Mark Driscoll’s new book, “Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions”, aims to be, like the man himself, culturally relevant and hip. The only problem is it stumbles right out of the gate.
First, the title of “Religion Saves” is cumbersome – while the fine print explains that the statement “Religion Saves” is a misconception, the book itself isn’t so much a look at misunderstandings that surround Christianity, it is Driscoll’s attempt to answer the most popular questions posed by his website visitors. I can’t help by feel the whole experiment would have been better served by packaging the book more along the lines as it really is – perhaps “Why I Believe What I Believe on Nine Controversial Christian Issues”.
Next, as I read “Religion Saves”, I couldn’t stop wondering why even bother writing a book like this at all? Don’t get me wrong – I feel the nine questions, from topics ranging from the Christian stance on birth control, sex, dating, grace, and the emerging church Driscoll delves into are worthwhile of the time and effort spent writing and reading them. However, wouldn’t cultural relevancy be better served by disseminating the material differently? Perhaps online for free in a series of blog posts or available for download as Benson Hines has done with his e-book, “Reaching Campus Tribes: An Opening Inquiry”? Increasingly, younger generations strive to obtain information from fast and free electronic sources rather than an antiquated hard copy.
Driscoll, one of the few modern “heroes” of the younger Christian generation.
Surely, hardcore Driscoll fans will seek out his material from any media he chooses to use. His brash and quotable style is appealing and suited towards the up and coming generations, which is precisely the reason his online videos and sermons are so popular. In a world full of wrongfully boring preachers, Driscoll stands out as a shining beacon that Christianity can be and is supposed to be life changing, radical, relevant, and fun. With this in mind, I had difficulty understanding who exactly Driscoll was writing “Religion Saves” for. My desire would be he garner new fans with every effort, ultimately aiding in adding to God’s kingdom. Yet, seemingly, he has penned a book for his already fans.
On the whole, I wonder why authors, especially those who really desire to get their information into as many hands and minds as possible don’t explore avenues such as ones successfully used by Radiohead while promoting “In Rainbows”. As you may remember, Radiohead offered its album for whatever price consumers were willing to pay, even for free. The result was one of the more successful albums in recent memory and added exposure, concert revenue, and album sales for an already ultra popular band in a consumer climate usually opposed to such things.
Alas, I suppose books make more money than blogs or free e-books and contracts with publishers need to be fulfilled.
To his credit, Driscoll has, as stated in the book’s introduction, already given sermons and created youtube videos answering the questions he explores in “Religion Saves”. Maybe, if paired as a companion piece to these efforts, this hard cover repackaging of “Religion Saves” will be successful. That is my hope. Again, maybe I’m being hyper-critical. Driscoll does take being relevant with respect to electronic media seriously. He offers a free e-book through relit.org called “Pastor Dad”.
So much for first impressions, right? You’ve heard mine on “Religion Saves”, yet I’ve barely cracked the actual book. Will I have anything positive to say about the actual material presented by Driscoll? As Driscoll himself says, he is “on a mission to both put people in heaven and put the “fun” back in “fundamentalism”. Does he succeed with “Religion Saves”? Stay tuned.