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Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism

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In this provocative tell-all, David Gushee gives an insider's look at the frictions and schisms of evangelical Christianity, based on his experiences that began with becoming a born-again Southern Baptist in 1978 to being kicked out of evangelicalism in 2014 for his stance on LGBT inclusion in the church. But Gushee's religious pilgrimage proves even broader than that, as he leads his reader through his childhood experiences in Roman Catholicism, his difficult days at the liberal Union Seminary in New York, his encounters with the Christian Right, and more. In telling his story, Gushee speaks to the cultural divisions of a generation, as well as of today, and to those who have themselves been disillusioned by many battles within American Christianity. As he describes his own struggles to find the right path at different stages of his journey, he highlights the turning points and decisions that we all face. When do we compromise, and when we do we stand our ground? Is holding to moral conviction worth sacrificing friendship, jobs, and security? As he takes us through his sometimes-amusing, sometimes-heartbreaking, and always-stirring journey, Gushee shows us that we can retain our faith in Christ even when Christians disappoint us.

177 pages, Kindle Edition

Published September 15, 2017

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About the author

David P. Gushee

56 books97 followers
Rev. Prof. Dr. David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, Chair of Christian Social Ethics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Senior Research Fellow, International Baptist Theological Study Centre. He is also the elected past-president of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian Ethics. Dr. Gushee is the author, co-author, or editor of 27 books, including the bestsellers Kingdom Ethics and Changing Our Mind. His other most notable works are After Evangelicalism, Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, Introducing Christian Ethics, and The Sacredness of Human Life. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading Christian moral thinkers. Gushee and his wife, Jeanie, live in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Profile Image for Billie.
Author 15 books12 followers
September 1, 2017
I love it when I get to review books which I can recommend without hesitation or caveats and am glad to say that David Gushee's Still Christian: Following Jesus out of American Evangelicalism is one of them. This is a book which should be of interest to quite a few different people for different, if compatible, reasons. Before I get to that though, let me start by describing the book a little. Still Christian is in the format of a memoir, Gushee isn't trying to persuade his audience(s) to do much of anything other than maybe to be more aware of what Evangelicalism is, and how it has come to be what that. It is a fairly short memoir because it focuses with pretty laser-like intensity of the single story of the role of Evangelicalism within Gushee's life. Thus it isn't the sort of full-orbed analysis of Evangelicalism as a historical, social, theological phenomenon of the sort that we are all probably waiting for Mark Noll to write. Instead, this book is important because it will provide you with a narrative (and if you spent any part of the 80's, 90's, 00's or 10's as an Evangelical it will likely be a decidedly relate-able narrative) through which many of the beauties, thorns, and ultimately rot of evangelicalism can be more easily recognized.

In terms of style and readability, Gushee has a warm and winsome style and the book is tremendously easy to read. I blew through it in less than 48 hours (probably 4-5 hours of reading time over two evenings).

So who will benefit from and enjoy reading this book and why?

For those of us who grew up or spent significant time as evangelicals this book is incredibly easy to relate to and will almost certainly give you that "you are not alone" encouragement—particularly given Gushee's status as a Christian Ethicist and president of the Society of Christian Ethics and of the American Academy of Religion. Of course much of that has to do with shared experiences (his comfort with Evangelicalism was shaken by the "Women in Ministry" debate and by the Evangelical right's celebration of torture and his final break occurred over his affirmation of the full inclusion of LGBT folks), but it has a lot more to do with his carefully recorded process as he worked and lived through those experiences. Throughout the book he is unwaveringly gracious towards those with whom he has disagreed. Where people come across negatively he nearly always has something positive to say about them as well and even though Al Mohler does not come off especially well, he refuses to engage in any personal denouncement of him. Neo-Calvinism receives his single full-throated denouncement in chapter 7 Finding a Home and Leaving It where, when discussing the various perspectives operating at Evangelical colleges (and specifically Union where he taught) he says:
This is my best chance to say that I believe the resurgence of a doctrinaire Calvinism in contemporary evangelicalism is among the most odious developments of the last generation. I abhor its version of God and most of its version of Christian ethics, and I believe it could only have emerged among relatively privileged, hyper-cognitive, compassion-challenged white men, as it has. But I digress
That passage stands out because it is such a total break with the otherwise irenic tone he takes throughout the book. I am not condemning him for including it, but thought the fact was worth pointing out.

I think what gave me hope in reading this was not just that I could identify so much with Gushee's experience, but that he seems to have managed to get through it with so little bitterness and so few scars.

I am frankly not quite certain whether evangelicals will enjoy reading this, I do know that those evangelicals who seek to be well informed will appreciate reading this. This is a memoir by someone who was one of you, who experienced the "tent" of Evangelicalism shrinking around him (though his ultimate exit did involve movement to a place you had told him you would not go), and who will describe to you, winsomely and charitably, what it was about you that has caused him to feel relief on leaving. Surely this is something Evangelicals want to know.

Successful organizations need to conduct exit interviews. When someone leaves them, if they do not take the time to find out why, they are almost certainly doomed to eventual collapse. This is a charitable and kind voice (though he doesn't pull punches either) who will tell you what is going on and will challenge you to think about your culture as well as your practices. I don't think the goal of this is to convince anyone to leave or stay within evangelicalism, but it is a vital perspective for anyone who wants to understand evangelicalism as it is today.

non-Evangelical Christians:
If you are not and have never been an Evangelical, you are likely nevertheless well aware of them. As one friend of mine put it: "The thing about Evangelicals is that they do things". For better or worse, Evangelicals have come to "represent" much of Christianity, or at least Protestantism, to the western world. While there are many great resources out there to help you understand the genesis and theology of evangelicalism (I have mentioned Mark Noll haven't I?) this book will be your best tool to date in understanding the experience of Evangelicalism from the inside. It is rare to get a reflections from someone who was so recently a member of a "tribe", is now excluded from that tribe, and is nonetheless, compassionate, gracious, and fair towards them.

