I wanted to like this book; I really did. And once again, I got sucked in by the recommendations (and the apparently now-near-obligatory Rick Warren
imprimatur foreword). But when all is said and done, it just left me kind of cold.
Johnnie Moore. Dirty God: Jesus in the Trenches. $15.99, 224p., Thomas Nelson.
To be sure, it’s the right subject matter—specifically, the power of receiving Jesus’ grace in our lives, and then extending that grace to others. And Johnnie Moore is just fine as a writer per se. It’s just that the book ultimately didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, and (to me, at least) tried too hard to sound “hip” in doing so, as if the cleverness would somehow hide the obviousness.
Just a few random samples: “Jesus didn’t wear Prada”; “Jesus fell like a bunker buster into the religious milieu of this day”; “I can see the crowd saying ‘Snap!'”; and comparing contemporary Christianity to biblical Christianity by comparing Pintos to Porsches. You get the idea. And yes, the experts he brings in—most prominently C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer—lend some weight to his message (and again, I don’t have any problems with the message itself). But even more so, they make you want to put this book down and find the original books.
Also, while the chapters are in two groups—Getting Grace and Giving Grace—it doesn’t feel as if there’s really any progression going on. It seems these chapters could’ve been arranged in any order, and the net result would’ve been the same. In fact, I found myself thinking that the final chapter, “What Could Happen If Grace Covered the Earth,” would’ve made a really good introduction for a much better book.
That said (and this brings us to…), the last quarter of the book is somewhat better than the first three-quarters, particularly the chapters “God Might Want You to Fail Your Test” (i.e., so that you’re willing to receive God’s grace instead of “work for it”) and “A Grace-Starved Planet” (which ought to be self-explanatory).
But it’s just too little, too late.
Good review. It sounds like I would have responded as you did to the book. I fear everyone is now preaching the right message, but is anyone yet living it? And meanwhile, we are left to become somewhat jaded as writers struggle to repackage it more and more cleverly relevant ways.
Thanks, Paul. To be fair, I’m pretty sure the guy is living it, too; in fact, given the back-cover copy, I was expecting to see more examples of that in the book (and those do come in, again, the later pages). But yeah, the “repackaging” kinda drove me crazy. What I was hoping for — and what this book only barely hinted at — was something more something more along the lines of my favorite new book of the past 5 years, Simple Spirituality by Chris Heuertz (whose new book FINALLY came out this week and which I’m really looking forward to diving into…)