Crazy Love: Not My Book

Francis Chan

Image by williamhartz via Flickr

I finished Francis Chan and Danae Yankoski’s Crazy Love literally about 10 minutes ago. After the first three chapters that I thoroughly ravaged in my previous post, nothing really perturbed me very bad. There were times when I felt annoyed, but for the most part, I liked the book. Of course, that is a very conditional “like”. I do not feel the need to rip apart the final 7 chapters; that might be what I mean by “like”. I did not feel disgusted by it. Like many things in life, I was not convinced by his analysis or his intellect. I concluded that we have much in common and much to work toward when the authors told this personal story about Francis:

[W]hen I returned from my first trip to Africa, I felt very strongly that we were to sell our house and move into something smaller, in order to give more away. The feedback I got was along the lines of “It’s not fair to your kids,” “It’s not a prudent financial choice,” and “You are doing it just for show.” I do not remember a single person who encouraged me to explore it or supported the decision at the time.

We ended up moving into a house half the size of our previous home, and we haven’t regretted it. My response to the cynics, in the context of eternity, was, am I the crazy one for selling my house? Or are you for not giving more, serving more, being with your Creator more?” (135-6)

I found myself unable to argue with this ethic. It is of G-d. I really appreciated the appendix interview with Chan in which he rejected outright the American Dream. Rejecting the American Dream (which could be called the Majority World Nightmare) is definitely a start. As I said, I affirm this book, but I am not satisfied with it. Here is what I would have liked to see in it.

First, I mentioned before that I would appreciate a toned down androcentrism. I quite literally cringe when I read “Him” written in reference to G-d. Too many abuses of women in the name of G-d come to mind when I read it. I wish it was not used ever again. Additionally, they use “he” in order to refer to general humanity or implied persons. This is patriarchy in its most disguised formula. I felt disheartened by the author’s lack of sensitivity to this.

Second, I really disliked their identification of “sin”. In their chapter titled, “Profile of the Lukewarm,” they seemed to blame many social ills on “lukewarm” Christians. In the entire book, never once do the authors decry the horrors of war, the evil of globalization and the free market, corrupt government, or the pervasive violence of patriarchy. The problems of the world fall onto the shoulders of “sin”, and their only solution to sin is falling in love with G-d and letting Him (sic) work out the issues. Of course, we are involved in working out those issues. According to Chan and Yankoski, the issues in the world directly effect us after all, but in the end, we are all about going to heaven as people who believe in Jesus. Ultimately, their arguments leave me unconvinced. I affirm their call to Christians to live with a little bit of moral fortitude, but I hardly believe worship and love of G-d exclusively will truly inspire social change. Moreover, they claim that those who think most about going to heaven are the ones who do the most good in the world. This kind of Christian, imperial claim commits moral sovereignty into the hands of Bible-reading, eschatologically-minded Christians. Such an authoritarian view pays little mind to the incredible ethics of people beyond the Christian tradition and represents naïve denial of Bible-reading Christians who have committed horrible atrocities in the name of Jesus. Keep in mind that some of the most detrimental Christians like Augustine and Martin Luther were deeply “in love” with G-d, but their legacies have maintained us in entrenched forms of oppression.

I think my ultimate dissatisfaction with the book came in its vagueness. They never say specifically what activities are related to falling in love with G-d. Consistently, the authors make the call to love G-d more deeply, but they rely on general understandings of getting close to G-d: reading the Bible, praying, and worshiping G-d. Never once do they explicitly say, “This is a practice to help you fall in love with G-d.” Everything is implied. Community and communal readings of the Bible receive very little acknowledgement. The book encourages isolated readings. It never implies that people will dislike what they read, disagree with what they find, or be downright outraged by what the Bible says. They reductionistically imply that reading the Bible is a surefire way to get to know G-d. Normally, the Bible creates more questions than answers in my opinion. They withhold that a person can actually read the Bible “objectively” which is absolutely ridiculous to say. Everyone brings their own baggage to the reading of scripture. Everyone brings theological predispositions. The only proper way to read is not to convince oneself that the Bible can be read objectively. One must identify her prejudices and let the words and stories transform them. In the end, they play on conventional, evangelical ways of coming close to G-d. This separates prayer and ethics as two different activities. In their rubric, we come close to G-d in order to become practitioners of moral good deeds. I would argue that doing what is right is the activity that brings us closer to G-d. Prayer and volunteering at the homeless shelter are two sides of the same coin.