Remember how 81% of Evangelicals (who voted) voted for Trump? If you think that understanding that dynamic is important to navigating the world. Or more broadly if you realize that political Evangelicalism is still a major power player in US politics and in globalizing culture, then you probably already know that it is important to have an accurate understanding of this group of people. This book will provide some stunning insights into what is really going on with that. It is, for you, serendipitous that Gushee is a professional ethicist as his perspective is one you will find particularly enlightening.

A Final Addendum on Fortuitous Timing
I can't think of it as anything but God-given grace that this book was released the same week as the Nashville Statement. Still Christian provides a lens on what is going on with the so called Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the Southern Baptist Convention, and so the rest. It is no coincidence in my mind that Al Mohler figures prominently in both works (his is the seventh signature on the Nashville Statement). In Chapter 6 Finding a Voice While Not Losing a Soul Gushee recounts his experience with Mohler at Southern Seminary:
Al Mohler, only thirty-three years old when he was named president, turned out to be a relentless implementer of the conservative agenda for Southern Seminary. He was committed to purging any faculty who strayed from conformity to the seminary's doctrinal statement, elevating faculty voices that would take visible conservative stands on key culture-war issues, and moving the school to a traditionalist position on the top question of the moment—namely, whether the Bible permitted women to be ordained or to serve as pastors in local churches.
...a new policy came down from the administration, one that would change everything at Southern. At an epic, miserable faculty meeting, the president [Mohler] declared that those who believed that women should serve as pastors would no longer be hired, promoted, or tenured at Southern Seminary. While some details of this policy remained to be addressed, the implications were clear enough. A school that had, over the years, worked its way around to a largely egalitarian understanding of gender roles was now, by decree, overnight, a place that required faculty both to believe and to teach that Holy Scripture clearly bars women from the highest office of church leadership. Dissenting tenured faculty members might survive but probably ought to leave, untenured faculty members who held the now-erroneous belief had no future at the school, and no new faculty members would be hired who were egalitarian.
This meant the end for pretty much all female faculty members. I vividly remember one of my younger female colleagues getting up from the meeting in which the policy was announced, running from the room, and throwing up in the hall. It's not every day that you are professionally executed by public decree. It just might make you physically ill.
If that doesn't frame the context for the recently released Nashville Statement I don't know what does.
Profile Image for Zachary Houle.
394 reviews19 followers
July 2, 2017
From time to time, I get hateful comments on these reviews — basically people telling me that I’m bound for Hell because I either don’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection or I’m too inclusive of gay people in my faith. Whatever I’ve gone through, though, holds nothing on David P. Gushee. For a time, he was considered America’s favourite evangelical leftist, until he wrote a book that was essentially accepting of gay people. He watched as speaking engagements basically dried up for doing that. (Luckily, he is teaching at a liberal theological school that promotes academic freedom.) So the guy has some marks on his back, and it’s easy for someone like me to sympathize with him.

Having just read his most recent book, Still Christian, which is a memoir of his life as an evangelical Christian, I sympathize with him even more. Having a bit of a scorched earth policy, Gushee lays it all out on the line with this book — the battles he faced, the backstabbing he was asked to partake in as a professor at one theological seminary, and the politicking he was forced into as a pundit. By the end of the book, it turns out he’s not much of an evangelical at all these days. In fact, he and I are not too far removed on the theological spectrum, and, damn, it is so refreshing to read a book finally from someone who thinks like me.

Read more here: https://medium.com/@zachary_houle/a-r...
Profile Image for Cara Meredith.
1,030 reviews23 followers
October 9, 2017
It’s been awhile since I read a book in one day, but I couldn’t help myself. I’ve been a fan of Gushee’s since seminary, and quickly began following his work. I watched his popularity rise and plummet during this time, the latter primarily due to changing his stance on the LGBTQ issue within the church. This is probably his easiest book to digest, because it’s largely memoir. But there’s more, of course. Why and how is he still a Christian? How did he get where he is now? And just in case you want to read more about the evangelical church, the Southern Baptist denomination and influence, and ethics in general, the book is just nerdy enough to keep your theological tastebuds tingling. Regardless, I loved the book: I appreciate his work, but more than anything, this is his story. And who can argue with that?
Profile Image for J.L. Neyhart.
416 reviews148 followers
September 6, 2019
Following Jesus has led many of us out of the conservative Evangelicalism we may have started in. In this book, David Gushee shares the story of how that has happened in his life.

This is a fairly quick read. I finished it in less than 24 hours. It’s a short memoir because it stays focused on a very specific topic of Evangelicalism through the lens of Gushee’s life. He does give us a brief overview of how exactly Evangelicalism in the US came to be (rebranding “fundamentalism”, coopted by the political Right, etc.).

Gushee also describes how the politically motivated played a big role in taking over the Southern Baptist Convention and THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. As I myself am now a member of a progressive Baptist Church in Louisville and have lived in Louisville for most of my life, this was especially interesting to read about. I’ve heard people at my church talk about being students at SBTS when “the takeover” was going on. Needless to say, they hurt a lot of people in that process, which is what bad theology and power trips tend to do.

