by Peter J. Gomes
Subtitled "What's so good about the good news?" this book takes to task the religious establishment and urges a return to teaching the good news Jesus taught His followers.
We studied parts of this book in my Sunday School class and it interested me and my husband enough to buy and read the book. I knew nothing about Gomes going in, except that he was a minister of the Memorial Chapel at Harvard University and a Professor of Theology at Harvard Divinity School (the alma matter of my Sunday school teacher's daughter.) I have since learned that Gomes is a much-lauded minister of world renown.
It was a thought-provoking study. Gomes' latest book is a wide-ranging look at his views of Christianity today and how it has strayed from what Christ originally meant to teach this world. Gomes' premise is, essentially, that Jesus Christ was a revolutionary. He fought against the status quo. He spoke to prostitutes and tax collectors, people whom members of the established religions would never recognize. He preached love above all...love your neighbors, no matter how unloveable they are. This is what Jesus wanted us to do.
In contrast, church today seems to focus on Bible stories, preaching the Bible, not the Good News...i.e. that which Jesus taught his followers. Churches today are not revolutionary, they are bastions of conservatism and are mainstays of the status quo. Gomes asks: why are we trying to preserve old religion? We still haven't arrived at what Jesus called us to be. Instead of inspiring us to live as Jesus did, with radical love, the church often creates divisions between people. Too often, Christians quote scripture to reject and condemn others, instead of demonstrating God's love to them.
Gomes looks at the Gospel and Fear, Conflict, and the Future; then rounds it out with his take on how the Gospel is a social gospel: it tells us how we should be the leaders of social change to make this world better, following Christ's examples. He makes the case that the Gospel is an inclusive Gospel--again, following Christ's examples of including those who are otherwise outcasts in our great love, and shows us that the Gospel is hope for the future.
I found Gomes to be intellectually challenging, well founded in what I learned as the common reading of the Gospel, and always able to logically close his arguments. Highly intellectual, this book was refreshing in its analysis after so much "fundamentalism" on the airwaves. Gomes obviously loves the old hymns, and quotes them often throughout (perhaps more than necessary), but looks forward, not backward, for his hope. I highly recommend this book.
Here is an interview I just found with Rev. Gomes from the Charlie Rose show, in case you would be interested in hearing from him yourself: Rev. Gomes Interview by Charlie Rose