Synopsis: The basic premise of this book is that American Christians have distorted the message of Christianity to fit into the ideals of the “American Dream.” This essentially means that American Christians are overly materialistic and selfish with their time and money. It also means that they view Christianity as a consumer product, thus rendering church services to be professional entertainment and Christianity to be a product that is consumed, not a life-changing truth. Platt offers explanation to how these views do not agree with the real message of Christianity and finally gives a “challenge” which will aid the American Christian in overcoming these American distortions of the faith.
My Opinion: I have been putting off writing this (and honestly if writing it was not part of the agreement for receiving it I probably would not be writing this) because I have to say that something early in the book put a bad taste in my mouth so I feel like possibly that skewed my opinion of the rest of the book, so take that as a sort of disclaimer. What was that thing at the beginning of the book? Platt tells a story of a group of believers in his Alabama mega-church who hear about some Christians in Asia facing persecution who must meet in secret to study the Bible. These believers in Platt’s church are inspired by these Asian Christians so they start a regular evening Bible Study and call it “Secret Church.” To me this seems to trivialize and make light of the very real persecution of fellow Christians in these dangerous regions. Platt seems to agree with this criticism but never applies it to his church’s “Secret Church.” Toward the end of the book he explains about the ichthus (Jesus Fish):
How far we have come when we paste this symbol identified with martyred brothers and sisters in the first century onto the backs of our SUVs and luxury sedans in the twenty-first century.
Beyond this I felt that the book seemed to say a lot of the “right things” but never really got to the heart of the problem. Platt tries to offer advice in correcting these American distortions of Christianity, but he does so within the very system that has created and fostered these ideas. This seems to miss the very heart of the issue. He tries to encourage people to give generously to those in need, yet he pastors a mega-church which is a resource black-hole. He tries to encourage people to minister to each other, yet says nothing about the false distinction between clergy and laity. He encourages people to be sold out to Christ and never look back, yet he offers a “Challenge” or program to try out and see how it feels. Something in me has a hard time with a book titled “Radical” which opposes the American Dream, yet culminates in a one year program. Maybe I’m just being too critical. That is quite possible.
This book exposes a lot of real problems within the American Church, what I feel it does not do is offer valuable solutions to those problems, and this is mostly because it never gets to the heart of those problems. I see two major oversights in Radical. The first is that he never asks the reader if they are truly even Christians. I think that would be the place to start. If you have a lack of passion for the things you say you believe, and if you believe a distortion of the real thing it would certainly be worthwhile to initially ask “do I believe the real thing?” The second oversight, in my opinion, is that he completely ignores the negative effect of the clergy/laity distinction. Why don’t people live out their faith? Because they pay someone else to do that for them. Give money to missionaries and pastors and ministries. They are the professionals and that’s what they get paid for. This is how Americans view everything and the clergy/laity distinction brings that belief into the church.
FYI: Platt has also released The Radical Question and Radical Together.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging for Books program.