Friday, February 13, 2009

People in Glass Houses

I just finished reading a book today called 'People in Glass Houses: An insider's story of a life in an out of Hillsong' by Tanya Levine. Published in 2007 it's a very confronting memoir of Levine's life growing up Pentecostal and choosing to leave in her early twenties and the response (or distinct lack thereof) from the church as a whole. Good review here.  Here's a SMH review. 

It's hard to describe my feelings about the book and her story. I think that she has attempted to give a fair appraisal of the differences between Christians and non-Christians. Her fairness is evident in a distinct lack of bitterness and disapproval even though it is quite obvious that she is no longer a Pentecostal (perhaps even no longer a Christian) and quite obviously heartbroken over the church's treatment of her and what she describes as its continual cultic behaviour. 

It's easy as a quasi-Anglican to reject Pentecostalism wholeheartedly. The hand waving, carpet rolling, mouthfoaming, speaking in tongues, theological dis-service done to biblical theology (i.e. 'naming and claiming'), treating God like Santa Claus, prosperity gospel, perfectionism/triumphant-ism etc etc. I wouldn't call them non-Christians by any means. But like all differences, there are helpful ones, the ones that bring out the goodness of diversity, and then there are the unhelpful ones, the ones that disguise truth. 

Levin's book was an interesting foray into the culture of 'churched' but 'no-longer churched' and was an appropriate read considering I have just done a two-day intensive on the relationship between culture and preaching. 

What are people like, you know, the one's out there? Outside my circle of friends, family, experiences, church etc. 

It would be an easy response to Levin to say that she didn't understand grace. Levin is very sincerely unable to bring together her questions of biblical consistency with the demands of fundamentalism. She thus perceives sin, sexual sin in particular, as making a person unable to come before God. She refers to grace scornfully as like an 'Etch-A-Sketch' that never addresses the true issue of justice (pg 153). 

A fourth year college student like myself, is quick to jump to the defence of penal substitutionary atonement - that grace is more than just an Etch-A-Sketch because justice truly is done on the cross in Jesus' death (Rom 3:25).

But surely she heard all that in her 10 odd years at Hillsong? Surely she heard that it's more than just being God's princess, more than just earning more to give more, more than just living 'just-if-I'd-never-sinned', more than just living to your highest potential, more than just adopting a cute African orphan from Compassion and drinking Gloria Jeans coffee??

It's easy to point out all the things that I disagree on and that really wasn't the point of this blog entry. People in glass houses and all that... 

I feel so sorry for Levin that she experienced so much pain and anguish. The book was a very good read and one that I'd recommend.


  1. that sounds super interesting - thanks for writing about it. i'm considering going to seminary after i graduate and might just pick up a copy for myself.

  2. Thanks for your comment Ali. :) You should definitely do Bible college. It's awesome!