Sandy Hook shooting, he violated denominational rules against ‘joint worship’ with people of other faiths. Now the LC-MS denomination is embarrassed by the reaction on social media.
  • Veteran Christian music artist Carman reveals to his Facebook followers that he has an incurable cancer.
  • Here’s info on an upcoming conference (April 11-13) in Virginia that I would love to be able to attend; presented by Missio Alliance, it’s titled The Future of the Gospel
  • Home-schooling is banned in Germany, so a family there fled to the U.S. for asylum which was granted in 2010. But now, the Department of Homeland Security is seeking the family’s deportation, which would lead to persecution back home.
  • There are some new posts at The Elephant’s Debt, a website devoted to issues of alleged financial improprieties involving James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel.
  • An alternative wording to The Lord’s Prayer — the Kiwi version, perhaps — you never know what you’ll find in used bookstores
  • Here’s what I wrote to my colleagues in the Christian book trade about the dwindling relationship between bloggers and publishers seeking book reviews.
  • And since we’re ending on a book theme, here’s the chart — including one title error, if you can spot it — of what people in my part of the world purchased in 2012:

Searchlight 2012 Chart

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