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Saturday, October 20, 2018


Published in 2018 by HarperAudio.
Read by the author, Rob Schenck.
Duration: 11 hours, 26 minutes.


Rob Schenck tells the story of his life as a story of three conversions. His first conversion was a conversion from Judaism to Christianity as a teenager. Soon after graduating high school he married and began to work to his certification to join the ministry. He first worked in a shelter for junkies but he found that to be a little too dangerous for his wife. Plus, he longed for something with a larger impact.

He became a pastor with a church but still felt that wasn't enough. He participated in joint missions in Mexico to help those that live in the garbage dumps and scrounge them for food and recyclables. After one of his trips he found that his twin brother (also a pastor) had become involved in Operation Rescue, the anti-abortion movement that encouraged protesters to block the entrances to abortion clinics and use non-violent resistance to stop women from getting an abortion. Eventually, the police would show up and start arresting people and it would become a big spectacle that would make the news.

Schenck was persuaded to attend a protest. This was his second conversion. He promised his wife that he wouldn't get arrested - he was just going to observe. But, the lure of the action was too much and he ended up getting arrested. He was hooked. He loved the idea of taking direct action in the name of the Lord.

He became a top figure in the anti-abortion movement. He confronted public figures for their support (twice he ended up being held for questioning for confronting Bill Clinton). He carried actual aborted fetuses to rallies to show people what they were really talking about when they discussed abortions. He became very familiar with the process of being arrested for the cause.

And the cause was also becoming an influential force in Republican politics.  Schenk worked with all the major players. At this time, he began to seriously study the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran minister who was placed in a concentration camp for his constant questioning of Nazi authorities. Eventually, he was executed by  the Nazis just days before the end of World War II. His studies of Bonhoeffer made him question what he was doing as a Christian.  He began to question the cozy relationship he had with the powers that be in Washington. His questions led him to conclude that his fellow evangelicals were wrong in their unlimited support of the NRA and gun rights, especially after two abortion providers were assassinated.

But, he was most moved by the reaction of several Amish families after a school shooting in an Amish school by a non-Amish man. This is a very powerful section of the book. He begins to openly question how one can be pro-life and pro-gun. Should Christians trust a pistol at their side more than the God who says they should "fear not" and trust only Him? How many other things had he not considered? This is his third conversion.

This third conversion made him look at the close relationship between church and the GOP that he had been advocating since Ronald Reagan first ran for President in 1980. Was the church selling its soul for access to political power? Were basic Christian tenets being forgotten for the opportunity to use the government's power rather than depend on God and his people? Was the price of access to the pinnacle of power too high, especially in the Age of Trump?

Costly Grace is an interesting trip down memory lane for me in a lot of ways. I very much remember Operation Rescue and the mass abortion clinic protests. I also happened to stumble upon a documentary made about him ("The Armor of Light") that struck me and made me do some thinking. Ironically, I didn't remember that he was the subject of this documentary until he described one of the scenes in this book.

Rob Schenck reads his own audiobook and does a good job with it. The book is a little slow at times, but I found the discussion of his third conversion to be well worth the wait. Easily the best part of the book. I know that Rob Schenck and I would not agree on everything, but I also know that it would be a respectful and meaningful discussion. Very thought-provoking book.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: COSTLY GRACE: AN EVANGELICAL MINISTER'S REDISCOVERY of FAITH, HOPE and LOVE.

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