I arrived home from Guatemala a few days ago and among the flotsam and jetsam which filled my room was a mysterious package from a book publisher. I opened it to find my advance copy of Rise of the Servant Kings: What the Bible Says About Being a Man, as well as a press release.
Did I agree to review this book? I asked myself.
I probably had, so despite the cringey cover art, I figured I’d crack it open and give it a whirl. From the first page, I was turned away. By that, I mean the first page of Advance praise for Rise of the Servant Kings… It contained such comments as: “Some authors write with ink…Harrison writes with blood and fire.”
I threw up in my mouth.
Then I continued on, curious to see if the book lived up to the overreaching praise of its fiery words. It didn’t.
The author is a former LAPD officer, nightclub bouncer, and current president of Promise Keepers, a ministry for men. In other words, he is the ultimate macho man you should want to be if you want to be manlier. The pages of the book seemed to focus more on his time as a cop than on anything having to do with Scripture, save the fact that he haphazardly threw chunks of the Bible in there.
All told, I couldn’t really figure out what the point was. It was a lot of hyped up writing thrown together without direction or form, and men were supposed to read it to become better men, whatever that amorphous definition is (Spoiler alert: He didn’t really give it a clear or profound definition). I have picked up a fair share of “men’s books,” and only one is really worth reading (Wild at Heart by John Eldredge), the rest are just copycats with all of the fervor and none of the substance.
What really prompted me to write this blog post, however, is not the über macho dad-hype of the book, but something he said in Chapter 2, a chapter on sin. Unsurprisingly, the chapter opened with a BRUTAL story from his time as a cop, in which he ended up holding a dying girl in his arms. He writes,
“When I watched this girl die in my arms, it hit me particularly hard because it was one of the few times I’d watched an innocent person die. I’d seen criminals die many times, and that hurt less.”
So many issues with those two sentences, where to begin?
In short, I cannot be more disgusted with his dehumanization of ‘criminals’ here, as if their lives and deaths are meaningless, yet this ‘innocent’ girl who died in his arms was worth more to him, perhaps to God. Where is the hope or redemption in this way of thinking? Where is the Gospel proclamation of no one is innocent (sure, I could look past his terminology in reference to the girl, were it not contrasted to criminals whose lives don’t really matter)?
If biblical manliness is all about destroying the worthless bad guys and holding innocent blonde girls, I want nothing to do with it. In fact, if Christianity is about defeating ‘bad guys’, then it seems like nothing short of Jihadism in disguise. Conquer your neighbor.
The other reason I decided to type up this post is not simply to blast this one book, but to highlight the plague of bad books in general, specifically within Christendom. This is far from the first bad book I’ve seen filing through the Christian book store shelves, making its way down to the $2 shelf.
Christian publishing falls under the umbrella of Christian media as a whole, much of which belongs on the $2 shelves of the world, yet continues to be pumped out like watered-down gas at a Utah rest stop. Just because someone is full of wild ex-cop stories doesn’t mean they should be handed a book deal. Perhaps more prevalent, just because someone can amass a million Insta-followers doesn’t mean they need a book deal and a speaking tour. Maybe they’re just good-looking.
As a self-proclaimed theology nerd, I have to call out many Christian publishing companies which continue to litter the shelves of stores with these quasi-Christian books just to make a quick buck with no lasting impact on eternity. Is that the power of the Word handed us through Scripture? This book was put out by Multnomah, a company with many outstanding titles; a company who can definitely do better.
More problematic, when your lay Christian peruses the shelves and sees a book put out by a trusted name, they are prone to absorb every word as canon truth. Should not publishers be held responsible for the words they are putting into people’s minds?
This haphazard collection of ultra-macho tales will quickly find its way to the clearance shelf and it’s a pity; not because it doesn’t deserve it, but because it’s indicative of the Christian media machine as a whole: Settling for mediocre and grabbing a couple bucks on the way down.
P.S. To check out a good book, click here!