I recently completed the book Naked Spirituality by Brian McLaren for the Viral Bloggers web site. I feel that it is best to admit that I generally do not consider myself as being in the emergent camp, but I do like to follow the conversation that they are involved in. I am a believer in Organic Christianity and that is sometimes in contras,t in my opinion, to what I find in organized religion. With that being said though, I do love all my brothers and sisters in the Lord despite our differing views and opinions on how one worships the Lord.
This book was a challenging read for me, as I am a huge fan of the premise. There is a need in our current culture to strip back everything that has been piled on top of Christ into this entity that we call religion. It is for this reason that I selected The Naked Gospel previously from the Viral Bloggers to read. This review is not a compare and contrast though but rather a look into what motivates me in selecting the books that I review. It was hard for me to read this book and put some of the rumors that I had heard about Brian McLaren on the back burner. Since I have not read his previous books, including his A New Kind of Christianity, I did not want to let the review be tainted. As I read the book, I found that there were many chapters that I enjoyed. I also enjoyed the attempts of the author to put much of his life and his journey into the pages of this book.
With the 12 words for his book established (here, thanks, O, sorry, help, please, when, no, why, behold, yes, and silence) Brian takes us along a journey with him to how he ended up where he is today. And I loved this. I enjoy the journey, but I must be honest with everyone and say that I felt like many of the chapters were broken down into two sections. One section dealing with Brian’s journey and another that dealt with the word. I freely admit that could be my reading of it and even been influenced by some early perceptions. The problem that I had with this dynamic was that much of the time, I felt that they were set up in such a way that they words were not meant to be unique to the Christian faith or the Christian reader, but rather the book was structured to have universal truths with Brian’s underlying story being one that included Christ. I felt that the words were to anybody reading the book. The non-personal narrative seemed to reference “God” but not necessarily Christ. Christ was a part of Brian’s story, but Christ’s story was not central to this book as a whole.
For me reading this through my Christian eyes made things very difficult because I do believe that Christ needs to be intertwined into each and every of the twelve words and not a footnote in the examples of each word.
With that being said, I was able to push beyond that and complete the book. I actually enjoyed the insight that the book provided and I would even walk away from the book and recommend it. If you will struggle with the same things that I did, most of the time Brian would refer to “God”, I would replace it with Christ and push along. While, I might have violated the author’s intent with the book by doing so, it allowed me to complete the book and gain some valuable insite into my own personal story and walk with the Lord.
If the author’s intent was for this book to reach many of those that fall into the “unchurched” category or those seeking, then I can commend him for that attempt and hope that many of them will pick up the book with an open mind. Brian does a good job of peeling away many layers and starts one on a journey to get back to something more basic and far more enriching than what many find today in organized religion.