Reviewer Leah L. Burton Being Christian: A Novel is a riveting story that you will put down only to take a deep breath before you dive back in. The characters are fictional, yet have real-day counterparts that are their identical twins in religion and politics today. That is what makes this novel such an important read for all Americans as we face a growing surge of theocrats whose aim is to proclaim the United States as a Christian nation that places biblical law over civil law.
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Founder and Principal of Rebel Island, LLC since 2007. I began this effort solely to fight for freedom and purge America from the very real march of the theocrats. Rebel Island, LLC represents thousands upon thousands of hours donated by dedicated volunteers who contribute their time, energy and personal experience to the demanding research and writing on the assigned topic - Christian Dominionism in American Politics.
Here is Leah's first response:
A "review" of this length demonstrates a defensive passion. It is clear that this person has missed the entire scope of the book. Those of us who research Christian Dominionism and understand that they are extremists know that the only fiction in "Being Christian" are the characters. Dominionists are not mainstream Christians. They are the John Haggees, the Ted Haggards, the Billy & Franklin Grahams...and many, many more. These folks have co-opted Christianity and created a bible-based cult of Sheople who believe that they must follow the dictates of their leaders if ever they are to achieve ever-lasting life and total redemption. They demand that the "right kind of Christian" are those who are "born again/saved" and who profess to have a personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, they produce through the use of "Statements of Faith" that require adherence and a signature.
Are some portions of this book shocking? Inflammatory? Radically racist? You bet! Sadly, it simply reveals the despicable under belly of the Dominionist sect. This is not contrived, it is fact and the whole purpose that the author intended is to expose that heinous behavior and shed light on these frauds who gain in wealth while trashing the teachings of Christ.
I, too, am a Christian and it is past high time that other mainstream Christians wake up and smell the abuse and quit embracing anyone who self-identifies as Christian in name only. Go back to your bible. Pay attention to the news and check out the infestation of Dominionists in your neighborhood - then you will have good reason to be indignant.
Just because the story of this sanctimonious, self-serving, snake oil salesman named Christian Hilcox is disturbing to you - don't shoot the messenger. Go to San Antonio and sit in John Haggee's Cornerstone church on Sunday (if you can find a seat among the 22,000+ Sheoples in weekly attendance) and listen to his anti-Semitic sermons of "Love, Love, LOVE Israel - Jews? Not-so-much!" Google, Lou Engle, Rick Joyner, Cindy Jacobs, C. Peter Wagner, "Jesus Camp" the docufilm...just to name a very few of these false prophets...and really listen to them as if Christ was sitting next to you - and then you tell me how much you would be compelled to defend.
As a Christian - these extremists insult me. They offend all the teachings of the New Testament including kindness, compassion, do not judge, treat each other as we would treat ourselves and embrace all. They are frauds and false prophets, and you my dear, are enabling them to continue to shame those whose faith is from the heart. Is "Being Christian" a provocative read? Indeed it is...and a crucial lesson for those of us in this country who - while Christian - still support Freedom over Theocracy.
Mahatma Gandhi nailed it when he said, "I like your Christ. It is your Christians that I do not like. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ".
Thank you for your thoughtful response. I would agree with you that I might sound defensive--not for my own opinion but because I just couldn't finish the book, which, as a book reviewer, I would normally try to do. Did you read it through? I'll look after I write this and read your review...What you seem to be doing is comparing the book to what you personally know as opposed to what I try to do is to read the book as an entity. I accepted the book for review because I was hopeful it would do somewhat what you seem to be saying...Dare I say that we really do think alike except I don't profess to have your comprehensive knowledge. Still, in my opinion, this book didn't do the job. To include every single thing or every single hatred, or every single crime all within one family with little intellectual or education background, an abused childhood, etc., just, to me, made it more of a satire. All we have sinned--but not to this extent, hopefully???
I totally agree with a lot of what you say...but I won't profess to have studied nor read as broadly as you may have...and, if I may be brave enough, to say more than the average individual? I don't know what the Dominionist Sect is, for one and unless it was later in the book, I don't remember that this was included?? To me, this guy was just like the ones that held tent revivals way back when...
Nor can I disclaim what you say about what is said in these churches...The last large group involvement I've had was many years ago when Billy Graham's staff used to hold smaller services.
I do agree that extremists should insult us...In fact, one of the issues I was trying to make, although not perhaps as eloquently as you, was that the man described in the book never really professed to being a Christian except for selfish purposes. By taking this approach, rather than to have the pastor be fairly well educated, I felt that the character didn't truly reflect those such as Jimmy Baker, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart that were fairly well known. To me, evaluation of the character as presented was not effective, to begin to make the points that I thought could be made (and maybe you too?) in this type of book.
The content of the book was not shocking to me...because I faced reality a long time ago...."Some Christians" hate more than many moral people who live outside of any type of church. I was hoping that the book could be of value...but to me, it just wasn't. I find it ironic that you think I was disturbed by the book as opposed to being disturbed that the message that he tried to perhaps put out there, to me, failed. I will reread my review and maybe someday even finish the book. I myself gave up on churches at the local level quite some time ago and for many of the reasons you talk about... Perhaps even my assumption is wrong that the character did not match some real person out there, I don't know... because I don't recognize any of the names you mentioned...just because I no longer trust many organizations for anything...
I totally agree with Mahatma Gandhi...
What I think, though, is that the average person, like myself, would not have the knowledge of the background you cite. Does that mean that I'm wrong in my review, I don't think so. To me the author chose an easy way out by covering too much of the potential wrongs of, maybe, all those that he researched, rather than honing in on some basic issues and building from there.
