A.W. Tozer once remarked: “Christianity is so entangled with the world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern. Compromise is everywhere.”
Reader beware: Keith Giles is out to change that. In his new book, Jesus Untangled, Keith cuts through the fog of our collective Christian ignorance with furious passion. In all the years I have known Keith he has appeared to me as a man on a mission, and this book is no exception; his critique of “Christian” nationalism, while scathing, is also bursting with grace.
What a shocking story to begin the book from Philip Yancey, set in the battlefield of World War II. A special unit Christian soldier has been dispatched to kill wounded Germans left in the field, and upon finding a healthy German who begs a moment to pray before being put down, the Christian spends a delightful moment praying and reading scripture with him. Sadly, he then turns the gun on his brother and shoots him in the head out of allegiance to one earthly kingdom over another. Behold, with shocking clarity, our problem.
Keith then breezes through a narrative with which I am very familiar, and perhaps you are too: The purity of the early church regarding her disentanglement with religious and political powers, followed by the onslaught of persecution, waning commitment to the way of Jesus, and the ultimate compromise following the emperor Constantine’s alleged conversion. It wasn’t long before Church and State were wed in the most unholy of all alliances, the fallout from which we have been dealing with ever since. Fast forward to the Moral Majority’s effort in America to blend free market economics with Christian values during the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Keith shares interesting history from behind the scenes of that movement, urging the reader to turn his or her faith from political power back to the weakness of the cross and the third way of Jesus.
Also intriguing is the little-known history concerning the illicit connections between American corporations and the German and Japanese war machines during World War II. This chapter will have you looking for footnotes, I assure you. If the connections are as explicit as Keith affirms, these are facts that everybody needs to know.
The most powerful point is found in Keith’s discussion of Christian identity. With great conviction he urges the question of who “we” are upon the reader. Many western Christians will throw this word around in regards to the State, as in the typical retort toward nonviolence, “Well then, what should we have done about Hitler?” But the very language reveals our confusion. As followers of Jesus, are we American patriots or “strangers and aliens” in a foreign land? The way a person uses the word “we” will tell you what they believe.
Jesus Untangled is a powerful primer on how to live the Way of Jesus within the shadow of the Empire. Keith’s book will lift you up, knock you out, and leave you thirsting for more. Either that or it will make you so mad you’ll want to spit nails. Either way, it will not leave you indifferent, and that is what I love most about Keith’s writing.