A long while ago, I promised more book reviews.. well, I wasn't as on top of reading as I had hoped, so, finally, here's the first. I'm delighted to be a TheOoze "select blogger" program, and I'm getting sent books left and right to read and review! This is the first, I have a backlog of 4 more to read. Hooray! No more wondering what to read next!
The thing that caught me most about this book, My Beautiful Idol by Pete Gall, was how much I could relate. No, I didn't pick up and leave my after-college job to move to Colorado and do ministry (in fact, I looked very hard for an after-college job IN Colorado- anyone remember that?) Instead, I understood where he was coming from. I have asked the same questions he asked in the book, and I'm reacting against the same culture he was reacting against.
Pete Gall wrote this book chronicling a few years of his life after leaving a job at an advertising agency in Chicago. He felt he needed to do more to serve God, and wanted very badly to be used by Him. He went from seminary to ministry to ministry, chasing this image- this idol- of being seen as a 'tremendous man of God'. He relates each organization he worked with, the down-and-out people he met, and what he learned about himself in the process- though the book is heavy on narrative and light on moralizing the lessons, which I appreciated. He was just honest- and he pointed out he hasn't always been that way.
I said I could relate. Here's why. Gall grew up in the Indianapolis area- in the town west of Carmel, where I grew up. Throughout the book, he talks about reacting against the culture of Zionsville, and I get that. Anyone who's lived in an upper-class suburb understand the shallowness, the materialism, the facade of money and "having it all together" that is so prevalent. In churches in these communities, he sees that it's often not much better- the suburbanites hole up in their church buildings and donate their leftovers to the poor, hoping to not get dirtied by any of it. Hearing about this from the perspective of the urban ministry leader who has to joyfully accept these toss-outs and leftovers was interesting. Gall had an adventure throwing off all of the Zionsville culture and Chicago career, uprooting himself, and working with the poor and marginalized- learning more about his own heart and motives and sin in the process.
The book doesn't provide any answers, but exposes this idol, this image of a 'tremendous man of God', and the way this idol is glorified in Christian culture. He's critical of the ministries, of the seminary, of the "Zionsville culture," the suburban church, the Chicago high life, and, most of all, himself. And he didn't provide any tied-up ends or a conclusion, really.
Just like this post.
* I do recommend this read, if you don't mind the honesty and messiness and hard truths of life as we live it. Not easy, but Real.