Jesus Untangled: A Book Review

A Review of Jesus Untangled: Crucifying our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb
Keith Giles, Author
Published by Quoir, January 2017
Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble on January 20, 2017
(Recommendation: it is more helpful to the promotion of a book if purchases occur on the day of release, rather than through “pre-order”. Please do not use the “pre-order” feature on Amazon.com.)

keith

About the Author

Keith Giles practices what he preaches. He is a very good writer, and you will enjoy his conversational tone even when his words seem to challenge you to the core of your being. Beyond that, Keith is my friend, and a brother in Christ. In the interest of full disclosure, I received an electronic copy of this book (for review purposes) before its publication, and I was not blackmailed into, compensated for, or otherwise forced to write a positive (or not) review for his book. In addition, I volunteered to be part of the “promotion team” for the book. I don’t do that for just any book! (Can you see me smiling?)

 

All humor aside, this is one of the most important books for believers I have ever read. However, I have found it difficult to write this “review” because I wouldn’t have been “ready” for the content just a few short years ago. I am not the same person—not the same “Christian”—I once was. Yet, I remember so well the “way I was”…  I understand all too well why many people might not be ready to read Jesus Untangled.

Maybe I Was Confused About Who I Really Am (in Christ)

“How We First Became Confused About Who We Really Are” reads one of the Chapter Headings in Jesus Untangled. Keith recounts what, to me, has become a familiar history: the history of the early church, and of the effect the Emperor Constantine had upon it. The retelling of this history is a retelling of your history, and mine—a story so vitally important to where I found myself a few short years ago.

“So, in exchange for a place of honor and acceptability within the public square, the Christian Church sold her birthright and bowed her knees to the State.”  (Jesus Untangled, p 63)

It was Leonard Verduin’s book, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, that opened my eyes to “sacralism” (“…the confluence of church and state wherein one is called upon to change the other. Christian sacralism is, according to Verduin, the hybrid product that resulted from the colossal change known as the ‘Constantinian Shift’ that began early in the fourth century AD, when Christianity was granted official tolerance in the Roman Empire by the Emperor Constantine…”[i]) This new term, introduced to me in the context of the history of radical Jesus followers who stood apart from the state-aligned church culture (often to the point of martyrdom for their faith), caused me to reflect for a long time upon the unhealthy fixation of American Christendom on politics and political power. So, while many of my “conservative” friends were reading Sean Hannity’s books and anything else they could get their hands on that affirmed “American Exceptionalism” and the righteousness of patriotism, I found myself reading “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd… and preparing to exit a post as a Republican Party precinct leader. Why? Because I quickly developed a firm conviction that it was impossible for me to follow Jesus whole-heartedly when my heart and mind were entangled in the affairs of this world—when the fate of a single geopolitical nation (even my own “fate”) was of more concern to me than praying “Thy will be done, Thy Kingdom come…” and meaning it.

Jesus Untangled fits neatly alongside all my other “preferred” reading material because, like Verduin’s and Boyd’s books, it challenges me to evaluate my thoughts, actions and behavior in the light of eternity… to compare how the things I “think” are important stack up against the priorities of other saints from other times. Saints like the Anabaptists, and my own Moravian ancestors. Saints who knew what real persecution was—and maintained their confidence in “Christ Alone” in the face of persecution from a State Church that demanded conformity to “The State’s Christ.” It challenges me to reclaim who I really am (in Christ), rather than who “the Matrix” tells me I am. Patriotism was one of the things I always thought held great importance. Until I compared it with what these believers who preceded me held dear.

Maybe You’re Not Ready to Read This Book

But, you might ask, can’t we be both “patriotic” and “in God’s will”?  For me, the answer to that question is “no”. Keith Giles, in Jesus Untangled, explains why the answer is “no” for him… and probably will end up being “no” for you, as well. Keith’s writing is very persuasive, his scriptural support impeccable. You will need courage. You will need a prayer closet. You will need a willingness to let go of… a lot. The story of how God prepared you to read this book will be your own story. I’m just praying for you to be ready. Because this book may well challenge some—or all—of your deepest lifelong convictions about what it means to be “Christian” and “American”. I promise you…  you will be okay. You’ll be better than okay. You’ll be ready for something else: a whole new perspective on what God is doing and wants to do, both “in” and “in spite of”, the world. The story of what God does with you AFTER you read this book will likely be “epic”.

