Making the ten-hour trip from Clemson to Raleigh about every other week last year was exhausting. It got infinitely more bearable, though, when I signed up for Audible, the subscription-based audiobook service from Amazon. Over the last year I probably listened to more books than I read all through college. Commute/workout time becomes a lot more bearable when it’s narrated by Wil Wheaton, Malcolm Gladwell, or Aziz Ansari.
Somehow, though, listening to David Platt was about a thousand times less comfortable.
I won't go into details on Radical. Either you've read it already, or you need to, in which case I won't try to condense it into a single post. Platt pulls no punches. He indicts almost everything about modern American Christianity – from the “padded chairs” of our high-tech sanctuaries to our culturally ingrained dedication to the American dream. He seems to argue, at one point, that the typical Christian’s life is so radically un-different from the world around us that Jesus wouldn’t recognize us as one of His own. He ends the book with a call to action for a dramatic re-approach to our entire lives, inspired by the story of the rich young man from Matthew 19.
I was having a very difficult time reading this book until I realized that Platt’s not really talking to me. I’m not a successful rich professional driving an SUV – I’m a grad student who’s taking out loans to pay rent. I don’t own a huge flat-screen. My car isn’t worth thousands of dollars – it’s a $400 bike with a flat tire. I don’t have extra money or stuff lying around, and I’m committed to almost two more years of school. So none of this book really applies to me, which makes sense. Platt is talking to the wealthy Christians who can really afford to make the kind of sacrifices he’s discussing.
…except I know, deep down, that’s not true. It applies just as much to me as to anyone, as to everyone. When Jesus told the rich young man to give up everything and follow Him, He didn’t stop to ask questions: “Wait, you’re not in school, are you? Ah ok, don’t quit that, that’s important. And is your car pre-1998? If so just keep it, you’re already sacrificing enough, you don’t need to sell that.” Instead, he praises the poor widow who gave two coins, everything she had.
So what do I do, then? Is God calling me to sell my laptop, pack a backpack and head out to share the gospel in North Korea? Should I quit school and abandon my wife? Or am I right where I need to be, and is God calling me to work on campus, with my fellow students, and later on among my colleagues in film studios? Or is it some strange balance between the two?
If it’s the first, then why has everyone been backing up my decisions all my life? If it’s the second, then why was this book so difficult to read? If it’s the third, then how do I strike the right balance?
There’s no takeaway here. I’m confused, frustrated, and yes, offended by this book. And I think the fact that I feel this way speaks a lot about the validity of what Platt has to say. At the end of the day I’m not really sure what to think, or more importantly, what to do. But I’m really hoping Urbana has some answers in store.