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How to be a Bad Christian: ... And a better human being Hardcover – 16 Aug 2012
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Here's my secret: sometimes, when I hear all kinds of outrageous things said and done in the name of Christianity, I think about turning in my membership. I don't want to be part of the elite club of the doctrinally correct and the spiritually superior. But then a book like this one comes along, and I say, "This is a way of being a Christian that makes sense to me. This is a way of life I can live with." I'm glad to be known as a bad Christian, thanks to Dave Tomlinson and this beautiful book. (Brian McLaren)
Dave Tomlinson is superb priest who is driven by God's love in Christ, and who understands the spiritual instincts and needs of ordinary people. But he has to work within - or against - an institutional Church which too often either cannot communicate at all, or else communicates a false God with a repellent face. If the Christian faith is ever to capture the imagination of our culture, we have to learn the lessons of this book. (Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans)
Dave is super-intelligent, funny, passionate, encouraging, generous, hard-working, self-giving, creative and a deeply faithful witness to the love of God - in short, a bad Christian. His book is a great gift to all who are searching for abundant life, in and out of church. (Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and Jesus Freak)
A vicar in the pub is worth two in a pulpit. Dave Tomlinson's HOW TO BE A BAD CHRISTIAN is as welcome as a glistening pint to a thirsty patron. Free from religious claptrap and moralistic badgering, here's a book that talks about God without boring your socks off. Tomlinson allows humanity and grace to escape the shackles of pious pedants, and flow into the world we all inhabit. Beautifully written, full of streetwise stories and wisdom, delightful and engaging - read it and discover how good it is to be among the bad. A rip-snorting manifesto for a way of living that makes a difference in the world. (Mike Riddell)
Where is God? It's a question I often ask people. Does God live in Church? Does God live in Christianity? Does God live in the world and everything we know? In Dave Tomlinson's book How to be a bad Christian we wander through paths of discovery that God is wherever God wants to be. This is a gentle yet profound book that nudges people towards receptivity through stories and reflections. It invites us to imagine that the "spirit blows where the Spirit wills", and through its stories we are invited into a generous orthodoxy of faith where people discover their humanity - through discovering God, themselves, and an accepting love. Bad becomes good and good becomes reimagined. Please read it: it could change our communities, and the world. (Fuzz Kitto, international church consultant)
'Dave Tomlinson has written a book that should be read by every person disaffected by their experience of evangelicalism and by every leader of the contemporary evangelical movement.' (for The Post-Evangelical) (Bishop Graham Cray)
'This is a book without the need for profound theology, but a reminder that faith is stronger than theory and based on our busy lives' (for I Shall Not Want) (Christian Marketplace)
Dave Tomlinson has had a residency on Vanessa Feltz's BBC Radio 2 show in the Pause For Thought section. (BBC Radio 2)
'Dave wants to bridge the very real gap between church and ordinary people...
'Dave's "no frills" approach and identification with those who don't feel "good enough" to be a christian or go to church, is very attractive.'
'I think we can learn a lot from this book. I think we can probably do most of the things Dave suggests we should do, and get far more compassionately involved in the lives of people who need to know more of God's love. '(The Way)
Honest, intelligent, articulate, insightful and with an air of urbane wisdom this book really shines for me.
It highlights the fact that Christ came for sinners, that he ate with sinners, mixed with sinners and was an outsider of his time.
It's a book that opens Christianity to those outside it, on the fringes of it and just as importantly to those already inside it. A brilliant book and one perfect for any seeker or those looking to better understand their own faith from the inside out.(Melanie Carroll The Good Bookstall)
The Church hierarchy has encouraged his spiritual journey- Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, calls Tomlinson a 'convincing and compassionate pastor'- and a media career beckons, with Vanessa Feltz giving him a residency spot on her Radio 2 show. (Adam Sherwin The Independent)
This is a book for people who want God without the guff - showing that it's possible to ditch religion, but keep the faith.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
It is lighter than his earlier books which I should also recommend, because unlike them, I guess this is especially for those on the fringe of the Church, those moving perhaps towards the exit and those wondering whether to come in, and, the cover says, especially for those outside "who nevertheless attempt to live in the spirit of Christianity".
