"Chasing Francis" by Ian Morgan Cron

Ian Morgan Cron, Chasing Francis. Navpress, 2006. 208pg novel + 39pg study guide. 

Provided for review.  #ChasingFrancisSpeakEasy

Here we have the story of Chase Falson.  Chase is an evangelical mega-church pastor who has broken new ground and done what no-one thought he could: successfully created a large evangelical church in New England.  But things are not all roses and butterflies as Chase reaches the climax of a crises of faith in his pulpit.  As his board scrambles and his church threatens to disintegrate, Chase heads to Italy to hang out with his Franciscan uncle and learns how to be a new kind of Christian (recent literary echoes intentional) at the feet of St. Francis the 'first postmodern Christian.'

Such is the story... at least, in brief intro and outline.  I fiercely desired this book to be good.  It has received several rounds of ringing endorsements, many from people I respect.  As an evangelical pastor, the story hook was nearly irresistible.  Sadly, the book did not deliver.  From hackneyed speeches shoehorned unimaginatively into journal entries (I mean, really) to ridiculously over-dramatic descriptions of emotional states (Chase in an airplane with nothing to do is described as glad he didn't have razor blades so he didn't slit his wrists... there is a place for such hyperbole, but it was so out of character I almost couldn't keep reading) to rank inconsistencies in character development to dead-ends whose only purpose was to force yet another point of the emerging church agenda into the book... I could go on, but two words will suffice:  Just bad. 

Of course, not all so.  I do appreciate the picture Cron is trying to paint of the possibilities and calling of the church.  As much as I disagree that St. Francis was the 'first postmodern Christian,' a phrase which betrays a misunderstanding of both post-modernity and St. Francis, I still believe we have much to learn from him and this book does present a lot of interesting information about him.  

Conclusion: 2.5 Stars.  As a novel Chasing Francis is terrible.  As a vehicle for certain ideas in theology it is a bit better.  As an introduction to St. Francis it was acceptable but only if it spurs the reader on to other, better, works (many of which are mentioned within). Still, Not Recommended.  

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