In 2006, Jim Henderson and Matt Casper went on a trek to visit and evaluate Christian churches across America. They were an unlikely paring: Jim is a Christian author while Casper is an “outed” atheist. Their exploits, published in 2007 in the book Jim & Casper Go To Church, gave them a platform to speak in churches and college ministries across the country.
Their new book, called Saving Casper: A Christian and an Atheist Talk about Why We Need to Change the Conversion Conversation, looks at what they have learned about each other and the evangelical Christian movement during their journey.
At times the learning process has been hard; Casper talks about all the nice people he has met, many of whom will end their conversation by damning him to hell. Casper also talks about his reactions to his mother’s death, and how her Catholic faith community encouraged him during her last days.
At the heart of the story is the relationship between Jim and Casper. The book is set up like an informal interview, with each sharing his thoughts on different aspects of their relationship. Both are respectful of each other, even when they disagree. They are committed to keeping the conversation—as well as the relationship—going, not to throw judgment at the other and storm off.
In Saving Casper, the authors mention that evangelism ought to be a “pull” rather than a “push.” This is a simple but profound concept: people don’t like to be pushed into something, but are compelled by being pulled towards something. In Christianity, that means we don’t push our religion on others; instead, we live a compelling life that draws others in. By creating dialogue instead of debates with others, we are no longer burning bridges, but rather building relationships.
As an atheist, Casper’s views were refreshing to me; as a Christian pastor it is often hard for me to imagine myself in his shoes. By providing an outsider’s perspective on things, Casper can speak to Christians in a way others Christians cannot. His advice on evangelism—like listening to others, built an actual relationship, and respect their beliefs—is stuff I wish all Christians could understand.
I also appreciated Jim’s perspective throughout the book. Here is a Christian author and speaker who is demonstrating what it means to be a follower of Christ in a pluralistic society. He is not walling himself off from the world and from atheists; he is engaging them. He is not using his friendship with Casper as a means to the ultimate end of a conversion; he genuinely likes Casper.
In Saving Casper, authors Jim Henderson & Matt Casper show that relationships with those we disagree with are necessary in the Christian faith. Their relationship is a model all Christians should follow: build relationships with others by caring for them and respecting them. This book is a very good read and a great followup to their first book Jim and Casper Go to Church. I would recommend this book to pastors, church leaders, and anyone concerned with how evangelicals are viewed by outsiders.
- Title: Saving Casper: A Christian and an Atheist Talk about Why We Need to Change the Conversion Conversation
- Authors: Jim Henderson & Matt Casper
- Publisher: Tyndale Momentum (2013)
- Format: Paperback
- Rating: 4/5
Thanks to Tyndale for a complementary review copy of this book!Tweet