It is important to note that while the ultra-conservatives said they were pushing back against “liberal theology”, Gushee writes, “I never met a true theological liberal faculty member the whole time I was at Southern Seminary. In biblical studies, most professors did teach a modest version of historical criticism, but it was hardly outré compared to what I ran across later in my educational pilgrimage. I found that my theology professors hardly strayed to the “left” of Karl Barth, and legends like Dale Moody were very, very Southern Baptist. No, those Southern Seminary faculty were still pious Southern Baptist folks who were simply reasonably open to the broader world of ideas and wanted their students exposed to that world. They also, of course, like most academics, feared witch hunts, purges, and attacks on their academic freedom. Already by 1984, the academic environment was becoming more conservative and less free." (Location 397)

Gushee earned his M.Div from SBTS in 1987, then his M.Phil (1990) and Ph.D. in Christian ethics from Union Theological Seminary in 1993. But he ended up back at SBTS after that because it was his only job offer. I was surprised to learn that Mohler, who had just been appointed as president of the Seminary, was only 33 at the time. He taught at SBTS from 1993-1996. By the time he left SBTS was forcing everyone out who was not willing to ascribe to their stance that women should not be allowed in ministry. So when Gushee received an offer to teach at Union University, he took it as his way out.

Gushee describes this incident at SBTS from before he left: “...a new policy came down from the administration, one that would change everything at Southern. At an epic, miserable faculty meeting, the president [Mohler] declared that those who believed that women should serve as pastors would no longer be hired, promoted, or tenured at Southern Seminary. While some details of this policy remained to be addressed, the implications were clear enough. A school that had, over the years, worked its way around to a largely egalitarian understanding of gender roles was now, by decree, overnight, a place that required faculty both to believe and to teach that Holy Scripture clearly bars women from the highest office of church leadership. Dissenting tenured faculty members might survive but probably ought to leave, untenured faculty members who held the now-erroneous belief had no future at the school, and no new faculty members would be hired who were egalitarian.

This meant the end for pretty much all female faculty members. I vividly remember one of my younger female colleagues getting up from the meeting in which the policy was announced, running from the room, and throwing up in the hall. It's not every day that you are professionally executed by public decree. It just might make you physically ill.”
(Location 748)

Still Christian will resonate with anyone who has grown weary of the marriage of Evangelicalism with right-wing politics, and those who are completely over this nonsense about women not being allowed to preach, teach, lead, minister, etc.

Honestly, even if you still consider yourself an Evangelical, you might want to read this to help you understand more about why so many of us that started out that way have been leaving in droves, and for many of us, including Gushee, that does not mean leaving Jesus behind.

Another thing I love about this book is that Gushee kept journals almost every day over the course of his life which I'm sure increases the accuracy of the stories he tells from the past. He even quotes from them throughout the book:

“This reflection from the summer after my freshman year in college foreshadows much about my later journey: Amy Grant sings, “You must put aside the reasoning that’s standing in the way.” Well, my convictions may be shaky but this one isn’t—I will never sacrifice my intellect on the altar of “being faithful.” If you [God] can’t stand up to my measly questions, then you must be an illusion. . . . Must I sacrifice my intellect for the faith? No, I will not suppress my mind, I will not give up my intellect. I will give up the faith first.” (Location 342)

I have felt the exact same way and have written similar things in journals of my own.

I also appreciate Gushee's grace for "the other side". I think he succeeds in his goal of offering a "fair rendering" of the "flawed people and institutions" he describes in this book.

In the preface, Gushee writes: "We are experiencing a moment in American life in which our cultural divides have hardened into mutual incomprehension and demonization." Then he says that he first wrote that line long before the election of Donald Trump as president, and of course, it is even truer now. "We don't know each other, we don't understand each other, we don't trust each other, and we don't like each other. All we see are each other's vices, none of each other's virtues. If this memoir from both sides of the barricades helps improve this deplorable situation, that is reason enough to write it" (Location 92)

I think the only time I noticed Gushee taking a harsher tone was in this passage (which I completely agree with) in Chapter 7:

“This is my best chance to say that I believe the resurgence of a doctrinaire Calvinism in contemporary evangelicalism is among the most odious developments of the last generation. I abhor its version of God and most of its version of Christian ethics, and I believe it could only have emerged among relatively privileged, hyper-cognitive, compassion-challenged white men, as it has. But I digress” (Location 995).

At the end of the book, Gushee states:
“I still believe in Jesus. Indeed, I believe in him more than ever. I need him more than ever. Some days the only thing I have left of my Christianity is Jesus. And that’s okay.
I still believe in the prophetic religion of Jesus and of those before him and those after him who also shared it—a religion of justice, love, and compassion, a powerful source of good in this broken world.

But I no longer believe that the church, per se, knows or follows that religion. I no longer believe that the church, per se, is generally a source of good in the world. It depends. Sometimes it is quite the opposite. When it is the opposite, the only way to be a true Christian is to oppose the church. Yet I will never leave the church. That’s because I still believe in local communities of Jesus-followers straining every effort to study, hear, and obey him. And I believe in local shepherds humbly serving those communities. I still believe in the power of the preached Word and received sacrament in a community of hungry believers. [...]

I still believe that the truest human language is tears, and the best test of human beings is how they respond to tears. I now believe what Union Seminary tried to teach me—that the most important voices for me to hear come from the margins and from those who have been silenced."
(Location 1625)

(I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.)
Profile Image for Robert D. Cornwall.
Author 30 books79 followers
January 11, 2018
I am fiour years older than David Gushee, which means I've traveled similar terrain, even if we grew up in opposite sides of the country in different denominational traditions. He was raised Catholic. I was raised Episcopalian. He left the Catholics for the Southern Baptists. I left the Episcopalians for Pentecostalism. We both felt the call to ministry and academia. He went to a large Southern Baptist Seminary and then a very liberal seminary for doctoral work. I went to the largest seminary in the world, earning both my masters and doctorate at the same evangelical institution. Unlike David, I have spent most of my life as a pastor, and I took up an area of academic interest that was less likely to put me in the public eye.

