Synopses & Reviews
What has become of the Christian Church? Once devoted to molding Americans into better people, in recent years the Christian Church has gotten a corporate makeover. In a desperate attempt to bolster membership rolls, ministers have begun to treat their churches more like companies, and their congregations more like customers.
As a minister in a small church and as a national religion reporter, journalist G. Jeffrey MacDonald witnessed firsthand this lapse into consumerism. He realized that in an effort to cast a wide net for souls churches have sacrificed their authority to transform Americans' self-serving impulses for the better. In the headlong rush to operate more like businesses, churches are sacrificing their moral authority, perhaps permanently. The result is a crisis for the American conscience. MacDonald's incisive critique of today's movement away from true religion shows how desperately America needs a new religious reformation.
"A journalist and United Church of Christ ordained minister, MacDonald, an occasional PW contributor, bemoans the rise of 'America's religious marketplace,' taking church leaders to task for caving in to pressure to provide inoffensive, low-threshold environments that keep members comfortable. Critically examining contemporary efforts such as small group ministries, which he considers insular, and short-term missions, which he regards as misguided efforts to satisfy participants' demands, MacDonald rebukes both fast-growing megachurches and mainline Protestants for not holding members to high Christian standards. He suggests that spiritual disciplines such as fasting and honoring Lent as a 'structured time for introspection' are tools available to address such prevalent social problems as debt, obesity, and divorce. Compellingly arguing against measuring success by attendance or pledge revenue, MacDonald provides examples of communities engaging a 'new ethic of asceticism.' The author's extrapolations from his four-year pastorate of a 40-member congregation occasionally ring bitter, and Christians of good faith may disagree with stances such as 'fencing' the communion table the practice of setting criteria for who can receive communion. Overall, however, MacDonald's journalistic prowess makes this book a thought-provoking challenge to today's church." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A pastor and religious journalists cri de coeur for a new religious reformation, denouncing the consumer-friendly congregations and therapeutic ministry of the mega-church era
Though waves of cynics and atheists claim that America is too religious, G. Jeffrey MacDonald disagrees. Americas churches, he argues, have abandoned their sacred role as dispensers of community values, and instead are increasingly serving up entertainment, aerobics, yoga classes, and other services that have nothing to do with religious faith. As religion becomes more consumer-oriented, congregants are able to avoid the moral, intellectual, and theological commitments Christianity requires by simply joining a differentand less rigorouschurch. Grounded in journalism, personal experience, and Christian theology, Thieves in the Temple is an impassioned and provocative cri de coeur for a new religious reformation. Incisively critiquing todays dangerous movement away from true religion, MacDonald demonstrates just how much Americans stand to lose when churches sell their souls to recruit parishioners.
About the Author
G. Jeffrey MacDonald
is a journalist and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, he is a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor
and the Religion News Service
. He writes regularly for Time Magazine
on topics in business and business ethics. His work has also appeared in publications including Ms., The Washington Post
, and the Los Angeles Times
. He lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts.