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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People

By Dave Burchett
WaterBrook Press, 243 pp, 2002

Have you ever read a book that made a huge impression on you? That convinced or inspired you to change the way you live or interact with others? That opened your eyes and made you realize you've been doing something stupid for a very long time?

This book did all those for me. I don't write this lightly, because I rarely read a book that does just that.

I found this while browsing through the non-fiction stacks in my local county library. You'd be amazed what you can find when you're not really looking for anything. The book's title caught my eye, since it's a clever play on the standard question of why bad things happen to good people (that question, by the way, is beyond the scope of this humble review). So I picked it up, paged through it, and decided it was worth a try. I wasn't paying for it, so my criteria for reading a book is low (it's higher if I'm buying a book).

Author Dave Burchett's message can be summed up in one sentence: Christians need to treat each other better, and they need to treat non-Christians better.

He's speaking from personal experience. I won't give away the situation here, but he and his family were treated horribly at a church they had attended for years, so they left. And he started talking to other folks who had also been treated badly by their fellow Christians, and realized something was very wrong in the church. Some folks moved to other churches, but others lost their faith. The church was actually driving people away, and Burchett rightly thinks that's wrong.

Burchett also provides a quick but effective overview of basic Christian doctrine, including six things he learned about evangelism by watching the ridiculous events in Florida following the 2000 presidential election.

But the strength of the book is Burchett's advice for dealing with non-believers. Too many Christians have done a horrible job of communicating their message. They come across as hateful, bigoted, close-minded, intolerant, and angry. So is it any wonder that so many non-Christians think all Christians are that way? Or that Christianity is that way?

So he suggests that Christians watch their language and tone, and treat everyone, believer and non-believer alike, with love and humility. Don't water down the message, just make it less strident and more welcoming.

He also advises Christians to pick their battles more carefully, and here he goes into politics. Yes, Christians should be involved with the political process, and should stand up for issues that are important, but politics is not the most effective way to change peoples' hearts. Quit whining about the secular media, or how mean skeptics are, or how Christians are victimized - that achieves nothing. Instead, focus on living the Christian life, which is the best way to change this world.

That's the message I took from this book. I realized I was doing much of what he was talking about. I often dealt with skeptics by ridiculing their beliefs, and when they responded in kind, I concluded they were anti-Christian bigots. It never occurred to me that they were thinking the same of me, and I was turning people off Christianity. So I've since changed my tone, becoming more polite while in no way watering down the message, and the scornful responses have practically disappeared. Funny how that works!

So I recommend this book to everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike. You may not like or agree with some of what Burchett recommends, but it should get you thinking and hopefully examining your own conduct.

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