I met David in 2015, after he had gotten caught in the firestorm of his coming out as an ally of LGBTQ Christians. I invited him to come to Troy and speak to the issue of inclusion to my congregation as it was considering becoming Open and Affirming. I write about that in my study guide to David's important book Changing Our Mind: Definitive 3rd Edition of the Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians with Response to Critics. So, I was eager to read his memoir, detailing his journey out of evangelicalism. Mine came a few years earlier, but his story resonates in so many ways.

The book is laid out chronologically. He takes his story in bite sized portions. He shares life growing up in the Catholic Church and finding a new version of faith -- a conversion experience among the Baptists. The story moves on to his early years as a Baptist -- as a teen. That phase gives way to his time in college and seminary. He went to a public university and studied religion, not from a confessional perspective, but a scholarly one. He didn't lose faith, but he had his intellectual concerns honed. While his professors wanted him to go to graduate school at places like Harvard and Yale, he chose Southern Baptist Seminary instead. He did so as the seminary was in the midst of transition from moderate to conservative control. He found himself unhappy, but stayed on, largely due to the influence of a mentor -- Glen Stassen.

The next phase of life took him to the opposite side of the theological spectrum. Even as Southern was becoming more conservative and the Southern Baptist Convention was in turmoil, at the encouragement of his mentor Glen Stassen, he chose to do his Ph.D. work at liberal Union Theological Seminary. He was uncomfortable there for very different reasons. He shares the story of being bluntly told by James Cone that as a white male he would need to simply sit there quietly and listen. But, he found a topic of study (the Holocaust), wrote his dissertation, and looked for a position. His first job, as he wrote his dissertation, was working for Evangelicals for Social Action, which honed his social justice instincts further.

After he finished his dissertation, he applied for teaching jobs. They were few and far between. I know, I was looking at the same time. You had few choices (it took me four years to find a teaching job that lasted but two years, before I ran afoul of the constituency). He was invited by the new dean at Southern Baptist Seminary, David Dockery, to fill a position in Christian Ethics. It was the only job offer and he took it. Unfortunately, he arrived at the same time that Al Mohler became president of the seminary. Mohler was empowered to bring the seminary into a new vision of Baptist orthodoxy, including banning support for women in ministry. He experienced a purge of faculty, including Molly Marshall, a professor of theology, who would go on to lead another Baptist seminary. He soon ran afoul of the president and the new order, due to his support of women in ministry.

He was fortunate, however, to find an out. David Dockery became the president of a Baptist College, and invited David to join him as a professor of Christian Ethics. He jumped at the chance, despite the fact that it uprooted the family. He shares his gratitude, however, for being presented with an opportunity to get out of the fire. He would spend eleven years there, but again he found himself in a difficult place as his commitments to concerns like climate change and torture, put him at odds with the constituency. While he wasn't asked to leave, it became clear that he was becoming further estranged from his Baptist context.

His last and current stop was an invitation to teach at Mercer University, a Baptist affiliated school, but one that offered full and complete academic freedom -- something he had never experienced. Now, he could write whatever he pleased, and no one would question this. This leads to an interesting reflection on the nature of Christian higher education, and the possibilities of combining a concern for faith formation and academic rigor. He doesn't reject the possibility, only raises questions about whether it is done well.

I found these chapters intriguing in part because I faced difficulties as a professor at a conservative Christian college ( I lost my job). The other reason is because at the time I was teaching at that Christian College, I got involved in a Baptist Church, became friends with Baptist pastors and professors who got caught in the middle of all of this turmoil. I watched as the congregation I worshiped at was pushed and pulled by differing factions within the Baptist community. I came to know and understand the story that David tells here.

It was during this latter stage of David's career that I came to know him. It was after he found himself in the maelstrom of the church's struggle with whether and how to include LGBTQ Christians. He doesn't tell the complete story here, but he provides the background to what he shares in Changing Our Mind. He doesn't mention my congregation specifically, but were one of the many he visited in 2015, as he fully dove into the cause.

The final chapters are intriguing, because they offer reflections on his disillusionment with both right and left. For differing reasons, during his career, he had been invited into the inner circle of the political world. As a Christian ethicist, this is not surprising. But he saw the dark side of this involvement. He found himself used by liberals who loved having an evangelical on their side (including the Obama administration). He also found himself, after his choice to enter the fray on the LGBTQ front, anathema to the evangelical world. Old friends, colleagues, and students turned their backs on him. Fortunately, he was in an academic setting where he was protected. He could speak out without fear of losing his job, but whereas his theology had never changed, he was no longer part of the evangelical movement. He discovered that white evangelical equaled GOP.

The closing chapter is thoughtful reflection on where he finds himself now -- as professor, pastor, family member. He was 55 when he finished the book. He senses that his days as an activist might be drawing to a close. A new future awaits. I'm a bit older, but I resonated with his reflection. It's time to let younger persons take the lead.

Perhaps it's because of where I find myself in life, but I am increasingly drawn to memoirs and biographies. I especially am drawn to ones like this, which tell a story similar to mine. It's not the same, but there is enough similarity to grab hold of. David is an excellent writer. He's thoughtful. He's a clear thinker. Even his book "Changing Our Mind," which was simply a gathering up of blog posts, shows deep clarity. In his reflections he shares that he wished he had spent two years researching the topic before writing, and yet the book has proven to be a powerful witness to change. Even he admits he likely would not have said anything different. This is an important story, because it reminds us of the complexity of the Christian life. Who is David Gushee? To some he is an undeeemed liberal who has given up his faith. To others he is a conservative who has gotten certain things right, but not everything. In an age of polarization, this is not an easy place to live. Yet, he does. I am grateful for his witness. I believe that those who read this book, will benefit from its wisdom. Oh, and David notes that he has been journaler since a young age, so he has record of everything that has transpired down through the years.

