Book Review: “Live’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious” by David Dark

David Dark, the author of “The Sacredness of Question Everything”, “The Gospel According to America”, “Everyday Apocalypse”, and “Life’s Too Short To Pretend You’re Not Religious” is currently the assistant professor of Religion and the Arts in the College of Theology at Belmont University and teaches at the Tennessee Prison for Women. Prior to his university teaching career, Dark was a high school English teacher and preceding those years he received his doctorate in 2011. Given Darks teaching background he has experience in presenting his religious and spiritual philosophies in a very conservative manner. By doing so, he is able to discuss religion with little risk of conversation being shut off. Therefore, this book is for those who know proclaim their religion without shame and is for those who are on the fence about being religious and is for those who are completely against religion. Before the introduction and table of contents, Dark shares with us “this [book] goes out to those for whom: Religion is violence backed by divinity…is a backward step in human evolution…kills joy…is why you can’t talk to your family…is the state of being hopelessly stuck…is brainwash…is the old relative who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject…is a cage around reason…is the thorn in the side of common sense…will not house complexity, mystery, the unknown or contradiction…represents death of the imagination, invention and seeing yourself in someone else…is the elaborate disguise for Fear that gets him a seat at the table of survival. This also goes out to those for whom: Religion is peace backed by divinity…is a forward step in human evolution…gives joy…is the call to somehow honor the revere your family…sings songs to the silenced and forgotten…illuminates the invisible threads of comic connection…is in the moral memory of humankind…is an ancient intelligence summoning us to choose humility over hubris and love over fear…dresses the wounds of alienation, isolation, oppression, desertion, haste and hierarchy…is the lexicon of mystery…brings the dead back to tell stories…is the library of love and longing, candor and liveliness.” This book was written for everyone from every walk of life.
Content and Methodology
Dark argues against the popular view of not being religious, for whenever the subject of religion is brought up in normal conversation the conversation is then ended immediately. Dark supports his argument by explaining that everyone is religious in one way or another depending on how religion is defined. He defines religion as a relationship, morals, and a story; “religion is nothing if not a relationship” (122). Two relationships make up religion, your relationship with God and your relationship with other humans. As one relationship strengthens the other must strengthen as well, to maintain an equilateral triangle.
The “relationship triangle” is applicable to everyone, because it effects everyone, because everyone is connected; we are all interconnected. The relationship you have with your friends affects the relationship they have with theirs. If you have a strong relationship with Christ than that relationship is effecting your relationship with others. You impact others’ lives rather you relies it or not. For, everyone does religious activity, everything shapes you, and religion is why you are who you are. Dark explains this throughout the book very subtly, without the in-your-face “religious” aspect, appealing to people from all walks of life. Using Si-Fi and various pop culture references to reinforce that religion is in every aspect of every one’s life.

Does Lutheranism Still Matter?

Yes, this is most certainly true. 2017 is a very important year for Lutherans. Not just because it is the 500th anniversary of the reformation, but because we, Lutherans, are needed now more than ever. Dr. Andrew Bartelt stressed the importance of being Lutheran in today’s culture, leaving a resonating notion that Lutherans have something right going on if the Lutheran denomination is making disciples of all nations. Dr. Bartelt’s message was well received by the audience, which was composed of senior saints, honors students, students there for extra credit, and people there just to hear what was said for educational enjoyment value. Whomever was in the audience, there was a message for them. The message was not just for Lutherans, it is for all denominations of Christianity alike, for all Christians compose the living, breathing body of Christ.

It is a Christian’s duty to be the hands and feet of God, to do His good works, to make disciples of all nations, to go into the world and share the good news. In today’s culture humans are interconnected via technology through social media, connecting an individual to a seemingly unlimited amount of other individuals. And advantage must be taken of this, all available resources must be used to fulfill the works of God. Christians, and Lutherans in particular, must proclaim their faith without shame. This modern world discourages the discussion of religion, when religion is what the world needs most. Religion gives the world something to identify with, something to unit in: God’s grace. It is the duty of Christians to share God’s grace with the world, for if they do not then whom shall?

Walking into the BEC I ran into a family friend, Susie Norris, who is a senior saint of the LCMS. I did not expect to see her there, but then again, she is Lutheran and 2017 is a very important year for us as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Seeing Susie there reminded me how significant Lutheranism is to the community we live in here at CSP, we value our Lutheran theology and culture. We understand and practice keeping balance in our lives by keeping an eye on the past but looking towards the future; which is how Lutheranism is growing — keeping its original members while gaining new ones. There’s appeal to both being sacramental and evangelical; we maintain a healthy balance between the two by acknowledging the tension. It is not only important for a denomination to be sustainable, but also a necessity in our lives in order to live a healthy life. Not only must we take care of ourselves physically and mentally, but spiritually as well. There are three components of the “health triangle” just as there are three components of God, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We as Lutherans, as Christians, must maintain a balance of the Holy Trinity to stay spiritual healthy. More often than not we focus more on one than the other two. The evidence of this is the schism between Baptists, Catholics, and Lutherans. We focus too much on what makes us different and not enough on how we are all children of God and saved by His grace. We must remember “antithesis : thesis :: thesis : antithesis” for it is “the tension between the antitheses which keep us balanced.” If the church cannot find balance within its self than how are we supposed to help an unbalanced world?

“Life’s Too Short To Pretend You’re Not Religious”

My take away from the book, “Life’s too short to pretend you’re not religious'” by David Dark is that I now have a better understanding of how to live a life for Christ. Because every decision I make is influenced by religion, which comes back to the saying we’ve all heard as kids, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). Even though it is a saying taught to kids to get them to behave well, it can still be applied to our lives in college and as we start living adult lives. The phrase is meant to be a reminder of our heritage in times of dilemma and our heritage is Jesus Christ. I had forgotten this, but reading the book reminded me that it was in my ‘attention collection’ and I intend on making use of it.

I also encourage my fellow class mates to ask themselves, “WWJD?” the next time a dilemma occurs.