Have you ever wondered if there was a different way to live out your faith? Do you feel surrounded by legalism and unwritten rules about what religion is supposed to look like? Are there certain “faith-laws” that you’re afraid to break?
Author Jacqueline A. Bussie attempts to answers those questions in her book, Outlaw Christian. Bussie is a professor of religion at Concordia College who has her own ideas about what Christianity should look like. She considers herself to be an outlaw Christian, and addresses what she titles “faith-laws” such as:
- Don’t doubt.
- Don’t be angry
- Never ask questions.
- Grieve in secret.
She employs the use of personal stories and international stories of hope to illustrate how to overcome the fear of crossing the line on what she claims are no-no’s in the Christian faith.
When I first started reading this book and was introduced to her notion of “faith-laws,” I was astonished and kept thinking, Christianity isn’t like that. Every single one of the rules that she addresses from an “outlaw Christian” perspective are, in fact, not rules at all. In fact, the Christian faith and, in particular, my church leaders have taught us that it is natural to doubt, it is okay to get angry- and it will happen, you can never make your faith your own if you do not ask questions, and we should always be authentic- even when it comes to grieving. I’m not going to lie. I was a bit puzzled by what she was referring to.
The more I read, however, the more I realized that she sounded as if she were speaking about the liberal, nominal church I grew up in. Taking that into consideration and finally realizing that she is, in fact, the same denomination that I used to be, I was able to put her ideas into a better perspective.
Frankly, much of what she refers to as “outlaw Christianity” is actually the way that Bible-believing Christians already operate. Speaking from experience, it’s easy to see that her views are a by-product of a church that does see things differently from the church I attend now. Growing up, church for me was about rules, keeping things to yourself, and tradition rather than authentic faith. As I finished reading the book, I kept that in mind, although it troubled me that if she just would have explored the world of Christianity a little more, she would have found millions of believers who already live out their faith in many of the ways she proposes.
What I Liked:
Throughout the book Bussie offers stories of hope in the most dire of circumstances. My favorite quote from the book was this:
“Happiness is almost always because-of, while joy, like grief, is almost always in-spite-of.”
This book may be a good starting point for those who have an aversion to Christianity because of the open and honest ways that she shares her disillusionment with the religion she has grown up with; however, I would only recommend that this book be used very loosely in those instances because there are many inconsistencies which are contrary to what the Bible teaches.
What I Disliked:
Unfortunately, this book had more points I disagreed with than those that I did. It seems to me that Bussie is trying too hard to make Christianity fit in with how she feels, instead of taking the Bible at its word.
One issue I have with this book is her views on God’s provision. At one point she expressed discontent at the fact that when we pray before we eat, we thank only God for our food. She then went on to list others who had a hand in our meal- grocery workers, migrant workers, the person who cooked, etc. I certainly do think that all of these people also deserve gratitude, but this is what got me… She suggests that God is only partially responsible for our provision. The Bible doesn’t tell us that God will partially provide for us- it says that He will provide period. Everyone who contributed to that meal certainly had a hand in it, but who is the One who placed those people in their positions?
I also had a problem with the way that she views God. She makes several references to the fact that she does not believe that God is all-powerful. Here are some examples:
“Just because God isn’t all-powerful doesn’t mean God is doing nothing…”
“As an outlaw Christian, I want to throw out this naive conception of omnipotence, because it’s holding us back from living lives in service to one another.”
While there were several other things I disagreed with, the last one I’ll mention is her attempt to use this book as a political platform:
“This battle rages on in our society today (think: taxes, health care reform, and the way Americans are taught to believe that socialism is one of the greatest evil on Earth).”
Overall, I would not recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the true Christian faith. Being a believer is not about shaping your faith with quotes from Buddhism and making it what you want it to be. Being a believer is about following God’s Word as it stands.
“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”