Jesus Died for This? by Becky Garrison came out in August. (Why I’m just reviewing it now is kind of a long story.) In this volume Garrison reports as a pilgrim, a sojourner on a quest to find out whatever happened to Jesus. She documents her travels from early 2007 to the election hype of 2008, taking her all the way from Jordan and Israel to Seattle and Manhattan. Along the way she witnessed a lot of “Jesus junk” but also found genuine communities living out the Gospel in small groups of broken individuals.
Garrison is a religious satirist. Other than Jonathan Swift, whom she herself references from time to time, I can think of no other good examples. Political satire is what Saturday Night Live does to our national leaders. George H. W. Bush enjoyed the gentle jabs by Dana Carvy, and even had him to the White House to do his impersonation. Other subjects of satire are not so gracious. Becky Garrison’s calling is to hold a mirror up to the institutional church so we can see ourselves for who and what we really are. My wife will attest to the fact that several times without warning I literally laughed out loud. But behind the witty turn of the pun and far flung analogies are often hard-line, thought provoking facts; sordid details of the failings of the church (the global, universal, catholic church with the little c’s) to be the body of Christ.
I like to let an author’s words speak for themselves. Garrison writes “Labels like emergent, evangelical, and Christian can be helpful points of reference, provided one doesn’t take the label, turn it into a designer logo, and market the product as if it’s more important than Christ.” There’s a lot of talk about doing church, but her quest was to find people talking less and doing more. I like to say when all is said and done, often more is said than done. Garrison suggests that “Like Elvis, Jesus has left the building. Or perhaps he’s still around, but Judas has him locked in a coin-operated toilet.”
Garrison recalls her visit to Mars Hill Church to witness Mark Driscoll in person, and burns with a little righteous indignation at the Joel Osteen event held in Yankee Stadium. After charging $15 for admission, Osteen Ministries passed the plate “to fund future events like this one.” But she was also there firsthand to see real, inclusive communities living out the Gospel message first century church style. Whether it’s ministering to prostitutes, giving out food under a bridge, or providing housing for those who cannot afford it, time and again she was able to search out small groups diligently doing the work of ministry that goes quietly unnoticed. For every Fred Phelps there’s a Ken Loyd out there somewhere.
This book is not for everyone. Becky Garrison is Anglican, and was baptized at 6 weeks of age. Again she is a satirist, so if you have no sense of humor 1) read something else, or 2) get one. She occasionally has a few beers. For reasons I’m not even sure of, she references historical dates as CE/BCE rather than using BC/AD years. She uses the term post-evangelical with ease (which I’m familiar with as a fan of Internet Monk) and also post-Christian which I was introduced to for the first time.
That said, I recommend Jesus Died for This? I’ve left enough unsaid that it is well worth your time. Jesus Died for This? retails for $14.99 and is published by Zondervan. Click here to purchase. Audio download and e-book formats also available. For the record, I have not been compensated for this review nor my endorsement. In 2008 I reviewed The New Atheist Crusaders and their Unholy Grail for Internet Monk; you can read that review here. Garrison’s other books include Rising from the Ashes; Rethinking Church; and Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church.