Chasing Francis is a novel with an agenda. Every novelist has one but most don’t thrust it in your face quite so blatantly. While the story is entertaining and thought-provoking, it is not a novel you want to take at face value, but rather to sift it through true Bible doctrine and theology and see what parts come out whole in the end. I enjoyed the quirky characters, humorous quips about the church and the world at large, and the description of Italian architecture and history, but…the author has an obvious bias against those he considers to be “conservative evangelicals” and apparently thinks a Catholic saint can “fix” them.
Chase Falson is the pastor of the largest contemporary “evangelical” church in New England. He’s seeing a psychiatrist to help him understand why he feels he’s losing his faith. (That right there is a strange twist for an evangelical) His uncle, who just happens to be a former Baptist turned Franciscan priest, now living in Italy, invites him over to go on a spiritual pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.
A third of the book is story, a third is the character’s journal entries, which are mostly “Francis history,” and a third is a question and answer guide in the back.
If half the stories are true, Francis was truly a wondrous human being, but he is not Christ and should not be the example we follow. The Bible says there is only one way to heaven. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. It doesn’t mention Francis.
Using the Sermon on the Mount as basically the only scripture backup, Francis supposedly followed Christ’s words literally. He gave everything he owned away, including the clothes on his back. He believed being a peacemaker meant that war was always wrong and no argument was worth pursuing.
Francis is also portrayed as a Doctor Dolittle, talking and preaching to animals and birds—like that’s a good thing. Here is a quote from one of the priest characters that saddened my heart to think someone might believe Christ died for a planet rather than the individuals inhabiting it. “If we continue allowing the earth to be destroyed, we’re actually working against the purposes of Jesus, who died for it.” (Really?! Jesus died for trees and grass, and mountains? I don’t think so.) The author quotes Mark 16:15 “…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” as explanation for Francis preaching to animals.
Francis was also into the “arts.” Apparently Catholic churches put all that money into fancy buildings because it’s necessary to behold beauty in order to come to God. One character said, “Our neglect of the power of beauty and the arts helps explain why so many people have lost interest in church. Our coming back to the arts will help renew that interest.”
Feeding the poor, being peacemakers, laying up our treasure in heaven rather than on earth are certainly things we as Christians should be doing. Christ is the living example of all those things and more. He also spoke through the writings of Paul, John, Jude, Luke, etc, about how to preach, teach, witness, love our neighbors and build up the church. I don’t recall any verses about having art festivals or supporting “save the whales” with our tithes as means to teaching Christ crucified and risen. Maybe I’m missing a book in my KJV, NIV, and ESV.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program