Tom Davis & Tammy Maltby’s Confessions of a Good Christian Guy: The Secrets Men Keep and the Grace that Saves Them arrived on my doorstep in a bundle of books related to my prestigious inclusion as an “Ooze Select Blogger.” My first thought was a bit of a groan… will it be more mucking around in male vice with prescriptions for how to be a Better Man™? I began leafing through the first chapter, ominously titled “Confessions” but which admittedly catches you as Davis describes the depth of his descent into array of sins which included drugs and fraud, which eventually landed him in jail for a short spell. His message though, is that he turned his life around: and so can you. In fact, he refers to biblical characters, saying
A lot of these guys in the Bible are just like us, bound up in the worst junk possible, but God extends His plan to them–and to us–in ways unimaginable. Those men went through some of the exact same things many of us go through. They led secret lives of sin. But they came to a point where they gave up their performances. They all came to the place where they allowed the Spirit of God in their lives. And when they did, they became the great men we know of today.
Each with its own chapter, the book covers sexual sins, pride, materialism, parenting and “father-wounds”, substance abuse, emotions — two of which get their own chapters, anger (and abuse), and discouragement. The book wraps up with a chapter called “Agents of Grace: God’s Job Description for an Abundant Life,” which isn’t what most people think when the term “abundant life” comes up… the job description includes such “tasks” as authenticity, compassion, reconciliation, encouragement, and courage. The chapters are primarily written by Davis, and include a number stories to illustrate the point and keep it engaging. These chapters typically end with an exercise or appeal of some sort before giving way to an interstitial piece by Maltby called “Reflections For Those Who Care.” These pieces each pick up the theme from the preceding chapter and provide further thought and application by framing them in a Biblical narrative or offering reflections and additional prescriptive words before concluding with a key scripture text and some selected “words of grace.”
Overall, the book tends to feel more inviting and grace-filled than some of the sword-rattling men’s books that are out there. I am admittedly not very much into the whole “men’s movement” thing, but would suggest that Promise-Keeper promoters will find a helpful resource in this book. To the point, the book often stops short of offering guaranteed results and simply offers exercises and advice designed to help men rely more on the grace of God than on their internal resolve. This distinction alone sets it apart from some of the Christian men’s movement literature, despite its inclusion of prescriptive words — perhaps because they don’t necessarily come across as formulaic.
Davis is president of Children’s Hope Chest, which works with orphans in Eastern Europe and Africa, and is also the author of Fields of the Fatherless: Discover the Joy of Compassionate Living and Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds, which also arrived on my doorstep in the aforementioned bundle (I’m just dipping into the latter title now) along with a sample of fair trade organic Saint’s Coffee — Toasted Coconut Cream. I’ve just noticed that the label indicates the date on which it was roasted, a nice touch, I must say. Perhaps I’ll have to do a review of the coffee as well now. Making the connection, Davis is also involved with Saint’s Coffee, which promises that buying a pound of coffee from them feeds an orphan for a month. Not a bad deal.
Perhaps one of the reasons that Confessions of a Good Christian Guy doesn’t come across (in my mind) in the same way as some of the other Christian men’s lit is that Davis injects his own story, and he’s not a bad writer (he even keeps An Author’s Blog). Besides that, he just doesn’t seem the sword-rattling type… he also keeps a blog titled Notes from the Field, one of the posts in which directed me to an article he’d written titled, “Why Christians Suck.” Now we’re getting somewhere. For anyone slightly jaded against being told how men are supposed to act, maybe previewing Tom’s blogs will help set his writing in context. As for the subject book, it could probably be called men’s lit without the hype, so in that genre — there are far worse places you could start.