If The Church Were Christian, by Phillip Gulley

 I’ve read his other thought-provoking books. I was thrilled to see that he had a new book published.  Making it even more enticing were those who recommended this book, some of my favorite authors – Richard Rohr, Marcus Borg, Shane Claiborne, and Barbara Brown Taylor!

But, let me be honest, I haven’t ever fully agreed with all of Gulley’s notions.  I do, though, find his honest appraisal of the church refreshing. Lots of folks can critique the church or even to re-imagine it, but few offer useful ways to actually do itGulley makes Christianity real.

There are 10 chapters designed to address the issues of church-as-usual. For instance, what if we spent more effort knowing Jesus as our model for living rather than merely the One we worship?  What if we actually practiced our calling, the ministry of reconciliation, rather than majoring in judgment? Imagine how folks woud view the ‘church’ if acting graciously trumped our obsession with right belief?

Gulley suggests that the church lost its way when it chose to prioritize the afterlife over this life; cared more about the sexual practices of members than about loving others; valued the possession of power over being a leader towards peace;  protecting the institution of church as their prime directive rather than meeting the needs of hurting people; insisting on uniformity of belief & practice over unity in diversity; being experts who could answer every question rather than inviting questions and embracing mystery.

Is it possible for the church to get back on track?  Or should it, as Sam Harris suggests, be jettisoned as an embarrassment to humanity?  Will Christians be willing to acknowledge these failures and insist on change or will they continue to put their trust in the priest of the cult, rather than in the Lord Jesus himself?  Will we take the time to rediscover the values of Jesus or simply keep on in the facade of being ‘church’?

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