Will Samson had a typical childhood background growing up in the typical American church. Samson is white, middle class and suburban. Or he was, before exiting his "typical" evangelical life for "greener" pastures, which has worked itself out as a more socially conscious and environmentally oriented Christ follower. Currently a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Kentucky, Samson is excellently qualified to write on the dicey subject of Christianity, contentment and the foibles and follies of the church at large. Having personally lived on both sides of the fence, he espouses a refreshingly stark look at Christianity's strengths and weaknesses by asking believers to confront their beliefs, ask the hard questions, and then proceed to move into society for the good of others and to better emulate Jesus.
With noteworthy commentary on Communion and the "common table" of Christianity, Samson explores various metaphors frequently taken for granted or misunderstood by Christians. He similarly focuses on challenging believers to grasp the fact that God has made the church sufficient to work in the world. As Samson continues, he discusses the importance of viewing the Trinity rightly, as a social relationship, whereupon we as God's social creatures "are meant to create communities that reflect that union..." And the clincher: "How does that affect the way we think about our resources?"
Readers will appreciate Samson's candidness, and his personal history will offer evangelicals insight into his choices and decisions for present-day actions. Samson enthusiastically tackles such topics as people who are consumed by "stuff" and the kinds of stuff that captivate and ruin lives. He also details the ins and outs of consumerism --- how views of God alter an individual's choices, specifics on Jesus and sustainability, and the Spirit of the Antichrist and how believers must re-imagine the readiness of Christ's return.
Of extra interest are Samson's chapters that delve into the practicalities of wide-range subjects pertinent to every person, including body (lifestyle diseases and the mind-body connection), earth (food, energy and much more), economy (God and capitalism and paying for the party) and community (loss of moral center and fragmented lives/communities). It is in this section that readers will find hands and feet to their newly discovered intentions. Every chapter describes the current "reading" in our culture and its associated downfalls. Samson aligns this information with scriptural principles and then makes suggestions for implementing said principles.
While not every Christian will agree with his premises, Samson has done the church a great service in pulling together the incongruities of the "haves and have-nots" and how the church is to reach out and meet such needs. Whether by gently nudging (or a guilt-inspired inner shove), every contemporary Christian should read this text and spend some time re-evaluating how well their faith walk fits with the message of Jesus (and the example He set for every one of us).
Reviewed by Michele Howe on March 1, 2009