I almost didn’t choose to read and review Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin’s latest book, The Bridezilla of Christ: What To Do When God’s People Hurt God’s People, and now that I have read it, I wished I hadn’t. Gluck and Martin have good intentions, but good intentions do not a book make.
The three main problems that I have with the book is that each example the authors give, where they have been hurt by the church in their own lives, is completely foreign to the experience of 99% of church-goers. Second, continually speak about their situations in vague ways. Third, the book is filled with neo-Calvinist apologetics. Let me take each of these in turn.
When the average church-goer is hurt by the church organization or someone in the church is it because they have deep theological disagreements with someone else? Is it because they are jealous of another church members’ book deal? Is it because they are seeking to plant a church in the community? Is it because they choose not to homeschool their children? I didn’t think so, but Kluck and Martin do. These are the examples they give of God’s people hurting God’s people. These experiences, while they shaped Kluck and Martin’s attitudes toward the church, are not the problems or experiences of 99% of people who attend our churches. It this book wanted to be truly helpful it could have focused on issues like getting passed over for leadership positions, or when a business-world disagreement sours a small group or church committee. It could have talked about times when ten godly, well intentioned people bring ten good ideas but only one idea can be implemented. How can we address the hurt of the other nine?
Second, when you write a book about hurt it seem disingenuous to only speak in vague generalities about the hurt you say has been vital to your understanding of God and the role of church. In the opening pages of the book, Kluck vaguely tells his story. He writes, “Two churches ago, I experienced a sort of personal and spiritual ground clearing that came as a result of some long-unaddressed sin” (4-5). Then he talks about his lost book deal, how he “looked for validation and pleasure where [he] shouldn’t have” but finally how God used the “selfsame imperfect and sometimes smug church to save [his] life and [his] soul” (6). The problem is that we don’t hear that story! We get a few other vague references, like during a story where he was in a meeting with other “authors or pastors or blogger of some note” talking about a book project while admitting that “I didn’t realize the magnitude of what I had in front of me, given the fact that I was dealing with my own pretty significant sin issues at the time” (85-86). While I appreciate the attempt at honesty, it ultimately fails to be honest at all. This failure of honest extends to Martin as well. He writes about accusations, bitterness, angry texts and slander as a result of he and his wife’s announcement that they would plant a church. But again, we aren’t allowed to dive any deeper into the story with the author.
Third, the book is filled with neo-calvinist apologetics. It feels like the authors have to remind us that they are Calvinists at every available opportunity. We are reminded of their Calvinism over and over. The problem is that it seems like their whole world removes around their Calvinism. For example they write, “because we were a neo-Calvinist church in the early to mid-2000s, we also produced and homeschooled children as though our very lives depended on it” (5). They talk about the sign that “you’ve made it” as being published by The Gospel Coalition and hanging out with “megastars like Matt Chandler.” These examples may be tongue-in-cheek, but the next examples are not. They apologize for Mark Driscoll, who was, they say, “scandalized in various ways, including but not limited to allegation of plagiarism, allegations of buying his way onto the New York Times bestseller list, and also just generally being labeled a misogynistic jerk and bully” (102). And then they blame his downfall on author and blogger Rachel Held Evens. No-one “scandalized” Driscoll but Driscoll himself but in a book about God’s people hurting God’s people (which I’ve read many accounts that Driscoll did), Kluck and Martin pass the blame off of Driscoll’s own actions while throwing another Christian, who was trying to hold Driscoll accountable, under the bus. They do the same apologizing for Tullian Tchividjian and use his confession of his extramarital affair as being “Davidic in its spirit” (104). Seriously? That is extremely poor taste. Finally in one chapter they make fun of college professor Brene Brown, PhD, who Kluck describes as having “that ‘I just crawled out of the hole of academia and peer-reviewed journals and am totally lapping up the real attention I’m getting from real people in a real audience’ look about her” (137). Kluck says this about a woman who is a three-time New York Times bestselling author, the CEO of a company she founded, and who has spoken to the CIA and at the White House. She is anything but a woman “lapping up” real attention. The description is shameful for anyone to write, much less someone who is claiming the name of Jesus.
The long and short of it is: this book it bad. Please do not read it and you will be better of for it.
I received this book from Blogging for Book in exchange for this review.