Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul

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Overview

Though waves of cynics and atheists claim that America is too religious, G. Jeffrey MacDonald disagrees. America’s churches, he argues, have abandoned their sacred role as dispensers of community values, and instead are increasingly serving up entertainment, aerobics, yoga classes, and other services that have nothing to do with religious faith. As religion becomes more consumer-oriented, congregants are able to avoid the moral, intellectual, and theological commitments Christianity requires by simply joining a ...

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Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul

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Overview

Though waves of cynics and atheists claim that America is too religious, G. Jeffrey MacDonald disagrees. America’s churches, he argues, have abandoned their sacred role as dispensers of community values, and instead are increasingly serving up entertainment, aerobics, yoga classes, and other services that have nothing to do with religious faith. As religion becomes more consumer-oriented, congregants are able to avoid the moral, intellectual, and theological commitments Christianity requires by simply joining a different—and less rigorous—church. Grounded in journalism, personal experience, and Christian theology, Thieves in the Temple is an impassioned and provocative cri de coeur for a new religious reformation. Incisively critiquing today’s dangerous movement away from true religion, MacDonald demonstrates just how much Americans stand to lose when churches sell their souls to recruit parishioners.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A journalist and United Church of Christ ordained minister, MacDonald, an occasional PW contributor, bemoans the rise of “America’s religious marketplace,” taking church leaders to task for caving in to pressure to provide inoffensive, low-threshold environments that keep members comfortable. Critically examining contemporary efforts such as small group ministries, which he considers insular, and short-term missions, which he regards as misguided efforts to satisfy participants’ demands, MacDonald rebukes both fast-growing megachurches and mainline Protestants for not holding members to high Christian standards. He suggests that spiritual disciplines such as fasting and honoring Lent as a “structured time for introspection” are tools available to address such prevalent social problems as debt, obesity, and divorce. Compellingly arguing against measuring success by attendance or pledge revenue, MacDonald provides examples of communities engaging a “new ethic of asceticism.” The author’s extrapolations from his four-year pastorate of a 40-member congregation occasionally ring bitter, and Christians of good faith may disagree with stances such as “fencing” the communion table—the practice of setting criteria for who can receive communion. Overall, however, MacDonald’s journalistic prowess makes this book a thought-provoking challenge to today’s church. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

Os Guinness, author of The Last Christian on Earth
“Parts of the American church are beginning to resemble a modern Ship of Fools, and G. Jeffrey MacDonald has fired a timely shot across its bows. A penetrating and wide-ranging analysis of consumer religion, written with sorrow rather than anger, Thieves in the Temple is good reading for any interested observers but essential for pastors and lay people concerned for the integrity of the Christian faith in the modern world.”

Randall Balmer, Episcopal priest, Professor of American Religious History at Barnard College, Columbia University, and author of Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America
“With deft analysis and uncommon wisdom, Jeffrey MacDonald has produced a devastating critique of the cult of consumerism and easy affirmation that has corrupted American Protestantism in recent years. Protestants, the author argues in this compelling, prophetic, and ultimately hopeful book, have defaulted on their historic and culturally crucial task of moral formation. Thieves in the Temple is the finest, most perceptive book on Protestant life in America in a very long time.”

Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago and author of Sovereignty: God, State, and Self
“Jeffrey MacDonald's Thieves in the Temple is written with clarity and verve. He argues passionately that the wholesale embrace of a consumerist driven model of culture threatens ‘the very soul’ of the Christian churches, and he does so in a manner free from the spite and resentment that too often accompany such critiques. Thieves in the Temple deserves a wide readership.”

Dan Rather, Global Correspondent and Managing Editor of HDNet's Dan Rather Reports
"G. Jeffrey MacDonald writes with a journalist’s eye and a preacher’s heart. The crisis he identifies in this provocative and timely book has serious implications not only for America’s religious life but also for our broader culture and politics."

Rev. Dr. Roy J. Enquist, Emeritus professor, Gettysburg Seminary and former Canon, Washington National Cathedral
“No one seriously concerned about the future of the churches can afford to miss MacDonald’s critique and vision.”

Rev. Dr. Roy J. Enquist, Emeritus professor, Gettysburg Seminary and former Canon, Washington National Cathedral
“No one seriously concerned about the future of the churches can afford to miss MacDonald’s critique and vision.”

Tucson Citizen
“The author bemoans the rise of such institutions and calls for nothing less than a return to basics and a new religious reformation…Thieves in the Temple is a sobering call-to-arms and might be an important first step.”

Christian Science Monitor
“MacDonald does outstanding work…As a journalist and minister, he’s uniquely able to understand the problem from the inside out, and he supports his thesis well.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465063772
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/23/2013
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

G. Jeffrey MacDonald is a journalist and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, he is a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and the Religion News Service. He writes regularly for Time Magazine on topics in business and business ethics. His work has also appeared in publications including Ms., The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Clear to the point and on target

    This book puts into writing what I have experienced about the marketing of the Church. The Church often grabs hold of business models which many times have failed business. The book's content is not complicated, rather it is painfully relevant.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2012

    ANGER

    The book is a bit depressing and full of anger at how the church continues to go through evolution in history and be relevant to today's people. Some points do hold up.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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