Saturday, September 25, 2010

City On Our Knees

As a blogger for Bethany House publishers I had the opportunity to read Toby Mac's book of motivational inspirational stories, City On Our Knees.  Featured in the short stories of this book are true feel- good tales of assorted good citizens and good doers; both secular and spiritual, who went beyond the call of duty to make the world a better place.  While some of the real life characters featured are Christian, the other heroes and heroines are simply spiritual  or secular who made it a personal  mission to help the sick, the poor or some other downtrodden sector of society.  A common theme is that those who are in someway blessed with greater financial or social resources, should aid those who are less fortunate.  When faced with personal illness or crisis- one's energy and financial resources regardless of how great or limted, can be used and should be used for the greater good for others also suffering.

While not explicitly stated, apparently the author, Toby Mac is partial to the Roman Catholic Church as evident from the references to notable Roman Catholic figures and saints. Credability is given to the personal visions of Constantine, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Augustine.  The actual title of the book is a play on words in the tradition of Augustine's City Of God.  This is not a problem, obviously, as the message of this book is more about the impact of good works and peronal self sacrifice for the good of modern society rather than a being book about theology and the way to salvation.  There is no discrimenation when it comes to  differing religions, or beliefs from humanistic, non religious goodness as long as the end result is helping others in society. All religions and denominations, regardless of their spiritual beliefs are treated as equal as long as it motivates one to do good to help others in need.  The focus on this book is a person's good works and its impact rather than on a person's individual religious beliefs.  The actual spiritual message of this book is vague.

The various stories are sure to appeal to many readers whether religious or non religious.  Topics range from well known examples from popular culture to the historical stories of the 1800s circuit riders in American history.  As a professional musician, Toby Mac makes an analogy with preachers and rock stars.   Obviously this book is an expression of his identification with a modern day preacher.  Nevertheless, one can not help but think, with Toby Mac's economic and social advantages that he is able to enjoy, that it is easier for him to make sacrifices from his excess than for those middle and lower class readers who are struggling to just make ends meet.  I imagine that the audience he speaks to through his book, most likely are those who are socio- economically advantaged with the luxury of spare time to dedicate to mssionary work and making monetary donations.  Many underclass readers from the lower end of the socio- economic spectrum may simply be unable to relate to the philanthropy efforts of many of the main characters contained in these stories.

  Page 63 offers a brief yet incomplete synopsis of the gospel message. Not exactly enough to lead a non saved reader to the  salvation message of the bible, yet it does acknowledge the sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus is depicted as basically an avatar, the "highest example" of sacrifce that we should try and follow.   Furthermore, the  pages called the "Toby Mac Blog" and the "Remix" summaries offer effective and morally useful advice. In a society where so many stars and famous entertainers in the media exploit and abuse their positions, providing poor role models, Toby Mac is to be commeded for using his fame and position to further the cause of helping others through good works.  The book re-packages morality in an appealing, modern way that is sure to draw in today's society both young and old. 

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