Oct 19, 2011

Overrated books part 4

It's been a long time since I've written about books, but last night for reasons I can't really explain I watched the new Christian film called "WWJD?" It was not a good movie (shocking I know) but it hearkened me back to the time I decided to sit down and read "In His Steps, WWJD." This was many years ago, but the memories still linger.

Christian entertainment is frustrating to consume as the producers put message above art, making it a chore to sit through. Maybe that's due to budget constraints or sheer lack of talent, but if biblical epics prove one thing is that art can come first and make a compelling story. Movies like "Ben-Hur" and the "Passion of the Christ" are a good example.

Much like the Bible, many Christians claim to follow the tenants of "WWJD?", but have never read the thing. "In His Steps" is the tale of a small community church and it's pastor, who's sermon writing is interrupted by a man looking for work. He's brushed off by the man of the cloth and the community as a whole. The man returns during a church service and interrupts the sermon to proclaim how he's been an object that's been ignored by the town and asks them what Jesus would do, before he collapses.

The pastor has a revelation and asks his congregation to ask the same question in their daily lives. The stories of the few main characters parallel social ills at the time, which is no surprise considering it was written during the Temperance movement. The book then gives the reader the them that if you do as Jesus did, you would experience prosperity in the worldly life, which is something I don't get.

The book is not exactly known for it's literary prowess. The author didn't care about overuse of phrases, and some of the scenes are so ridiculous it's laughable. But "In His Steps" is rarely read for it's aesthetics as it's a teaching tool that was really embraced by the evangelical community in the 90s. It's heavy handed preaching of Christian socialism can be seen as contrary to the gospels oddly enough, but for those seeking the meek and mild teachings of Jesus rather than the violent beater of money lenders and supporter of gathering arms, this is the book for them. What really surprised me about the book is that the pastor character really promoted the idea of thinking as Jesus, but never really told his congregation what exactly Jesus did. The evangelicals would like you to think as Christ as the prince of peace and not the one that blessed those who suffer, for embracing wordly pain doesn't fill pews. I guess that's why this book is such a hit.

"This brings me to the issues that have given me pause and not just a little concern. First, a few minor points. The writing style is very poor. Superlatives abound in the descriptions of the effects of various decisions. "For the first time ever..." or "he had never..." or "Nothing had ever..." or "Such a thing had never..." - these overused phrases become old and trite in their use. Additionally, the plot becomes rather predictable. However, that being said, this book is perhaps rarely read for its fictional and linguistic prowess." - Stephen Escalera

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