What does it take to be an authentic Christian in a world that teaches and reinforces the need to be prefect, to be okay, to pretend that things are other than they really are?
What does all of this pretending costs us?
I was recently given the chance to read Peter E. Watts Authentic Christianity where he deals with why becoming people more focused on others than ourselves is key to becoming the kind of people God made us to be.
Authenticity – we all long for it. We all want it on some level. We all want to believe that the people we are dealing with are being honest as we strive to be real in our interactions with others. We are taught early on not to put forward our true selves but the “image” that will be accepted by our peers or workforce. Those tendencies follow us into Church where we come off as fake, plastic people (my term) instead of people who have been radically changed by God’s love and are living servant lives.
Watts’ book had some really good points about how honesty, trust, risk, and showing up are all parts of authenticity. There were some spot on observations about why our churches are not places that celebrate or foster those qualities (and should be!). He had some very practical advice on how to move towards those things (make sure to read the Appendix), but overall the book lacked the personal touch of a weathered traveler who has walked this journey.
It took me a few days to understand why this book just didn’t sit right. Some of it is cosmetic (I’ll get to that) but overall it is that this book all about the journey of becoming more authentic lacked any true authenticity from the author. Watts hints at things but never gets personal. People love stories and Watts stayed conceptual and safe all the while extolling us to be more vulnerable and risk-taking in our engagement with other people.
Overall, Watts had some very good points. At the end of things however he cannot bring himself to go beneath the surface even as he challenges us to do the same. It is not hypocritical. Rather, it shows just how hard it is to break the mold of inauthentic living.
I am going to say something and then walk my way back from it. You can usually tell when books are self-published. The formatting is off, the sentences are chunky and not as polished as “professional books.” The flow never quite gets going. It feels unedited or incomplete.
It is one of the reasons I tend to shy away from self-published books. For as good of an idea as you have, if the window dressing is not done well people will not bother with what is inside.
Self-published books usually reveal the lack of a copy editor or professional agent working to bring out the best in an author. I met someone at a writers’ conference who boasted 30 books in 7 years and I wanted to ask about sales numbers and quality.
I bring this up not to be a jerk, but because the self-published formatting of Watts’ book makes it incredibly hard to read. There is a reason books are formatted how they are, and without that the eye (and therefore our brains) have a hard time engaging.
Watts formats his book like a blog and those two mediums (books and blogs) are formatted very differently.
If formatted correctly this would have come out as a novella or treatise. It could be a much stronger book with the assistance of an agent who would cut the first few chapters, ink out the filler material, and help Watts truly go deep.
I hate to be so negative and down on a book. But it is simply not well written. The over-abundance of line breaks, formatting issues, parentheses, and “I think” statements distract from Watts few nuggets and insights. The writing does get better as the book goes along, unfortunately you have to trudge through too much sludge to get there.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255