cover image Costly Grace

Costly Grace

Rob Schenck. HarperCollins, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-268793-7

Schenck, an evangelical minister widely known for his outspoken pro-life views, tells the personal story of his three religious conversion experiences in this revealing memoir. Born into a Jewish family, he came to believe in Christ as a teenager; pursued a right-wing, politically-driven faith as an adult; and finally experienced a spiritual reorientation that brought him back to what he views as the true meaning of the gospel. Schenck’s marijuana-hazed adolescence took a life-altering turn when he attended church with a friend, an experience that inspired him to join the ministry. He initially worked with heroin addicts at a residential center before his strong political views took him to Washington. There, what began as a sense of moral urgency to protect life became self-righteous, hate-fueled anger toward anyone with opposing views. Schenck’s superb self-critical writing draws readers in with tales of, for instance, rebuking President Clinton during Holy Communion (an act for which Schenck was nearly arrested) and diverting funds raised to instead help women with unexpected pregnancies. Gradually he comes to realize his flawed thinking (“In private times of reflection, I was ashamed. My unguarded midnight thoughts became more uncomfortable all the time”). As he fell deeper into the power games of Washington, an encounter with the work of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer inspired Schenck to reconsider his faith and the lessons of the gospel. Addressing libertarian evangelical ideologies, this powerful book is a universal call for a change of heart in both the political and sacred realms. (June)