“Our hope is not in our nation. We place no faith in politics or policies. Our eyes are set on Jesus. We are looking for a better country. Our goal is to follow our King as obedient ambassadors of Christ.” (Jesus Untangled, p 184)

Getting Untangled: It’s a Process

Jesus Untangled is a product of a journey  Keith Giles has been making—and blogging about—for quite a while. Keith isn’t alone. More and more Christians are questioning the status quo, looking back to the early Church for clues as to why the Church in the Twenty-first Century seems to lack the spiritual power enjoyed by that of the First Century. Entanglement with the affairs of the world, especially with respect to “politics”, is a “prime suspect”, in my opinion. Getting “untangled”—or disentangled—is a process. Each person’s dis-entanglement will “unfold” differently, but I have no doubt it is something God desires for every Christian. Whether you know it or not, He has probably already seen to it that the seeds have been sown for your process. My advice to you as you explore this matter is two-fold. 1) Trust God and pray for Him to keep you in touch with the “eternal perspective”. 2) Read Keith’s book. (Do you see me smiling?)

I’m Not the Only Person Who Hopes You ARE Ready to Read Jesus Untangled

How can I praise Jesus Untangled more highly, or honor my friend Keith Giles more respectfully, than Greg Boyd (author, The Myth of a Christian Nation) with his Foreword? How can I write an endorsement that tops any one of those written by others? Well prior to publication, endorsements have poured in from Ross Rohde (author, Viral Jesus), Chuck McKnight (blogger at HippieHeretic.com), Jon Zens (author, teacher and New Testament Scholar), Richard Jacobson (author of Unchurching: Christianity Without Churchianity and co-host of The Unchurching Podcast), and Neil Cole (author, Organic Church), and others. If you would like to read some of these endorsements, I have shared them separately on another page. These people have been highly influential in my spiritual life as God has transformed me from “American Christian” into “Kingdom Citizen”. So has Keith Giles. The best I can do is share my reaction to the book as a prayerful hope that people who aren’t ready for the message will read and embrace it.

If it makes you uncomfortable for someone to suggest you “might” not be “ready” to read a book, maybe that’s a “sign” you really need to read it to find out whether you’re ready or not. But, only you can decide, in the end, whether or not you “might” be overly “entangled in the affairs of the world”, or whether you are “ready” to read a book that will definitely help you with that. You see, I fear—and I hope I am wrong—that most American Christians simply are not ready to read Jesus Untangled. I am fighting a temptation to put on my steel-toed boots and “go after” specific sentiments and behaviors I have witnessed, especially over the past eighteen months, that exemplify the ways American Christians are missing the mark when it comes to unadulterated allegiance to Christ. I am fighting the urge to lengthen this review by adding my list of “20 Signs You Aren’t Ready to Read Jesus Untangled”. (Word count matters, and I want you with me to the very last word!) I am fighting a temptation to pull more quotes from the book itself, but it is so rich in wisdom and needful teaching I risk infringing the Copyright (I would happily just copy and paste the entire book here). Keith has offered a much more loving and gracious corrective to the entanglement of Christians in “the affairs of this world” than I could ever write. His invitation to “crucify our politics to pledge allegiance to the lamb” may be one of the most irresistible invitations you’ve ever received. That’s how evident Keith’s love for Christ—and for you—will be by the time you finish the book.

Now, for “the VERY LAST WORD”

In conclusion, I would like to offer ONE reason you “might” really be ready to read Jesus Untangled: You say you want to follow Jesus.

You want to follow Jesus—really, really want to follow Jesus—and you want to grow in your perception of His eternal Kingdom. So, you are ready to read this book in spite of all the reasons you may not be completely, perfectly “ready”. If you really want to follow Jesus, you are “ready”—even if you find yourself, three pages in, wanting to throw it across the room—because you cannot afford to pass up the truth it contains. Just. Read. It!

[i] http://dictionary.sensagent.com/sacralism/en-en/ (sacralism defined)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: