Saturday, September 20, 2008

Take the Insider's Tour of Evangelicalism

I'm a former Baptist missionary, aid worker, and Senior Writer for World Vision. I want to take you on an insider tour of evangelicalism, one of the fastest growing religious movements in America today. If you’re tired of Bible thumping or were ever tempted to thump a Bible thumper, this tour could be your cure. Laced with wit and humor (I hope you think so too), my journey takes you from my conversion amidst the 1970s Jesus Movement to Muslim animistic Africa with plenty of church-experience stops along the way to expose the good, bad, and the ugly of the evangelical movement.

But I don't stop there. Often disillusioned with evangelical institutions and dogma, I venture into the realm of the radical Left and their response to the Christian Right, only to find that religious conservatives don’t have a monopoly on fundamentalist mindsets. With clowns to the Christian Right and jokers to the secular Left, what is the average Joe to do who believes in God, is weary of organized religion, enjoys sex, watches the Daily Show (OK, Comedy Central also works), and can’t turn down a good microbrew? Well, before you throw in the towel and affix the new nifty atheist symbol to your bumper, you might want to check out my proposed alternate way: recover a reasonable faith that takes the New Testament call for freedom from man-made religion seriously, rejects narrow literalism, and insists on going where the evidence leads.

In my unique iconoclastic style (again, I hope so), I explore the fundamentalist roots of the church, charismatic and mainstream evangelicalism, the new progressives, including the emergent church, and over reactions to the Christian Right such as the writings of Bishop Shelby Spong and Sam Harris. By weaving personal stories and anecdotes together with some of the most controversial hot-potato issues of our day, I ponder such thought-provoking questions as these while answering them with clear reasoning and meticulous references from scholars, historians, and scientists:

• How and why do some Christians abuse the Bible?
• Why is the traditional doctrine of hell based more on tradition than on what the Bible truly affirms?
• Why is the evangelical church wrong on the gay rights issue?
• What’s all this rigmarole about the end of the world and Jesus’ return?
• Why are Christians wrong when they claim someone like Gandhi isn’t “saved?”
• Is there a reasonable way to solve the religion vs. science debate?
• Is materialistic atheism really ruling the day intellectually?
• And the real stumper, Can we ever recover from the damage done by the Teletubbies?

If you want to learn how to squash fundamentalism wherever it rears its ugly head, on the Right or the Left, and yearn for some clarity in religious thought and the culture wars, my tour in the form of a new book called Confessions of a Bible Thumper, may be your ticket to an authentic and progressive spirituality independent of dogmatic trappings. What part of this tour are you fascinated with?