This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God by Rick McKinley is a hybrid book of theology and literature. The modern cover looks like a piece of art, almost reminiscent of Eric Carle's mixed media work for children. As a reader I found myself struggling to read the text contained in the intriguing, pieced image of the dove. I resigned myself to the fact that the bits of text had no meaning and was for artistic effect much like the poetry included in the book. Using biblical illustrations as well as personal anecdotes, the author's intent is to dispel commonly held myths and traditions surrounding religion and Christianity.
McKinley creates modern day parables and anecdotes to illustrate ageless truths of the bible. At times the imagery is a bit extreme and forward as in the royal passenger in mysterious and eccentric clothing in order to illustrate the analogy of Jesus' kingdom. Nevertheless this style of writing is powerful for the modern reader. His writing is honest yet dramatic. He points out the hypocrisy of established religions and traditions that are devoid of the true message of Jesus. He makes the reader think about his own life and how many are living an incomplete powerless gospel. The author discusses the problems seen at two extremes of the spectrum: rigidity and liberalism. But good deeds and salvation need not be mutually exclusive as its important to incorporate the entire gospel: both facts- that salvation is through Christ alone and also that salvation is open to all.
Within the text are selected pieces of prose and poetry from various writers. This breaks up McKinley's text. The writings are not necessarily connected to the text and as private works of different authors, they are subjective in nature. The writing is honest but reminds me of something taken from someone's personal journey or what you may be submitted in a student creative writing course. I am not sure of the purpose of their inclusion other than to give multiple personalities to McKinley's work. These pieces of poetry give the book an artistic feel. In fact, not all the poetry included is specifically Christian in scope. These extra writings might inspire some readers to write poetry of their own. Appendix chapters provide more background information with a more direct approach. There is also a short conversation guide. Overall some good points were made in an artistic method. As a blogger I received this book published by Multnomah for the purpose of writing this review.