This is not a long book. It's only 151 pages. You can read it quickly. Yet, despite its brevity, it is full of insight, and worthy of our attention.
Profile Image for Melanie.
104 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2021
David Gushee is a Christian ethicist who has travelled through a variety of evangelical traditions, most notably Southern Baptist. Throughout his years of scholarship and extensive experiences, he came to a point where he could no longer align himself with the predominantly white, racist, GOP-loving evangelical church. He still loves Jesus, wholeheartedly, and has found other ways to worship and serve. This is his story, from his conversion to Christ in 1978, up to 2018 when this book was published. It's an especially useful read now, when so many are questioning the evangelical church and its blind love of Trumpism, despite the unChristian behaviors of Donald Trump and his followers.
635 reviews32 followers
July 25, 2018
Dr. David P. Gushee is an expert in Christian ethics, and the author and/or editor of over twenty books. He gave his heart to Jesus in 1978. In "Still Christian: Surviving the Radical Changes in American Christianity," he chronicles his journey as a follower of Jesus from childhood to present day, as he navigates the frictions and schisms of evangelical Christianity.

I have had a strong desire to read this book because it is written by a theologians and scholar--someone who has studied and taught Christian ethics for over two decades. I had no doubt it would be interesting, and I was hoping for some clarification on some key points concerning Jesus' approach to social justice, inclusion, and the importance of honesty and integrity in one's Christian walk with Jesus. I received that and much more. I will be moving on to his book "Changing Our Mind: A call from America's leading evangelical ethics scholar for full acceptance of LGBT Christians in the Church." This book has also prompted me to read more on the subject of Christian ethics.
8 reviews2 followers
January 27, 2020
This book is mostly a memoir but also includes historical context that helps me better understand the battles that went on behind the scenes in the Evangelical (in his case Southern Baptist) academic institutions that shaped the pastors who imparted these ideas to the general public and formed the theological intuitions of a nation. As a kid, I grew up spending time hearing ideas from various influential Southern Baptist pastors in my home state of Texas, which were mixed with political power grabbing, nationalism, racism, and homophobia which have lead to the moral bankruptcy of American Evangelicalism that has finally been revealed more clearly in recent years. I've checked out from most of that subculture mentally for awhile now and have been looking for new ways to proceed forward. Gushee's perspectives, interesting educational journey, and years of experience are valuable for me to learn from as I am about 30 years younger than him and trying to navigate similar tensions that he did. I would recommend this book to other people who are in the same boat.
Profile Image for Readnponder.
687 reviews30 followers
November 20, 2017
The recent headlines surrounding Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore remind me of the reasons I hesitate to identify as “evangelical”: the toxic mix of faith and politics, the inconsistent positions on moral issues, to name a few. Like evangelicals, I hold the Bible in high regard; I believe in salvation by grace through faith alone. However, when a pastor’s sermons drift into culture wars and run afoul of the Johnson Amendment, I begin to wonder, “Would Jesus be doing this?”

Consequently, I found myself resonating with David Gushee’s memoir Still Christian. Gushee has worked for 30+ years in Christian higher education. I’ve spent the last 20 years serving on a church staff. And like Gushee, I struggle not to turn bitter and cynical, especially when faith is used to cloak other agendas.

Gushee begins his memoir with his conversion as a teenager in a Southern Baptist church in northern Virginia where he “dated his way” through the youth group. (Hey, every youth group has a guy like that.) He attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and became ordained in the SBC before going to liberal Union Seminary in NYC for his PhD in Ethics. Upon graduation he returned to Southern Seminary to teach. He found himself not really fitting in at either location: too conservative for Union and too liberal for SBTS. The growing tension is further seen in the response of evangelicals to his academic work in the field of Christian ethics. They praised his book on righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, but became critical when his research turned to issues of climate change and torture.

This memoir is a fascinating look behind the curtain of Christian higher education--where in addition to the usual pressures from alumni, trustees, big donors, accreditors, and students, the administration must deal with denominational boards and doctrinal positions. “Academic freedom” in Christian higher education is limited to say the least. The author came to the conclusion that “white evangelical Christian higher education … is also about creating an educational environment in which loyalty to U.S. Republican presidents and their policies is not challenged seriously in public.” By way of illustration, he lists the various celebrities and politicians who were invited to speak at Union University during his years there – not a single Democrat among them.

The book does not end in despair or agnosticism. Rather, as the title suggests, Gushee explains that he still believes in Jesus, now more than ever. He has learned to separate simple faith in God from organized religion’s unholy alliance with politics. Christians who are troubled with the culture wars and the politicization of American Christianity will take comfort from this book in realizing they are not alone.
Profile Image for Mark.
183 reviews10 followers
August 29, 2017
David Gushee does not hold back in this personal memoir and a critique of American Evangelicalism and some of its more prominent institutions and people. While his criticism is quite scathing at times, it is never ad hominem and wherever possible, also narrates positives with each experience, whether institution or with a person.

Gushee joins the Southern Baptist Convention during its period of a major split between moderates and conservatives/fundamentalists beginning in the late 1970's. And for nearly three decades he is a part of that world. As his personal trajectory diverges away from the SBC, he eventually finds himself in a more moderate/progressive Baptist world.

