March 24, 2010

A People's History of Christianity by Diana Butler Bass

Diana Butler Bass does a fine job of writing a history of Christianity in the vein of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Instead of focusing on what Butler Bass calls "Big-C Christianity: Christ, Constantine, Christendom, Calvin, and Christian America," she unfolds the history of the faith through the stories of the little people and the grassroots movements. This provides for a fascinating and extremely refreshing understanding of our past and an illumination of the effects it has had upon our present and possibly our future.

This is the other side of Christian history, or as Paul Harvey might have said, the rest of the story. There are great lessons and cautionary tales herein concerning what it means to radically follow Jesus Christ, especially in the face of opposition from the powers that be, both pagan and hierarchical. Butler Bass provides a cool drink of water for many of us who have found that power, prosperity and aggression are not necessarily signs of God's grace and favor, in other words, those who oppose the current captivity of the church by American Cultural Religion and the exportation of that demonic malformation to the rest of our planet.

A People's History is a salve for the hurting. Well written, innovative, redemptive, open and honest; the story of God's people rather than the hierarchy's Towers of Babel. I particularly appreciate how Butler Bass tells our story from the perspective of Jesus, ethics and devotion rather than from the perspective of power, dogma and conquest.

"More than anything else," says Butler Bass, "Christianity is a love song." That is so evident in her lyrical look at the story. Our story. The story of the "Generative Christians" who live a faith that births new possibilities of God's love into the world; transformative rather than hierarchical, formative instead of triumphant, gracious rather than merely victorious. This is a book that has found a permanent place on my bookshelf from whence it shall be often retrieved. I highly recommend it to everyone, and particularly to those who follow Christ. The story is still being unfolded!

This new paperback edition also includes a study guide.


TJ Kear said...

Sounds highly interesting!

David Kear said...

Sounds like I will need to add this to my CH library.