Radical Christianity in the 21st Century Book Report

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Platt Book Critique

Religion is an integral part of human culture -- a set of organized beliefs about the universe, humanity, and the larger questions surrounding the spiritual values akin to society. Philosophers have debated the notions of religion for centuries, and even in the Enlightenment Period of European history, many found the lack of tolerance in many Christians an idea that could not be reconciled with the actual teachings of the Bible. Indeed, this disconnect between spirituality and the man-made interpretation seemed to manifest in intolerance and judgment as opposed to the teachings of Christ as unconditional love and acceptance.

Author David Platt, in Radical, challenges the reader on just this disconnect. How humans have historically manipulated the Gospels to fit a series of cultural preferences and to justify behaviors that were simply not part of the very nature of Christianity. We know that the Christian Bible has been used to justify slavery, war, victimization, imperialism and more -- but also to establish a carative paradigm and millions of individual good works. Instead, Platt asks the reader to look at the actual words of Jesus and, combined with his deeds, to become a true discipline of the basic tenets of Christianity and to both obey and believe in the actual truth of the Gospel. Using the example of a suburban Church that becomes dedicated to the actual word of Christ, Platt shows how a true approach to Christianity, while seemingly "radical," can offer hope, success, love and more of the true message of Christianity than thousands of years of interpretation (Plat, 2010).

Summary

David Platt is a pastor in Alabama. Through his book, Radical, he offers a series of challenges and critiques of the modern Christian Church. Through personal stories of his travels and experiences with Churches everywhere, he is "convinced that we as Christ's followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical, but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe" (Platt, p. 3). The rest of the book is a series of questions and challenges that ask the reader to really see what it was Jesus was trying to say to humans -- to give up, sacrifice and leave comfort in order to truly value Christ's teachings. The book is a wake up call -- a series of challenges for modern humans to rethink what it means to be a Christian in the 21st century, and how to move from simply "talking" about being a Christian to actually being a Christian.

Critique

During the early period of American history, the debates about the founding of the new nation, the idea of America being attached to God and Christianity was a foregone conclusions. The framers of the Constitution, for instance, could not conceive of the notion of religion and politics being separate, for they were well-versed in Christian teachings and the ideas they had were tied to Christianity. Culturally and socially there was a difference between using Christianity as part of one's cultural and moral heritage and Biblical Christianity. Patrick Henry, for instance, writing about the founding of the new nation wrote: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here" (Henry, 2010).

Yet this very notion of religion, spirituality and application is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian nation, or even a Christian oneself. Platt's book, in fact, does call this notion of what it means to be Christian into question. Certainly, he is right when he notes that American culture has become one of "individualism, materialism and universalism" that has, at times, blinded us to global poverty, disenfranchisement and pain. Platt seems particularly vehement about the so-called "Christmas/Easter" brand of Christianity -- people who come to Church not to worship alone, but to be seen as part of a religious community, to fit in with the social controls of modern life, to comfortably drive in a nice car, coming into a paved parking lot and an opulent building, to dress well in outfits that could feed dozens of people in the developing world, and to put a "notion" of being Christian into the collection plate.

Platt is correct in that he finds this type of behavior hypocritical.…[continue]

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