In addition to all this, the authors still only call Christians to charity. They leave no room for Christian activity in the deconstruction of hegemonic structures that continue injustice in this world. They promote helping the poor, but they do not permit asking why people are poor. They preach a de-politicized gospel.

In the end, Crazy Love is a challenging book for the common, evangelical, young Christian. It is certainly not written for someone like me. At times, I did feel challenged by its message, but much of its content consisted of many problems I worked out long ago. I really want to promote much of this book, and some chapters are definitely better than others. I believe the authors are desperately seeking G-d, but I believe they feel quite restricted by a dogmatic evangelicalism that demands they stay within a certain set of beliefs about G-d even when they make literally no sense or ethical promise. As my friend Rachael says, “I am a recovering evangelical,” so books like this feel frustrating and restrictive to me. I still will let its demands and call to repentance infiltrate me as best I can. Nonetheless, my critiques still stand even though this book is definitely inspired by a deep faith.

-ben adam

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About ben adam

The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and we might miss Armageddon because we're too busy watching MTV and CNN. Please, read a book, throw a ball, bake some bread, and for goodness sake, turn the TV off.
This entry was posted in anti-capitalism, Anti-imperialism, Books, Christianity, Critique, G-d, Morality, Patriarchy, Reflection, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Crazy Love: Not My Book

  1. mikezosel says:

    Ben,

    I appreciate your intellectual honesty by doing this follow-up. I hope it will prompt even more fruitful discussion between us. You’re a good man.

    Mike

    • ben adam says:

      Did you think this was cogent? With this short of a post, I felt like I caricatured the book a little bit. I did not want to do that, but I really did not have a lot to say. That is not true. I had a lot to say just not the patience to say it. The book is totally worthwhile even though I dislike the medium and the overall vibe of the book (it is too hip for me). Anyway, you are welcome, and hurry and start writing stuff so that I can read. Peace!

      ben adam

  2. Julia says:

    Ben,
    Spending time in your apartment and hearing the conversations that went on, I was intrigued by some of the things that were said. Knowing so little of your background and beliefs, I restrained myself from asking questions as I prefer to have some level of understanding before entering into such discourse. I did, however, want to learn more of your thoughts and begin to understand what you said, so I was glad when you mentioned the name of your blog. This is a fascinating study for me and, though I feel I cannot rightly agree with a good deal of what I have read thus far, I fully intend to take time over the next several days and read all that you have posted and thereafter continually check back. This is primarily because you write with raw honesty and exceptional zeal – with passion that is rare.
    That being said, I will admit that I was not impressed with the first post I read, The Good News vs. Crazy Love, due more to the bitter and angry tone in which much of it was written than to the actual content of the post. Crazy Love: Not My Book, however, exudes a humility which enables me (and I am assuming others, though I cannot speak for all those who read this) to respect you and what you are saying much more deeply, whether or not I can affirm what you have written.

    Have a blessed evening,
    Julia

    • ben adam says:

      I would be wary of much of what I write on my blog. Most of it is not very good. I do not expect many people to agree with my theology. Sometimes, I am not even sure I agree with it! I think what you said about not knowing my past is a great way to approach what I have to say. My friends who have known me since I was 18 will tell you that I am not so arrogant as to refuse growth. I speak with passionate bluntness, but I am not above rebuke. I welcome challenge. What people must always expect from me is a frank authenticity that does not fear being wrong. Jesus says the path to life is narrow and the path to destruction is wide, but sometimes I think people just avoid going down the paths altogether. I merely want to encourage people to walk, at the very least. And did you really think that one post was so angry? I read it again and again, and I just do not seem to be that angry in it. Eh, whatever. Thanks for the comment and for taking the time to read.

      ben adam

      • Julia says:

        I need to apologize and correct myself. I also went back and reread just that post, and realized/remembered that it was not actually the first post I read, but that I had read it more as a continuation of your Crooks and Their Books post. Wrongly, I carried the anger I read in the first post into the second one. For this I apologize. Rereading the post as I ought, as an individual composition, I read little of what I accused.
        Thank you for clarifying your purpose in writing and admitting that you are not always sure of what you write; this understanding will help me to read objectively.

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