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Well-Endorsed Meyers' Book Flawed by Scholarly Mistakes

Book Review
Volume 30, Issue 10,11 & 12, December 21, 2016
By

Clint Mooney, Calgary

     Book-cover endorsements: Desmond Tutu lauds this book highly: “Meyers has spoken truth to power and the church he loves will never be the same.” John Spong similarly effuses. Bill Moyers hails Meyers, the preacher, saying nothing about the book. If those work for you, read it. For myself, I wonder if the great bishops did.
     The book has good elements. Its main thesis is that Christianity is about doing, not believing; about being an active follower of Jesus' behaviours, not about being passively saved by endorsing a specific understanding of Jesus’ death. Christians are called to live in ways that promote love and justice for the world and for people. This is the true essence of Christianity.
     Meyers’ prose is clear, readable, understandable. He writes as preacher not scholar. He brackets his book with a Prologue outlining dystopian nightmare and an Epilogue presenting utopian dream. I recommend Prologue, Epilogue, chapter 8: “Justice As Covenant, Not Control”, and chapter 9: “Prosperity As Dangerous, Not Divine”.
     However, Meyers makes numerous mistakes (length of Jesus’ ministry according to different Gospels, p.52-3; ignoring Paul when dating early Christian views, p.64, 68; claiming Jesus broke the law by healing on the Sabbath – definitely not Matthew’s view, p.124; Jewish views on purity, women, p.130, 134; more).This is surprising: Meyers has two doctorates. This work seems sloppy, indulgent, needing knowledgeable editing.
     Meyers draws on his personal story, saying he moved in Christianity from fundamentalist beginnings to liberal perspectives. While he thinks this gives him broad perspective, he occasionally lapses into biblical literalisms alongside anti-fundamentalist rants. 
     Oddly, he thinks questions of gay rights cannot be rightly decided: “Until we have homosexuality all figured out, shouldn’t we practice radical hospitality? … isn’t it wise to err on the side of inclusion and compassion, rather than condemnation?” (p.137) Well, yes, – but gays may think this isn’t ringing endorsement. Still, as if the preacher in him can’t resist a good turn-of-phrase, he adds “there is no longer gay or straight” to Paul (Galatians 3:28).  
     Overall, the book doesn’t tell me much I didn’t know. I read it because of the subtitle: how does one truly follow Jesus? The Epilogue tells of the work of Meyers’ Mayflower Congregational Church, Oklahoma City, an impressive response to the question. His leadership there is commendable.
 
Saving Jesus From The Church: How to Stop Worshipping Christ and Start Following Jesus by Robin R. Meyers 2009, $24.99, HarperCollins Publishers