Aloof by Tony Kriz


Author:           Tony Kriz

Length:           219 pages

Publisher:    Thomas Nelson (13 Jan. 2015)


“In my petulance, I often want to point at God and complain. “Why don’t you show up more? Why don’t you show up in my pain? Why don’t you speak to me like you speak to others?” And yet, if I am honest, I am unwilling to process the question, “Do I even want God?” Seriously. Do I want the Jesus-Way? Or do I actually want a religious system of my own creation, like my plate at the end of a buffet counter, filled with only my favorite and tasty items ….
If I don’t really want God, then maybe God is just being hospitable. God is simply giving me what I want.”
Tony Kriz explores what happens when the spiritual fervour diminishes and the presence of God you used to feel constantly has gone. He asks difficult questions about the stages we go through when confronted with God’s silence and the games we play to our detriment to recapture or manufacture those days of glory in order to feel good and close to God.
Tony Kriz starts with our loss of innocence in childhood, the period when someone tells us that our spiritual experience isn’t of God, when parents or a Sunday school teacher tells a kid that whatever fantasy they might have had about God is incorrect or false. The result is that we develop an attitude of doubt and scepticism, and are careful about “discussing any strange event involving God.” He says:
“I was a child living in a world of fairy tales. There is nothing wrong with being a child and having a fairy-tale God. Jesus said, “Unless you have the faith of a child, you cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Jesus himself acted like a child in regard to the Father… The problem was not the childhood innocence, complete with its fancies and confusions. The problem came in the crushing of those fancies and the innocences they reveal. Once they are gone, what will take their places?”
Death of Innocence:
The author believes this death of innocence has the potential to skewer what we learn about God in adulthood, making us hardened to God’s voice and shun anything out of the norm. We become cagey and try hard to avoid doing anything weird. He says:
“Jesus once said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” It might have been helpful to us creatively constipated adults if Jesus had also included “imagination” in the list of ways to love God... One of the reasons that our Jesus message has lost its attractiveness in the marketplace of culture is because it has become reduced, cold, and creativity starved. We have become so scared of saying something incorrectly about God that we have limited our speech to only the most well-worn dialogues and tired metaphors.”
For most of the rest of the book, Tony Kriz tackles the issues of the heart, our conformity, inability to ask ourselves hard questions, selfishness, and a defensiveness that opens up when people questions our faith. He says we have made God a functional deity and our beliefs is ultimately all about ourselves. He says:
“‘Do we treat God’s blessings as a game to be manipulated?’
‘If I just give 10 percent to my church, then God might change my financial picture.’
‘If I just get up early and read my Bible every morning, then God will . . .’
‘If I just give up my favorite vice, maybe God will give me . . .’
Isn’t it all strategic negotiation?
… All of these games and all of this self-obsession are just some of the techniques I have perfected to keep (or cope with) God at a distance. If I treat God as a series of negotiated parameters as opposed to an interacting presence, it would help explain why faith feels the way it does.”

Towards the end of the book, the author concluded that it is essential that we let children be children and as adults emulate children by allowing imagination to play a big part in our faith. Also, the author believes we must also embrace growing up as God sometimes appear less and less in the ways He used to. He likens this to an earthly father who may play piggy back with his child as a kid, but refrains from it when the kid becomes a man. In a poignant conversation with a friend, the author recounts:
“‘Last night I was talking to Brandon from Montana. Totally unsolicited, he started lamenting to me about the possibility that God might be intentionally becoming less and less present in his life. ‘I don’t like it,’ he said. ‘Why would God distance himself from me?”
I looked at Brandon from Montana and said, ‘I think God’s hiddenness is one of the most frustrating things about faith, but let me ask you a question. Was your dad more tangibly present when you were five or now?”
I repeated the question, ‘Your dad, your earthly father—was he more present and tangible in your life when you were five, or is he more regularly present now?”’
He thought for a second, then said, “He was much more present when I was five.’
‘Okay, how about when you were fifteen or now?’
‘Now answer this, and think about it carefully. Do you know and understand your dad better now, or did you know and understand him better when you were fifteen?’
Brandon looked straight through me. After a long pause, ‘I know my dad better now . . . better now than back then.’ ‘Even though he is less tangibly a part of your life?’
‘Yes, even though he is less tangibly present.’”

Aloof is a unique book because it asks difficult questions from a Christian perspective. It forces us to re-examine age-long foundations that we thought are established and safe. Also, it encourages us not to be downhearted in those periods of famine, when God seems far away. Mostly, it succeeds in assuring us that, regardless of our feelings, God still loves us and is always reaching out in varied ways if we would let go of our preconceptions and actively wait for Him. Aloof is one of the best books I have had the privilege of reading in recent times. If you have ever have the opportunity to flip its pages, please do.

Review copy was provided by HarperCollins Christian Publishing’s BookLook Bloggers


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