Burchett’s book attempts to walk the fine line between espousing stinging truth and ranting. He pretty much pulls it off because of three things. First, he disarms the reader with a confession of his own hypocritical nature. Second, he relates the tragic personal story of his daughter Katie born with a terminal neural tube birth defect. Third, he craftily intersperses irreverent and sometimes (okay, mostly) acerbic wit throughout his chapters. This gives the book an informal feel as if one were sitting down with your friend David at a Starbucks.
The book is an attempt to codify the disappointments and pains that sometimes come as we encounter Christians who have a zeal not tempered by grace. We all know people like this. Even if we “hung in there” with the church, many of us carry scars and even gaping wounds from heated church business meetings, condemning preachers whose breath smells frighteningly of brimstone, and groups of believers who gasp when they hear “cussing” but have no problem with gossip – especially if it concerns the deacon’s wife.
This Burchett does well. It is not intended as a text book. It is not filled with facts and results from the latest survey. It is a personal journey, and that is reflected in the writing. There is no attempt to be scholarly, rather the author seeks to shine light into the unswept corners of the church house.
At times Burchett’s brush seems a bit broad and his accusations too sweeping. It is true that many people leave the church because they have been hurt by “bad Christians,” but it is also true that many people leave the church through no fault of the congregation. Sometimes guilt-ridden guests in a church setting are looking for anything to validate the way they feel about themselves – even if they have to create conflict to find it.
That being said, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People is a book that should cause reflection and examination in the body of Christ. The reader will find that many of the pages are mirrors reflecting images we’d rather not see. It is worth the time to read the book and to consider the questions at the end. If it is used for a small group study, then the study leader should be extra cautious that the group time does not disintegrate into a gripe sessions – especially one directed at the church leadership. Care should be taken to address these kinds of issues in the appropriate forum.