It is also, I think, a book for those oppressed by the narrow, sometimes nice but too often somewhat nasty religion that has come to dominate, inside church doors, at least at the higher levels in much of my part of the world - the Diocese of Sydney and, perhaps, for example, in too many parts of the Vatican. And it is for all who think that such religion is what Christianity is all about (including those who burden too many with it).
The title itself and the cover help to make this a book one might put in the way of some of those folk, and encourage bookstores to display it (as I have already discovered).
Of course, it is not a "serious" theological study (though it is based on such study and much practical pastoral experience). Again, does it doe not touch on every major aspect of Christian faith but its chapters with their punchy headings do range fairly widely, from "Bumping into God : how to find God without going near a church" to "God is not a Christian : how to appreciate other religions without losing your own", and "Did God write anything else ? how to read the Bible and other good books". And it does not touch greatly at all on the dark evil that can readily be found in human society and human hearts outside, much more than inside, the Christian Church and other faith communities, and that we know only too well and encounter only too often. That is not its purpose.
For me, this book doesn't reframe what Christianity is (but it may for some); it offers no earth-shattering psychological practices or hidden relational truths but ,nevertheless, I felt scales subtly falling from my eyes. It is quietly, truly revolutionary, offering hope and challenge like an open hand.
On the surface, it is another (there are dozens published annually) "How to" book but it is not one that presents you with endless strictures, contortions or spiritual practices to "find yourself", "arrive" or, worse, "succeed." It doesn't promise happiness but offers integrity. In the words of one of the chapters, it offers an opportunity to "be the person you were meant to be."
The chapters deal with aspects of life (and Christian life) like guilt, fulfillment, suffering, forgiveness, justice and prayer. Rejecting rules and righteousness, Tomlinson presents Christians in the Bible as "people of the way" and the way is simply integrity, struggle and love. The way of living comfortably (but not indulgently) in your own skin. So Tomlinson replaces a homophobic hide-bound church with an inclusive community where people get by by living graciously. Tomlinson detests moralistic, life-denying judgemental Christianity (and parts of the Bible) whilst affirming responsibility, love and challenge.
Tomlinson also grounds Christian experience in everyday life: prayer may be an inner yearning, tears or laughter as much as words specificaly directed at God. An atheist may feel patronised to learn that Tomlinson interprets his laughter or tears as prayer but he sees people as reflecting God's goodness and depth and clearly wouldn't try to foist that interpretation on anyone-Tomlinson is equally clear that God couldn't care less whether someone acknowledges God or not.
Many of the most moving stories concern non-Christian parishioners befriending, and sometimes burying, the lonely. By contrast, he presents a Captain in the Salvation army who was disowned by his children and church for coming out as gay and a guilt-ridden gay Catholic who hung himself because he couldn't live with his "mortal sin."
"How to be a Bad Christian" is about finding your "soul", your calling and in it finding fulfillment and, therefore, Christ. At the heart of this book, Tomlinson suggests that God is on our side, wants us to enjoy life, live compassionately and be ourselves. It is a profoundly gracious book which challenges us to face ourselves.
Reminiscent of M Scott peck, Tomlinson sees humanity as something good and true. He suggests that individuals go (in tthe deepest sense) "with the flow" of their souls. This isn't an effervescent, romantic or New Age warm fuzzy but a call to radical and gentle self knowledge based round the person of Jesus (whilst ackowledging the truths and riches in other religions).
This book forcefully rejects Christian dogma in favour of the spirit of Jesus offered in the New Testament, 2000 years ago. For me, drifting from a post-evangelical to a post-Christian, it has re-enchanted me with the depth and compassion of Christ and the World.