Sunday, April 27, 2014

book review—Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther

preview of things to come?

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program.

For me, the first few chapters were the weakest. Some of the author's attempts at humor came off as needlessly crude, and why the editors allowed the F-word to be retained at one point, especially in such a pointless way, is not easily understood, as it comes off as a gratuitous attempt to be shocking and offensive.

And there were times it seemed I was being asked to feel outrage at things I couldn't understand. Why should I be against homeowners setting up standards of dress and conduct for those who stay in their house? Am I suppose to think it wrong that parents are concerned about how their high-school aged daughter is dressing, the types of friends she has, the boys she's noticing? Am I suppose to think it ridiculous that a church teaches its youth to resist sexual temptations?

And am I allowed to notice a bit of irony that this publisher, Convergent, puts out this book, which seems to be very critical of a form of “community living” as the author's parents practiced it, but also has books written by at least one person involved in New Monasticism? Do NM communities that say you have to pool all the money you earn into a common purse, maybe have a small bit of money given to you for your own personal spending money, and may even determine if you may move away to pursue career aims, seem less oppressive than anything mentioned in this book?

The middle part of the book, until just before the end, was the strongest part. The attempts at crude humor are mostly set aside, and real serious issues with her grandparent's church are brought to the fore, and how they are affecting her and her own family. The double standards inherent in a cult of personality are shown, and those who dare to ask reasonable questions are told to not ask about such things. I doubt any reader would think the author and her husband wrong to leave that network of churches.

And some of her observations on the culture, in and out of the church, are rather pointed, too.

I think there are a few reasons this book may well be worth reading and taking the events recorded in it seriously. I think what the author went through is a lot like what many others are going through, and will go through in the not-too-distant future.

One reason is because the church the author got out of is not very unlike too many other churches today. It is becoming plain that too many megachurches are simply cults of personality. The vision-casting church leader has replaced the pastor who shepherds the flock of God, and in some cases the words of this vision-casting church leader have replaced the Bible. And it is becoming plain that there are double standards in such churches.

Similar to that is how obviously disqualified people are made into leaders in the churches. Do I need to mention names like Todd Bentley and Bob Jones, the prophet? And those are only two names among far too many.

To put it in so many words, in far too many ways the church as a whole is simply a disaster waiting to happen, as occurred with the church this author's grandparents started.

A 3 to 3.5 rating for this book is about the best and worst I can give it. I think it would be worth reading, though I don't have complete agreement with the author in everything she wrote.

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