28/08/2013

Barefoot Christianity (by Ricky Maye)

I had never heard of Ricky Maye. Apparently he's an inspirational speaker from the US, who particularly likes working with small groups. On browsing the ‘Free for Kindle’ selection on Amazon, I very much liked the sound of this title. The reviews were good, too. I downloaded it, and noted that it was quite short; I started reading it a few days ago.

‘Barefoot Christianity’ is subtitled ‘The Rough Road Ahead in the Life of a Jesus Follower’. The blurb on Amazon said, ‘Ricky takes us through a journey into the heart of what it means to be a Jesus follower.’ It sounded good.

Unfortunately, although I very much wanted to like it, I really didn't.

I found myself - perhaps irrationally - annoyed by one of the first sentences in the introduction: ‘We all want to change the world, start revolutions and make an impact.’ Huh? I certainly don’t. Most people I know have not the slightest desire to start any revolutions.

A sentence or two afterwards, I read this: ‘To continue a journey we can’t make that often piet and commonly accepted choice to ignore the past or count it as less importance.’ [sic]

I have no idea what ‘piet’ might mean - I even looked it up, but no joy. Perhaps it was a typo for something else, but I can’t guess what; the last few words in that sentence are so ungrammatical as to make me wince.

Alas, this wasn’t just a problem with the introduction. There were grammatical and punctuation errors on almost every page of the book. I wondered if I had somehow managed to download a ‘proof’ edition - but I checked the ‘Look Inside’ version on Amazon, and could see at once that I did indeed have the current version and that it is full of errors.

The paperback edition is apparently self-published under the name ‘Recycled Press’ - so evidently there was no editor. In some sections a paragraph just tails away without ending… and the Kindle formatting was poorly done, with some completely blank pages in the middle, a lot of oddly lined pages at the end, and some some double spacing of paragraphs throughout. Hebrew words appeared as question marks.

I know those are details and should not really detract from the content of the book. I could easily have ignored a few typos, and might even have overlooked the other errors, if the content had been inspiring and encouraging. But I searched in vain for anything of value. I kept finding myself frowning and shaking my head. For instance, the author talks about stars being ‘scars in the universe’, which is very dubious science. Or lack of science. Our sun is a star - but I certainly don’t believe it’s a ‘wound’ or ‘scar’.

I hoped to find out what is meant by ‘barefoot’ Christianity, but it's never really explained. Taking off our shoes is for our benefit rather than God’s, we are told. But that's about it. The book leaps about from topic to topic, misquoting Scripture at times, and never - as far as I could determine - actually saying anything clearly. It read not like a book, but as if it were notes for sermons. Perhaps it is indeed notes from one of Ricky Maye's talks - but I hope any speaker using these notes would pause, and expound on different sections, and perhaps even ask for comments or questions. Again, a good editor could have revised and re-written it.

I kept feeling that there was a lot that the author wanted to say, and that he may have had some great insights if only they could have been expressed clearly and accurately.

I begin to suspect that the high starred reviews which I saw on Amazon were by friends or followers of the author’s who had never actually read the book.

Still, it didn't cost me anything. And I did at least finish reading it. I wish I could write something positive about the content because I feel that the author probably did have some good points, even though I am none the wiser as to what they were.

Not really recommended - but if anyone who reads this review feels like downloading the book, I'd be happy to hear other genuine viewpoints.

Links are to the paperback versions, but this is currently still free for the Kindle, at least in the UK (where the paperback version is apparently out of print).

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 28th August 2013

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