Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Jesus, Pope Francis, and a Protestant Walk Into A Bar

About the Book:

Pope Francis has taken the world by storm, captivating Catholics, Protestants, and non-Christians alike. Sneaking out of the Vatican at night, washing the feet of inmates, and taking selfies with young fans is certainly unlike any religious leader we've seen in a while, and some of the religious establishment is uneasy about it. The revitalization Francis is bringing to the Catholic Church is not without precedent, however. Jesus had a similar effect in his day, drawing crowds with his humility, kindness, and wisdom--even as he drew the disapproval of established religious leaders. The things that have brought Francis such media attention are the same things that made Jesus so peculiar and attractive in his day.

Thoughtful examination of Jesus' example and legacy, as well as an honest look at the similarities and differences between Catholic and Protestant faith, invites reflection on the heart of Christianity and how we relate to our fellow Christians. Readers will discover the power of heartfelt joy, radical love, and passion for justice to shake people out of religious complacency and into dynamic, contagious faith. Jesus, Pope Francis, and a Protestant Walk into a Bar looks at what is universal among Christians, what is unique to Catholics and Protestants, and how all Christians can practice understanding and cooperation across differences.

My Comments:

This book is designed to be studied by a group.  Each chapter begins with a scripture passage, which the author uses as a starting point for the discussion topic.  At the end of each chapter are discussion questions.  The basic thesis of the book is that Protestants and Catholics share many common beliefs and it is those beliefs that Pope Francis' ministry is focusing on, not the divisive points.  The author is a Presbyterian pastor and he makes it clear that he disagrees with the Catholic church's stance that it is the true church.  He also disagrees with the Catholic church's teachings on homosexuality and the ordination of women.  However, he admits to sharing more beliefs with the Catholics than with some of the low church Protestants.  

The first main chapter starts with Jesus' calling the apostles (John 1:43-51). The authors point out that when asked who he was, Jesus did not reply with a resume, but with "come and see".  They point out that Pope Francis seeks the poor and the marginalized and preaches by his actions as much as with words, and that he describes himself as "a sinner". They also point out that many of the marginalized have given up on churches which seem too clean, too caught up in church rules.  The discussion questions after the chapter ask study groups to discuss the popularity of Pope Francis and whether they believe it is increasing or decreasing, what they like about him, and what they don't.  They ask participants who are Catholic whether they could respond to a Protestant who asks why they are Catholic "come and see", and ask the same of Protestants, if questioned by Catholics.  Getting down to the nitty-gritty, readers are asked "If, as Jesus and Pope Francis contend, real power is dirty, simple, smiling, inviting, and on the margins, is your congregation demonstrating such power to the world?  How?  If not, what might you do to help create such a ministry?".  Finally, readers are asked in what ways they or their congregations distanced themselves from the slums of the world.  

This is not a book about doctrine, it is a book about action.  It does not compare the Protestant views on Communion with Catholic teachings on the Eucharist.  It does not debate infant vs believers' baptism.  It doesn't even consider whether there should be a Pope.  The authors like Pope Francis' humility and outreach; they would like him to change the Church's teachings as noted above but admire that he hasn't made those teachings and other "thou shalt nots" the focus of his papacy; rather they point out that Pope Francis is about relationships, as Jesus was.

The final part of the book is a recommended reading list for both Catholics and Protestants so that we can better understand each other's teaching.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I suspect that just about everyone would find a discussion question or two in this book that make them uncomfortable, and I guess that's a good thing.  Grade;  B+

No comments:

Post a Comment

View My Stats