Having lived on both sides of the evangelical divide in prominent roles, he is uniquely positioned to discuss the virtues and vices found on either side. But it shouldn't be surprising that he finds American Evangelicalism, as a religious system and identity, some of its doctrines, and its system of thought to be on the whole, wanting. While not explicitly calling out some of its features evil, he comes very close. And that is saying quite something considering it is coming from someone holding a Ph.D. in ethics.

Maybe the average member of a SBC-affiliated congregation could care less about the recent history and controversies in the denomination. But perhaps they should. And maybe understand that the denomination was hijacked by a small group of fundamentalists who have steered it ever rightward and further into extremism.

Gushee also applies many of the controversies, shifts, and problems he experienced and saw in the SBC and Evangelicalism to the greater American political contour. He sees a direct line tying the two parts. Certain kinds of identity politics lead to religious fundamentalism and extremism in a church, while the exact same politics lead to political extremism in government.

I don't think Gushee is being too harsh. I believe he is being very direct and honest in his assessment of American Evangelicalism in general, and in many cases, the SBC. While no system is perfect, some are worse than others, and Gushee minces no words in being a prophetic voice in calling out a large part of the American religious landscape as heading in a very wrong direction, even an anti-Christian one (my interpretation).

As for the book itself, it is very well written and moves along. I didn't expect it to be quite so engaging for a religious/theological memoir, but once I started it, I could not put it down.

(Review based on ARC supplied by the publisher through NetGalley.)
Profile Image for Rachel.
112 reviews4 followers
August 7, 2018
As I mentioned in my notes on Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby, which I read at about the same time as this, I was expecting to be annoyed at this book. Heaven knows David Gushee has ample reason to be annoyed at American evangelicalism, so I couldn't fault him if some annoyance came through in this book. But even so, I find deconversion narratives to be a subgenre afflicted with smugness, and though this is not a narrative of deconversion from Gushee's Christian faith, I was expecting that the account of his departure from a particular subculture within that faith to display at least some of that smugness, particularly given the "shake the dust off one's feet" tone of the subtitle, "Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism."

What I found instead was a personal account that showed amazing grace to the members of a tradition Gushee can no longer call himself a part of, including some of the very ones who were instrumental in pushing him out. The eye-witness narrative of the battles for the soul of the Southern Baptist Convention and its educational institutions over the course of my lifetime was illuminating. I appreciate the testimony that this book offers of one believer's journey of juggling multiple loyalties while seeking to be faithful to his ultimate loyalty to Christ.
Profile Image for Adam Shields.
1,658 reviews87 followers
September 15, 2017
Short Review: I am back in a season where I really want memoirs. At least the memoirs of my elders. Wisdom can be hard fought. And those that fight through pain can be some of the most helpful.

Gushee has been through a number of battles within Evangelicalism. From the battles within SBC in the 80s and 90s to ethical fights over torture and the environment in the 2000s to his recent movement on LGBT issues, Gushee has been in the culture wars. This book is part of his resignation.

I am not where he is in a number of areas, but I have sympathy. And I think that books like this that show real evidence of faith across theological divides are helpful. Gushee keeps from pointing out villains in his life. There are other christians which which he disagrees, but they are not enemies. And I think that is part of why I trust his resignation from the culture wars.

This is a brief book, but well worth reading.

My full review (nearly 1100 words with probably too much description of Gushee's life story) is on my blog at http://bookwi.se/still-christian/
Profile Image for Kelsey Campbell.
12 reviews1 follower
June 1, 2022
Pros of this book:
- Relatable for those who grew up Southern Baptist
- Interesting “behind-the-scenes” experience of a well-known former evangelical
- Refreshing to read a perspective from a white male evangelical who is allowing the voices of minorities to change his long held beliefs

Cons of this book:
- Can get lost in all the university and personal name drops
- No sources are cited (i.e. history behind term “evangelical” would have been a good place to cite some sources)
-The book felt a little dry at times because it was mostly brief descriptions of his experiences at different universities. There was little emotion in the book.

My favorite chapter was the second to last about the LGBTQ+ community. Mostly because it was refreshing to read about his change of mind and also because it held the most emotion and struggle/growth to it.

Overall a short read. I finished this book within a few hours. It’s not a memoir but for a deeper dive into the impact of American evangelicalism I would recommend “Jesus and John Wayne” by Kristin Kobes Du Mez.
Profile Image for Shannon.
1,546 reviews
November 16, 2017
David Gushee is exactly ten years older than me, but the changes he has lived through in the evangelical world outstrip me by what seems like more than a decade. He grew up in Virginia and became a Christian as a high schooler, deciding shortly after that to become a pastor.

His journey took him to Baptist seminaries and colleges, but his journey with Christ took him to the world of Christian ethics. Sadly, the story he tells makes it seem like ethics and evangelicalism do not go well together: "This is my best chance to say that I believe the resurgence of a doctrinaire Calvinism in contemporary evangelicalism is among the most odious developments of the last generation. I abhor its version of God and most of its version of Christian ethics, and I believe it could only have emerged among relatively privileged, hyper-cognitive, compassion-challenged white men, as it has." I could not agree more.

It was painful for me to read about the Baptist church and its split over the ordination of women. It was heartbreaking to read about the author being lambasted by fellow Christians for speaking out against torture (?!?). It was angering to read about invitations rescinded when he rethought and reexamined his position on LGBT people and their place in the church. And it was encouraging to me that through it all, he followed Jesus and follows him still.

This must have been a hard book to write, yet I found Gushee's tone to be compassionate. He wrote of former colleagues and friends with regret that they ended up on opposite sides of a line, but not that they had been friends and colleagues.

