Book Review: Outrageous Courage

Outrageous Courage: What God Can Do With Raw Obedience & Radical Faith, by Kris Vallotton & Jason Vallotton

[Note: I received this book for free from Chosen Books in exchange for an honest review.]

When I got this book, I had some expectation that it would be a book about examples of courage, and it was, but instead of being an examination of the sort of courage that comes from faith, it ended up being reverse ghostwritten autobiography written from the perspective of one Tracy Evans, who does not appear as an author of the work at all, combined with a mostly chronological account of her radical commitment to God and her work in the most dangerous and exciting of mission fields, ranging from treating slum dwellers and guerrillas in the Philippines to seeking to convert Muslims to Christ in Turkey and Mozambique to smuggling bibles into Communist China. Clearly, this woman has lived an exciting life.

In many ways, this book is one in a series of books that seeks to point out a truth I know from my own experience in the mission field, and that is that living and promoting a biblical life will mean facing the possibility (or even the liklihood) of trouble with authorities as the claims of obedience to the kingdom of heaven create tension with one’s attitude toward the corrupt kingdoms of earth. Quite a few of the books I have read recently also deal with this same conundrum [1]. The narrator, as a medically trained eunuch (for reasons which will shortly be explained she has refused marriage and family and lived as a single woman giving medical care in dangerous and poverty-stricken regions of the world, seeking to share Christ’s love for the orphans and destitute). Despite her clearly risk-taking and daring attitude, she appears more focused on the triage aspect of seeking to take care of as many suffering people as possible rather than the larger networks of sin and corruption that exist in this world. While her service is clearly to be commended, the long-term rammifications of her work (and others like her) will be meager unless there are larger systemic changes. In addition, there are some minor mistakes here in editing, which could be easily corrected, including a mistaken view that Gideon had to fight against the Midianites and Hittites (who were actually generally the allies of the Israelites). These quibbles aside, it was a moving and intense book, and one that deserves study especially from those who wish to turn their own broken past into the fodder for passionate service to God and of His wounded and scarred potential children.

Given the fact that this book is hyped by its authors as being a modern-day Pilgrim’s Progress, it is more accurate to say that this particular account is simply one of a fairly large amount of bluntly truth-telling memoirs and autobiographies of people who detail their growth in Christian love and practice even as they struggle with difficult personal backgrounds. Perhaps by this time I should have realized that a book about a person whose fairly blunt and possibly reckless adventures in foreign countries are not so different from my own would come from a background not so different from my own, but it was still a mild surprise to realize that this was yet another book about a person struggling with the effects of sexual abuse, broken families (including fatherlessness) and their ramifications. Unlike some of the other books I have read recently dealing with these subjects [2], this particular book is not very descriptive about the sort of abuse the narrator suffered during her diffiuclt childhood. However, such abuse can be easily inferred given the author’s description of her PTSD symptoms (like hypervigilance and frequent nightmares, symptoms I know all too well from my own experience), as well as her harsh and instinctual response to people touching her gently (which would indicate a history of sexual abuse and resulting hyperarousal) that she discusses as having created problems during her early walk.

Given the fact that so many books have been released recently with the same general approach, focus on serving others and recognizing the broken state of the world and the people in it, being written by people who have seen themselves as being called by God to help those in desperate need, it is unlikely that either this book or any of the other ones I have read will corner the market (to use that business term). Rather, it is better to view these books as part of a larger context within a substantial body of Christian thought and experience that I happen to be a part of. Many people grow up sheltered and lack an understanding of how fallen and broken the world really is, while many others (myself included) were made forcibly aware of the broken state of the world by having started life in broken families and being broken ourselves through the wickedness of others. It appears that the passion for justice and for serving others in many respects comes from a sensitivity to evil and suffering that can be immensely painful, but which in the loving hands of our God and of His Eldest Son becomes a dynamic engine for helping the lives of others who have been deeply scarred and wounded by the evil of this world, and which can become a way of evangelizing through a life that is passionately devoted to God’s ways.

There are, of course, some quibbles that can be made about this work. There is a lot of hype, and truth be told the narrator is not shown as being particularly obedient to God’s ways, largely through ignorance rather than malice. The suffering of the narrator gave her difficulties in respecting authorities, difficulties I know particularly well form my own painful experience, and though I could greatly and easily identify with the suffering as well as the radicalism of the narrator, I think that a book like this tends to be hyped as being something far beyond the experience of many believers, when I think that quite the opposite is the case. Either that, or my own experiences are greatly unusual as well, and I do not consider myself to be so far removed from others as to make my own life (which is not so different from that of Ms. Evans herself, despite the fact that I have a much greater longing for marriage and family than she does) so rare or unusual as to merit my own contributions to the large genre of Christian memoirs and autobiographies about brutally honest and open people whose radical commitment to God’s ways has brought them from broken families and backgrounds to intense service of God? We are not so different after all, wherever we may come from. I think it would have been better for the authors of this work to have recognized the large body of related work and to have sought to connect their work with others rather than make it appear as if Ms. Evan’s life was something far beyond the normal experience of believers who come from our broken families and lifelong battles against the evils of oppression and injustice and abuse.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/book-review-dirty-god/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/book-review-safely-home/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/book-review-life-in-spite-of-me/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/book-review-a-jamaicans-journey-to-time-and-patience/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/book-review-overcoming-abuse-gods-way/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/book-review-the-people-of-the-sign/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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