Be the Message (Shook & Shook, 2014)

Be the Message (Shook & Shook, 2014) January 22, 2015


1More Film Blog is, self-evidently, a film-focused site. We do venture into other areas, including television reviews, editorials, and book reviews, as particular items seem relevant to our overall site mission.

Be the Message, a primer about the discourse-action divide that plagues many Christians in today’s American landscape, is such an item.

As an academic and film critic, I’m sensitive to the observation in Ecclesiastes that of the writing of books, there is no end. I’m doubly aware of the irony of writing a book with the central premise that Christians talk too much. Printing is a form of discourse.

Nevertheless, Kerry and Chris Shook’s conversational, observational new book is worth pausing to recommend for one big reason.

Although all Christian messages are timeless, not all are this timely. It’s no great secret that in America, our public discourse is becoming increasingly polarized. Recently, my colleague Andrew Spitznas lamented that politically colored rhetoric has monopolized most of the discussion surrounding the movie American Sniper. He didn’t mention–but he easily could have–that such divisions have also colored recent debates about the merits of Selma. Three years ago, I had to take a hiatus from Facebook as the day-to-day nastiness of the updates, many posted by Christians of various political stripes, drove me to long for silence over Christian “speech.” In the last month, I’ve seen that same stridency ratcheted up over the State of the Union Address. More and more in our argument culture, we celebrate those who espouse views we believe in over and above even those who practice actions (peace-making, love, charity, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation) that the Bible highlights as desirable.

In such a world, the Shook’s proclamation is a welcome reminder:

But the truth is that many of us Christians in church have proclaimed words without following up with actions. We spend a lot of time talking, teaching, discussing, and arguing the Bible, but do we really live it out for the world to see? The world is tired of just hearing our sermons and Christian phrases; they want to see a sermon lived out. They quickly tune out our talk; they long to see our walk.

Photo courtesy of Lovell/Fairchild.
Photo courtesy of Lovell/Fairchild.

The motto of 1More Film Blog is “Inconspicuously Christian.” As I’ve said in my explanation of that tag line, it is a deep hope that this blog’s “Christian” character is as apparent from the way we carry out our mission as it is from how persistently we proclaim that it is Christian. For me that means, more than anything, trying to be respectful of others, including those with dissenting opinions and (perhaps especially) the artists whose work we judge (sometimes harshly).

Be the Message is neither a particularly ground-breaking nor a particularly deep book. The distinction between talking about God and interacting with Him is made very well in J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. And The Spiritual Formation Workbook from Richard Foster’s Renovare group does a better job of suggesting how the resolve to talk less and act more can be implemented. Be the Message, like many mainstream Christian-help books today is long on “what” and a little thin on “how.”

But let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. There’s no reason why Christians who take the Shook’s message to heart can’t press on and read or utilize some of those other resources. Even if they don’t, though–even if the book just makes us as Christians mildly more self-aware about how much the public perception of us as God’s representatives has come to be that of talkers rather than doers–Be the Message will have made a welcome contribution to that endless stream of public discourse we so often seek to monopolize rather than to learn from.

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