I know that my place in the Episcopal church gives me friends who wonder whether I am "Still Christian" as David Gushee puts it. But this book shows the heart of why I can love Jesus and the places he takes me, even when so many Christians act and vote in ways that are completely counter to what Jesus taught.

If you want a book that will help you understand the last thirty-five years of the evangelical church in America, this is a wonderful, readable first person account. That he was able to write it with love for the people and the church who have treated him so poorly is evidence that Gushee is able to see people through the eyes of Christ.
Profile Image for Doug Phillips.
113 reviews12 followers
November 12, 2017
I am reviewing an ARC of this book received from Net Galley in exchange for honest feedback.

After a quick read through David Gushee's autobiographical search of a home for his particular Christian views, I can understand why it resonates with liberal Christians and some former- and non-Christians. While I do not agree with some of the author's positions, I give him credit for raising his voice to provide a viewpoint that often gets lost in the rhetoric surrounding members of the Southern Baptist faith.

I embarked upon this book knowing that the author was making this somewhat of a personal journal-turned-marketable book. Furthermore, it was a treatise with which I can't align. However, as a person who tries to keep an open mind, I found it very interesting to see things from his perspective. Today's world of academia is lockstep with certain political positions. It was interesting to read that the more liberal thinkers also have a place in certain Christian colleges.

Proverbs 11:25 - Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
Profile Image for Janie.
119 reviews18 followers
September 28, 2020
It's hard to put stars on someone's memoir. I am young enough to have been a student of Gushee's and I had friends who were), and I used Kingdom Ethics as a text in Divinity School. I related to what Gushee said and felt encouraged by his words about Jesus. I wish I'd read more about his relationship with God and less about his academic pursuits. I've read and followed Gushee for years and reading about his relationship with the CBF was painful. (I am ex-Southern Baptist and ex-CBF, too.) I'd love to read about Gushee's experience with the Sermon on the Mount and about his lived experiences with the Holy Spirit. But then again... I'm a chaplain, not an ethicist. I'm glad I read this.
Profile Image for Sheri Joyce .
121 reviews11 followers
January 30, 2021
This memoir is an interesting one to read. I found myself relating to many of his experiences while the author was in the Southern Baptist Convention. This brought up some mixed emotions from that time in my life, for sure, but I also am so grateful to God for the journey He has me on!
While I didn't agree with every thought that David Gushee shared, I appreciated his vulnerability in sharing them. As anyone who has examined their faith to weed out man-made rules/tenets from legit doctrine knows, it is a hard and lonely process. American Christianity leans heavily into conformity, so to let go of and/or embrace beliefs that align more to Jesus' words can, sometimes, sadly, feel radical and "wrong" as those who insist on conformity believe.
Profile Image for Shelly.
406 reviews20 followers
May 8, 2018
I saw this little memoir on the new books shelf at the library and was intrigued. I’m a Christian but I don’t usually read books by Christian intellectuals or read magazines like Christianity Today, so I was previously unaware of David Gushee. This was an interesting and well written book that I just tore through (and I’m a slow reader, especially with nonfiction) it. I like memoirs in general and this was also very informative (in a very readable way) about the history and politics of the Baptist and Southern Baptist world.
Profile Image for Alan  Marr.
387 reviews10 followers
June 18, 2018
Many of my friends suffered at the hands of the fundamentalist “takeover” of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 80s and 90s. It was a painful time, especially for women teachers and pastors who were unceremoniously removed from their positions.
This book tells a personal story of the author’s journey into SBC and exit from SBC. It is a difficult read for any person who values Baptist heritage.
I was saddened by this recent news gives me hope that commitment to freedom of conscience and respect for difference will be restored.
Profile Image for Diana Frazier.
64 reviews1 follower
January 23, 2021
Some parts of this book I loved- like the history of the Protestant split in America in the 70’s and where evangelicals came from. Other parts felt foreign to me as so much was about the Baptist church (of which I know nothing). Those parts didn’t resonate with me. The last 2 chapters were probably my favorite.
I imagine if someone grew up Southern Baptist, they’d enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Em.
30 reviews
April 9, 2022
A vulnerable, nuanced perspective on the American Evangelicalism forces with good explanations and interesting discussion points. Gushee presents as being humble and thoughtful and raises so many good points for the modern age.
Profile Image for Katelyn Andersen.
6 reviews6 followers
December 13, 2022
Amazing. Life changing. Gave me a reason to hold on to my faith amidst spiritual trauma and church hurt. There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Profile Image for Rachel.
81 reviews8 followers
December 12, 2017
No matter where you stand, Gushee writes about the grace of the Gospel in his life, above all. For that, I am moved.
Profile Image for Kim.
77 reviews1 follower
August 28, 2017
I wish I could give this book six stars. And give it to 100 people. If you are interested in academic evangelicalism, here is a great memoir. If you are a Baptist or grew up Baptist, which I didn't, this is fascinating.
Profile Image for Steve.
Author 3 books22 followers
October 8, 2017
This is a bold, honest and fascinating book. Gushee was perhaps best known initially for his Kingdom Ethics book written with one of his mentors Glenn Stassen - he then changed his mind regarding the Christian approach to homosexuality and became infamous. As a result of his change of mind, IVP refused to reprint Kingdom Ethics, so Eerdmans took up the option.

Still Christian is the inside story of one person’s move from Catholicism to fundamentalism to net-evangelicalism to his present position. As Gushee puts it:

‘So this book will resolve my inner conflicts, profile some fascinating people, dish some really interesting dirt, explain the culture wars—and talk about what God might have to do with any of this.’

But not for one moment did he stop believing in the risen Christ - hence the title of this book Still Christian. He writes:

‘I still believe in Jesus. Indeed, I believe in him more than ever. I need him more than ever. Some days the only thing I have left of my Christianity is Jesus. And that’s okay.’

