Holland’s first book takes modern Christianity to task for philosophical and moral complacency. In his view, the way Christianity is currently practiced is a pervasive hypocrisy that undermines the true teaching of Christ. “The problem with Christianity is: Christians so scarcely resemble Christ in any way,” he writes. The argument begins with a Socratic call to accept one’s ignorance and eliminate the hubristic sense of certainty he believes permeates Christian thinking: “Christians are prone to supernaturally feel no need to check the validity of the knowledge they strongly revere.” Also, he contends that Christians tend to rely too heavily, and blindly, on scriptural text to settle every debate, missing opportunities for thoughtful reflection. This closed-mindedness has unfortunate moral consequences, leading to the intemperate condemnation, and exclusion, of whole groups of would-be Christians. The author focuses on the LGBT community and divorcés; the section devoted to the latter group includes an intensely personal account of the author’s own experience. There is also a chapter-length treatment of abortion, challenging the Christian prohibition of it. The causes of the decline of Christian practice and belief are many, but Holland singles out the corrupting influences of capitalism and denominationalism, or the fracturing of the Church into doctrinal cliques driven by a spirit of exclusion rather than spiritual unity. The author’s arguments, always provocative, sometimes falter when he paints with overbroad strokes, something he often accuses Christians of doing. For example: “The way Christians treat divorced persons is disgusting.” The title of the book, of course, is less than sympathetic to dissent. Also, while the discussion of biblical text is typically rigorous, some parts would have benefited from a more expansive scholarly consideration. The chapter devoted to capitalism should have discussed Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical in 2009, Caritas in Veritate, which presents a much more complex view of the relation between the church’s teaching and commerce. Still, Holland manages a timely, nuanced examination of the church’s excessive traditionalism and the ways its resistance to progress degrades its members’ spirituality.
A powerful, personal account of how the Christian church’s true message has become disfigured in modern times.