This book is designed for Christians who have left their churches behind, disappointed in their religious leaders and their institutions. Author Matthias Roberts is one of them — having grown up in a rigid form of Christianity (including homeschool and a Christian college) and left it behind. His analysis is informed by his training as a psychotherapist who's an expert in trauma and recovery.
Like any good therapist, Roberts encourages his clients (or readers) to work through their problems, talk about their experiences, and find constructive ways, only if they desire, to return to a healthy, life-giving faith.
All the ways that churches and church leaders have failed Christians in recent decades are chronicled clearly and fairly here. Roberts explains early on that “reading this book may hurt” because “pain is often part of the process of healing.”
Roberts’ answers for “holy runaway” Christians or former Christians are not necessarily to find a progressive or liberal God and congregation to replace the conservative ones. In fact, Roberts’ answers are often tentative, and purposefully so — like a good therapist.
There are many prompts and suggestions offered with teachings and personal anecdotes. One of these late in the book goes like this: “I wonder what would happen if we gave up all that tethers us to old religious systems, churches, and harmful theology and just found a group of good friends.”
Most of all, Roberts suggests that for real healing and for creating a joy-filled, loving faith, it is necessary to stop creating a God in our image or in any image at all. After quoting theologians like James Alison and René Girard, Roberts encourages his readers “to live in a reality of love shaped by a God who looks more like no-God than a traditional religious figure” because “maybe faith is trusting that we are loved beyond all walls, beyond religion, and even beyond God.”
In this way, Holy Runaways is a book more about the practice of grace than faith.