It reminds me of a book that I reviewed written by an atheist who claimed his psychological program was the cure all of freedom from religious guilt...and he wrote it by criticizing every wrong thing that most of us have objected to for many years and explained that if we eliminated religion, then things such as violence, human trafficking and all the sick things happening in the world would disappear... To me, negatively covering everything which was wrong with Christianity did not successfully do anything to support this own philosophy. To me, this book was written in the same manner. To create a mythical characters that has done everything criminal that could possibly be done, to the point of it being farcical, in my opinion, failed...
I applaud your passion and work efforts in this important area... I find my passion has been doused too many times by those that concern you and strive to figure out how best to think WWJD???? I don't think Jesus would have written this book as it was written... Just my personal opinion...
Leah:I appreciate your thoughtful response and you raise legitimate points, not the least of which is how stealth Christian Dominionism is which allows it to fester and spread. It is true that most do not know what this sect is even though many sit in the pews of these churches/organizations unwittingly. While under the radar to most Americans, Dominionism is well-known to its leaders who proudly proclaim that the congregants are not on the "need-to-know" list. Dominionism frowns on critical thinking, roots itself in the Old Testament, encourages End Times panic and controls through fear and paranoia.
They have built an increasingly racist base and promote Islamaphobia. Their politicians warn "Shari'ah Law is coming! Shari'ah Law is coming! While simultaneously introducing (117 different bills in 2012) legislation that would - in fact - criminalize miscarriages resulting in felony jail sentences for women who could not prove that it was spontaneous. So yes, they are disgusting and piously sanctimonious. Christian Hilcox represents just how despicable they really are.
They proudly claim that they are "King David's" as we heard from the mouths of former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford in a press conference up n hos return from his tryst with his mistress in South America. Or the real-life characters in Jeff Sharlet's book, "The Family" overseen by elders such as current Senator Jim Inhofe (OK), Tom Coburn (OK) and Jim DeMint (SC) just to name a few. Like King David they view themselves as the "chosen" the "elect" and they are set apart from us mere sinners. Laws apply to us not them. Just ask them. You can find most of them in room #219 in the halls of congress attending their Congressional Prayer Caucus. Christian Hilcox embodies these opportunistic narcissists.
Without a doubt, I assure you that this is a very challenging topic to communicate because it does sound so exaggerated and over-developed, but as I said, sadly it is not. The very real fact is that there are not one, or two, or even a small handful of these characters within these mega-church businesses that are cropping up faster than Starbucks coffee shops. I pointed out John Haggee because he personifies the main character in "Being Christian" without exaggeration. Many who rise into leadership of Dominionist churches, para-churches and organizations may appear to have been educated, but they routinely hand out honorable degrees - including Ph.Ds. from their very own "universities" built from collection plate income.
And yes, I absolutely finished this book as did colleagues of mine, including the public policy director of a large mainstream Christian group that has over 2 million members. We got it because we do deal with the real issues of hundreds of influential "pastors" just like "Being Christian's" Christian Hilcox. We are painfully aware of the clergy who are just as vile as this character and view them as the parasites that they are. We work tirelessly to open the eyes of Americans of faith or no faith to the reality that these folks exist - an en masse. They are political and finance candidates. Over 200 of their endorsed candidates that I named "ReBiblican" several years ago - won seats in Congress this past November.
This is a very serious issue and this author wrote from having done thorough research including sitting in congregations of many of the most notable leaders in this bible-based cult. It may seem farcical that the book's main character enshrined an excessive number of heinous character traits to the point of being unbelievable - but I assure you - it is spot on. And that should scare the crap out of all of us! Their excesses are why I serve on the Executive Board of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation where we now have over 30,000 clients who are all in the armed forces. 96% are protestant and when they hit the wall of opposition with no where to turn for relief from the aggressive proselytizing IN our military, they reach out to us for help. They are told that we are in a Holy War - Christians vs. Islam, and mega-preachers like John Haggee are behind this. Dominionist leaders have access to the White House, Congress, Pentagon and beyond. In the Bush, Jr. years that included weekly visits and calls from people like Ted Haggard and James Dobson.
I would be happy to share more information with you through my email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My closeout responseBless you...I believe you have done a good job of questioning my review, although I don't intend to change it... Why? Simply because by leaving this discussion up it allows some credibility to the book that, in my opinion, will not be recognized via the book itself. I am quite willing to accept that your information is correct enough to warrant further research by those who wish to find out more ...for me, being the oddball in my family has already caused enough problems that I am no longer willing to get more involved...except as I can from home and from providing feedback that can stimulate further review such as this. May I have your permission to copy/paste these discussions into my blog, Book Readers Heaven?
I will pass them on to my readers for information, without comment, except to explain that they are responses to my review... If you'd like to provide any additional information for that special blog posting, feel free to send it to GABixlerReviews@aol.com.
Interestingly, I'm now reading a book regarding racism in America that has a similar story to tell. In my opinion, this author is doing a good job in using fiction to spotlight issues. There are others out there writing in fiction that are taking up causes via their work. Some have done a fantastic job on violence, human trafficking, etc., but I must continue to point out that it is fiction; therefore, the writer must do a great job in allowing readers to intelligently figure out what is being said without ramming it down our throats. And, there has to be some background credibility for that author, don't you think?
I'll help as I can, but... May you continue what you are doing with God's leading and guidance.
A final note:
The book Being Christian has a purpose even if I didn't feel it was effectively done. Leah read it from a knowledge based that I didn't previously have...as I believe most of us wouldn't...This is provided for your personal interest and evaluation. Whether you choose to read the book or use Leah's site to learn more is at your discretion. I must admit that I was happy to learn of her work.
By the way, The book I mentioned in this last response is White Sins; Black Blood by Trevor Ennis and includes a dramatic presentation of racism within the church as well as government...
Thanks so much To Leah for her efforts in sharing information...