Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.
You can also find me on my blog.
Obviously, the cover and clever title did its work with me on this one. If it didn't quite live up to the expectations that I had, it was partly because their marketing was just too good.
Beyond opening with a line about three people walking into a bar and Jesus ordering them all water with a wink, this book has nothing to do with any conversation, real or imagined, between Jesus, Pope Francis, and a Protestant. That was disappointing.
Not to say that the book has nothing to offer. A more accurate title may have been 'Bible Study by a Protestant Pastor who Thinks Pope Francis is Awesome,' but that is not nearly as catchy.
This book is set up to be a small group Bible study with discussion questions at the end of each short chapter. The entire book is less than 100 pages, so it is not at all intimidating. I enjoyed many points brought up in this book, even if the author comes across as something of a fanboy of Pope Francis. (I'm Lutheran at a church that considers itself Catholic Reformed, so that's where I'm coming from.)
The author's main goal is unity. He uses Pope Francis as a tool to encourage this, because he has done a great job of humbling himself and demonstrating love to others as few Popes before him have done. I can appreciate this and agree with his statement that the divisiveness in the Christian community "must break the sacred heart of Jesus, so, in his high priestly prayer recorded in John 17, pleaded for his followers to be one." That being said, if he is interested in unity there are some efforts toward that, such as a statement of shared faith between Lutherans and Catholics created in 1999, that he could have mentioned.
He goes on to form this study around "the call of this century is to get religious harmony right." We should all be working together to demonstrate Christ's love to everyone. Not just other Protestants if we are Protestants, or other Catholics if we are Catholic....you get the idea, and it is a good one.
Micah 6:8 is used several times in this book to emphasize that "you are free to be who you are and free to let others be who they are, all the while doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God." I can get behind this too. In fact, this was the theme verse of the year not that long ago at the Lutheran school my kids were all attending at the time. I only had a problem at the very end where he uses this idea to justify condoning anything and everything that people wish to do. I agree with showing love, but Jesus also corrected in love. This was just a couple of pages though, and I could agree with everything else in the book, which was thought provoking and encouraging.
Some differences between denominations are pointed out and quickly dismissed as things we shouldn't be that worried about, and for the most part I would agree. Demonstrate your faith through love. That is the main message, and who can argue with that?
If I rated this lower than I might have, it is for a few reasons. I felt somewhat misled by the title. Differences brought up are more mediated by Pope Francis in this book than by Jesus. There are some great questions asked in this book, even if I didn't necessarily agree with all the answers. I guess that's the point, we don't have to agree on everything to break down religious barriers and get back to witnessing God's love, wherever he has happened to place us.
Thank you to NetGalley for my copy of this book. Opinions are my own.