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Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church Paperback – October 4, 2007
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— director of Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton
"Paul Metzger is a prophetic voice in the American evangelical community. His theological vision of a church consumed by Christ and not by consumerism could not be more timely or helpful. Writing with scholarly depth and human empathy, he exposes the consumerist roots of racial and economic divisions in the body of Christ and shows how faithfulness to the gospel leads to a reconciled evangelical community and witness."
— Duke Divinity School
"In the wake of the transformations that took place in the last half of the last century, it was impossible for an earlier generation of evangelical intellectuals to ignore the modern world's, indeed America's, race problem. But rarely was the lip service paid to the problem translated into careful reflection on theology's own culpability in forging the racial world in which we live and move and have our being, to say nothing of reimagining theology itself and church life beyond the racial world that Christianity and its theologians had such a significant hand in making. Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church is the breakout book of a new generation of young evangelical intellectuals who are striving not to make the mistake of their theological-evangelical fathers. It should be read."
— pastor of Imago Dei Community, Portland, Oregon
"Paul Metzger has become a catalytic voice in the city of Portland. His passion for the gospel engaging the culture is at the core of his life. Because of that, Paul continues to tackle gospel-centric issues that the church for too long has ignored, been ignorant of, or simply dismissed. This book is one of those great tackles that makes the highlight reel on SportsCenter. With theological depth, cultural understanding, and a prophetic edge, Paul calls us to face one of the key issues threatening the church in the West and educates us on how that may look. This is an important book."
— pastor of Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas
"Consuming Jesus sounds the death knell for a paradigm of church growth driven by the homogeneous unit principle and measured in success by numbers, dollars, and buildings. Metzger writes with personal passion and professional expertise, providing a wealth of insight for practitioners addressing the question If the kingdom of heaven is not segregated, why on earth is the church? His work should be read by everyone desiring to restore the local church to a place of compassionate influence within the community."
— President of Wiconi International
"While articulating a profound critique of major flaws in the American evangelical church, along with affirming his love for the evangelical community, Paul Louis Metzger offers a theological model for overcoming barriers of race and class within the church. As a Native American, I see today the negative effects of the uniquely Americanized ‘consumerist' version of Christianity that Metzger is unmasking for our reflective examination. . . Metzger asserts that Christians are called to care for the weak, impoverished, marginalized, and oppressed; yet he also argues that we must fundamentally reorient the ways we address people's plight, dying to a kind of self-serving impetus. He offers another path to address their situation, claiming that Christian faith offers energizing hope . . . The invitation of Consuming Jesus to a life of radical reconciliation inspired and driven by the love of Jesus that overcomes the evil one and restores life-giving power to the whole church resonates with my spirit."
"A compelling, practical, challenging, beautiful model for the church today."
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It is rare to come across a discussion of such issues that actually attempts to get to the roots of the rotting tree in order to open one's heart to the underlying causes of social maladies. Metzger does not simply call for reconciliation and unity--he puts us in the driver's seat and helps us understand how we are reinforcing division, without even being aware of doing so.
This book is excellent reading for anyone who wants to understand how we can better promote and live a lifestyle of unity among others. Metzger's style is a fusion of the academic and the artistic, and his ability to delve deeply into the issues with intellectual vigor while using powerful metaphor to keep our hearts connected to the subject is engaging. This work both honestly exposes and honorably encourages, directing us toward a vision that inspires us to "invest in something of greater value than the stock market."
Metzger suggests that the practice of consuming Jesus as our daily bread requires that we hold together both the church's unique identity and its call to serve the world. He states: the church must "hold firmly to the politics of Jesus," to serve "without abandoning their distinctive qualities and traits, all of which can bring richness to church and civil unity." For those who yearn for the church's transformation of culture, this book is a necessary check for the temptations which will accompany that journey.
I was recently asked to recommend a book that describes the church as it is meant to be. Though they are being written every day in the evangelical spheres, I could think of none more worthy of a hearty endorsement than Consuming Jesus. Buy it. Read it. Consume it.
I can think of no better way to recommend this or any book than by sharing this with you. I have read this book twice, and I have just begun reading it for the third time. Guess what? I am enjoying Consuming Jesus this third time around as much as I did the very first time I read it! I cannot say this enthusiastically enough:"Read this book!"
Consuming Jesus is one of the most engaging books I've read in recent days. Metzger exposes evangelicalism's consumerism for what it is: a capitulation to the market forces of capitalist culture that is detrimental to the unity of the gospel across races and classes.
Meztger begins by showing how evangelicals first retreated from culture and politics, which prepared the way for a disordered consumerist vision that blinds us to racialization, the market mindset, success, and social structures. He critiques the political aspirations of both the Religious Right and Left. He takes on the church growth strategists' emphasis on homogeneity. He challenges churches to no longer prop up the materialistic lifestyles of congregations that keep rich and poor, black and white apart.
What I Liked
1. Metzger is prophetic in his call for evangelicals to open their eyes to the race and class divisions in our churches. I like how he pulls from all corners of the church for his critique: from Jonathan Edwards to Martin Luther King, Jr., from John Wesley to John Perkins. Metzger is not interested in promoting another already-in-practice agenda. He looks at the faithful witness of Christians throughout history to challenge the church to move back to its mission.
2. Metzger challenges us to avoid the moralistic trap. No one can accuse Metzger of advocating a social gospel that challenges societal structures while leaving individual human hearts unchanged. Throughout the book, Metzger praises the evangelical emphasis on personal regeneration, even as he chides us for being too self-focused sometimes to see even our own glaring weaknesses.
3. The first half of Consuming Jesus is heavy on critique, but the second half is heavy on practical application. Metzger does not merely complain about the current state of evangelicalism; he offers clear suggestions for changing things. Especially helpful is Metzger's call for us to minister with the poor, not just to the poor as a way of bridging the divide.
What Needs Work
1. Metzger's suggestions for changing things are sometimes superficial. He spends way too much effort on critiquing our current church architecture. While I'll be the first to say I love a magnificent cathedral, I do not believe that aesthetic changes (like moving the communion table to the front of the church) will produce the type of transformation Metzger would like to see. The New Testament has little to say about what church architecture should look like. History shows that churches that look like Metzger's proposal have had racial and class distinctions of their own.
2. Metzger is right to insist that we need to take responsibility for humanity's total act of sin, not merely our individual sinfulness. That is why it is valuable for Christians to apologize for the actions of previous generations, for example. But Metzger does not take this as far as he should. If whites should apologize to blacks for previous injustice, so too should blacks apologize for injustice towards whites. The doctrine of original sin means we are all victimizers even as we are victims (a point that Metzger affirms, only he tends to emphasize the white's reponsibility more than the black's). What we need is an atmosphere of mutual grief and repentance toward one another.
Overall, Consuming Jesus is a book I highly recommend. Metzger's book calls us to rethink the current structures of the church and he offers an "all-consuming" vision of the Kingdom which should work its way out into our local congregations and communities.
Most recent customer reviews
I read Consuming Jesus with great interest to see if the bases were covered on race, class and
consumerism in the Church to my...Read more
1. I love this book because it is a critique of evangelicalism by a man who is a committed evangelical.Read more
There are voluminous reviews of this work on-line.Read more