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.