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Book Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

The Underground Church
Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus
Robin Meyers
Jossey-Bass 03/12 Hardcover $24.95
ISBN: 9781118061596


Robin Meyers is the pastor of the Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City. He is also a tenured professor in the Philosophy Department at Oklahoma City University, a syndicated columnist, a peace activist, and an award-winning commentator for National Public Radio. Meyers writes regularly for The Christian Century and is the author of five books including The Virtue in the Vice.

The Underground Church follows in the hard-hitting and rambunctious spirit of his last book: Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshipping Christ and Start Following Jesus. In these two works, Meyers maps a movement which goes beyond both conservative and liberal Christianity. He calls it "The Underground Church" which means a church that returns to its radical roots with an anti-imperial message of peace and an incarnation of justice and compassionate service. Meyers says that if the church has nothing to offer the world except something to dull the pain, a way to circle the wagons, or lies about the number of lifeboats; then it should close its doors and turn its buildings into low-cost housing or free medical clinics.

The author connects with the phrase Mary Oliver uses in a poem to describe Jesus: — "melancholy madness." We see hints of this when Jesus cleanses the temple, curses the fig tree, criticizes the Pharisees, and doesn't pay tribute to his family ties. In these actions, Jesus becomes a crazy countercultural figure who inspired an awesome fearlessness in his disciples. But today's believers are "faint of heart," and Meyers describes the church as "as a stepchild of the Empire. It has lost the independent voice it needs to make moral judgments." Meyers' Underground Church will be committed to nonviolence and peace-making.

What are some of the other marks of the Underground Church? It will emphasize faith as radically embodied trust instead of belief; it will seek renewal through shared mission; it will re-institute communion as a subversive act; it will be a radical alternative community; and it will speak truth to power on war, sex, money, family, and environment.

In the wider and bolder epilogue titled "Beyond Belief: The Manifesto of the Underground Church," Meyers has even more to say about the drastic changes that are needed to keep the spirit of Christianity alive.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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