Whatever you think of Gushee’s present views this book provides a fascinating insider account of some recent trends in evangelicalism; obviously, he is only presenting one side, but in many ways, that is what makes this book such a great read. His view of evangelicalism may be slightly warped but it has more than a smidgin of truth:

‘But hard experience over several decades leads me now to conclude that evangelicalism was in one sense a rebranding effort on the part of a cadre of smart fundamentalists around 1945.’

‘My analysis is that if evangelicals are best identified as essentially a massively successful rebranding effort of old-school fundamentalism, the starting point from which the modern evangelical community emerged was obscurantist and provincial, routinely anti-intellectual, antiscience, and antimodern. It has only been seventy years since evangelicalism emerged from this musty closet, and it sometimes shows.’

Gushee is honest with his struggles and this is one of the things that makes this book so interesting. It is certainly worth reading. I for one am glad to have read it - even though I wouldn’t agree with everything that Gushee holds; not least his view of Calvinism: ‘This is my best chance to say that I believe the resurgence of a doctrinaire Calvinism in contemporary evangelicalism is among the most odious developments of the last generation.’ It is a bold book and hopefully, evangelicals will read it and take time to reflect on his criticisms.
Profile Image for Nicki.
1,286 reviews
October 20, 2017
David Gushee is not a name I've heard in faith circles before, so apart from the blurb, I didn't really know what to expect when I began reading.

This was a very interesting book especially from someone who lives outside of the U.S.A. I'm familiar with the labels of 'religious right' and 'evangelical fundamentalists' but I didn't really know what these labels really entailed and the connection to politics.

Through this memoir David Gushee unpacks how he become involved with these groups, although he never intended to be, and what happened when he questioned and disagreed with their ideas. It's not a 'kiss and tell' type memoir though, as he is not interested in hurting people for the sake of it.

Considering its content this was very easy to read, although having never been a Baptist it was a bit confusing when he mentioned the different strands of the Southern Baptist Union.

It was a fascinating, and bewildering read at times, making me realise for the first time how interlinked religion and politics really are in America.

I definitely recommend this if you enjoy faith memoirs or if you're at all interested in the rise of the American religious right.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and Westminster John Knox Press for my digital copy.
Profile Image for Justin.
416 reviews
August 17, 2017
The wonderful thing about Still Christian is how the story is told about the shift within the Southern Baptist church from moderate to evangelical and the far right.

Most of the book is about Gushee himself and his life as a Baptist professor and leader. I was not familiar with who Gushee was, but looked him up after reading the book which gave a bit more insight. As a professor, he faced a wide variety of situations and felt safe being part of the Baptist community.

The shift happens as the church moves to a right wing, conservative, and evangelical church attacking environmentalism, the LGBTQ community, and a wide variety of topics. Gushee tells the story of how that happens gradually, yet quite intentionally. This was a planned movement that was strategically done to put the right people into leadership positions while pushing out the more moderate leaders until the church and all the colleges were taken over.

The amazing thing about the book is even though he is telling the story of his church, he is also essentially talking about the shift within the US, especially within the GOP.

I am not sure I would recommend the book to a larger group, but I found his sections on why global warming was threatening to the evangelical community was fascinating. It opened a whole new insight into an argument I do not understand how one could argue with it.

I gave this one 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Beth Peninger.
1,473 reviews2 followers
October 30, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley and Westminster John Knox Press for this reader's copy. In exchange, I am providing an honest review.

It is amazing to me that for all the years I lived, and worked, in the evangelical bubble I still haven't heard of some "famous" evangelicals. I attribute this to denomination affiliations. By the time Gushee was a big name in the SBC I had moved into the non-denom world. So to read Gushee's story of conversion and rise within the SBC world of Christianity was interesting. What I found super interesting was Gushee's ability to hold on to some "liberal" beliefs despite who employed him and what he was tasked to impart. It's unfortunate that his rise, and subsequent fall, in Christianity sounds and feels so familiar. Gushee has emerged from his religious entanglements still using the label "Christian." I refuse to. Until that word has been redeemed, if it ever goes through the redemption process, I cannot use that label to describe myself as that word alone conjures not just pro-life, homophobic, intolerant, racist, misogynistic, Republican viewpoints prior to 2016 but since then embraces loathsome people like Donald Trump and loathsome movements like QAnon. NOPE. But I digress. As I was saying, Gushee is somehow still able to use that word as part of his personal descriptives, I cannot. What Gushee's book does is highlight, as other books that attempt to deconstruct Christianity and figure out where it went wrong and why, that a bunch of old white men want to feel the power and don't want anyone else to so they play god in the name of God and people are getting hurt every single day because of these old white men whose time was up a long time ago. Ugh. It's so gross.
September 27, 2017
Whenever I read spiritual memoirs, I often believe that I am reading very personal, holy writings. This memoir by David Gushee is no different. There is something sacred that happens when someone tells you about the journey to follow Christ. Even when I read something I disagree with, and there are a few moments where I disagree with Gushee, they are hardly an issue for me, because I am overwhelmed by the sacredness of the story being told. I recommend this book, which I started and completed in less than 24 hours to anyone who understands the holiness of the genre of spiritual memoir.
Profile Image for Mallory Smith.
2 reviews
March 12, 2022
The author has a lot of interesting things to say and helped me understand recent history in the evangelical movement, but I found his tone to be pretty haughty which significantly hampered by ability to focus on what was being said. Unfortunately, my main takeaway from this book is the author’s academic hubris. It’s a shame too because of the unique perspective he has to offer.
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