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Posted December 21, 2013
Books which expound on instruction or ideas of fact or opinion are often dry, but I was pleasantly surprised at how thoroughly entertaining the author's writing style was in "Christ Held Hostage: The Hijacking of American Christianity", as he drew from his expansive repertoire of classic fiction, historical anecdotes, theological works, famous dialogues, and each accompanied by parallel contextual narrative which only an experienced story teller like SJ Munson could make so engaging.
The arguments put forth are not as guilty of offending readers as the humble author pleads, but those familiar with his blog on similar subject matter might be somewhat surprised at the specificity with which this book is directed at members of the Evangelical Christian religion. Nevertheless, the persuasiveness with which pastor SJ Munson impels his target audience to pursue genuine goodness and the well being of all people will likely be appreciated by all readers (and, perhaps, especially among those outside the target audience who have been yearning for someone like the author to elevate and inspire this sometimes vexatious crowd).
As with his other writings, the author's work exudes his intelligence and tremendous concern for the brotherhood of mankind and may God help us if those of us reached by his message don't have enough sense or conscientiousness to advocate the same in our own lives and actions.
Posted November 28, 2013
I was already familiar with the author's blogs that inspired this book, but I was unprepared for the emotional impact of reading his more developed work at one sitting. I ended many chapters in tears -- grieved at how far we have fallen from our calling, but also filled with hope for what can happen by God's power. In fact, the author's goal is "to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable," and it does both. I've long been uncomfortable over the unholy alliance between fundamentalist religion and politics, have long been concerned about the church's syncretism with American culture, but I found virtually no one speaking out about it. I felt almost a giddy relief to find this book, to read someone saying what I had felt for so long but had been unable to express.
The author speaks to these issues from a balanced and Biblical perspective, writing prophetically, but also humorously and using a broad range of insightful sources, from the church fathers to modern martyrs to critics outside the church who sometimes see us more clearly than we see ourselves. His writing flows easily but is ruthlessly prophetic (in one Biblical sense of that word, forth-telling the truth). It's rich but accessible reading: I'd like to re-read it and meditate on the questions he provides after each chapter -- and possibly read it with others.