Published by Baker Books on April 19, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Apologetics
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If we live according to the gospel, we're going to make waves. Why? Because the way of Christ is countercultural. It doesn't go with the flow, compromise on truth, or stay silent in the face of injustice--so neither can we. No matter how young or old we are, or how much or how little influence we think we have, God calls us to boldly engage our upside-down culture through the lens of his truth.
With powerful examples from Scripture and stories from teens today and through the centuries, Sara Barratt equips teens to live with a biblical worldview, approach today's hot-button issues with godly wisdom, and influence their generation for the glory of God. Tackling tough topics like sexuality, addiction, identity, media, and much more, Sara offers practical ways to stay rooted in God's truth while engaging culture with the redemptive story of the gospel--no matter the cost.
I had some amount of hope for Stand Up, Stand Strong before reading it. A call to bold faith? Needed. The way of Christ is countercultural? Absolutely. Engage culture with the redemptive story of the Gospel? Yes, please. Unfortunately, you don’t have to get too far into Sara Barratt’s work before it devolves into just another culture war screed more focused on preserving American evangelical conservatism than Christianity.
In a few early chapters, Barratt is kind, compassionate, and genuine. She says many good and correct things. She is woefully lacking in nuance and theological education when it comes to certain cultural issues. For example, when we get to the chapter on racism, she writes that there are two definitions, one of which she defines as “a system of privilege based on race” and talks about how that’s an “unhelpful and unbiblical” definition. Unbiblical how? No comment. Unhelpful to whom? Certainly not to non-white minorities.
As Stand Up, Stand Strong moves away from an general, overarching structure of defining worldview, objective truth, and the need to have firm convictions and toward specific culture war elements, Barratt moves from reasonable to, quite frankly, sensationalistic and simplistic. She mischaracterizes progressive views on race, gender, and sexuality, and makes no attempt to actually grapple with alternate viewpoints. Every topic is painted as extreme and contrasting as possible, with no option for dialogue or meeting in the middle. Every issue becomes an issue of salvation, with American conservative evangelical Christianity being portrayed as the only true Christianity.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised with this coming from the editor-in-chief of TheRebelution (that still exists?!), a blog originally created by Josh Harris of Kissed Dating Goodbye’s brothers. Stand Up, Stand Strong does a disservice to its audience by taking a combative tone. It’s incredible that this book was published in 2022. It’s something I would expect from the 1980s or 90s, not just in its tone but in the very arguments it uses.
Stand Up, Stand Strong isn’t inherently a bad book. Barratt clearly lays out the culture war battle plans of the Religious Right. The problem is that her arguments aren’t convincing. Every argument is had with the tone of “Well, obviously…” This is a book for conservative evangelical parents to buy their kids in an attempt to keep them in the fold. It’s a great book for reaffirming what one already believes if one believes it wholeheartedly. It’s not a book that addresses doubts, answers questions, or lives in the tension of a Christianity that comprises a wide array of social beliefs.