That Time Eugene Cho Read My Diary: A Review of “Overrated”

I was asked to review this book to join in a conversation about changing the world and social justice and to assist in promoting the book by sharing my thoughts and what have you. That’s the reason I was asked. However, that wasn’t actually the reason I was given this book. Fly By Productions thought it was, but it wasn’t. Turns out, it has nothing to do with them, with Eugene Cho (sorry, man) or anyone else who had a part in the book. It had only to do with me. God put this book in my hands because I needed to read it. God put this book in my hands because it’s about the same exact subject matter that I have been conflicted by for months. Out of all the blogs on the internet (literally a trillion million), mine was one of the few that received a comment asking if I’d take the time to read this book? Reeeeeeal subtle, God. I am of course still going to share my thoughts and participate in this conversation as I was asked to do, but you should know that wasn’t actually why God wanted me to read this book.

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Eugene Cho’s “Overrated: Are We More in Love With the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?” is perhaps one of the most pleasant books that has ever made me feel like I had been slapped in the face. The slap was so subtle through his gentle language that I barely noticed it until my heart was massively heavy over the things that I had read. A ‘ninja slap’, if you will.

He writes boldly and bravely about one of the truths we don’t like to listen to. Seriously, tell me how much God loves me all day long and I won’t stop you once, but start talking about the poverty in other parts of the world (and our part) and how indifference to such things can not coexist with gospel and I’ll squirm nervously in my seat and pretend to have to go to the bathroom.

The issue of social justice is hard. It just is. It’s hard because it demands so so much of us. It demands action – putting your money where you mouth is, walking the walk instead of just talking the talk… on instagram and facebook and every other soap box we clamber on top of to shout about trendy movements. Social justice screws up our selfishness. And in our culture that is maddening. The only reason, I feel, that Eugene Cho is qualified to write such a book is because of his honest confrontation with selfishness. Praise the Lord for an author who includes so much of his heart and honesty in the pages. He shares moments when saying no to others would have been easier than saying yes. Stories of feeling heavy and angry and pulled.

I wrote earlier that this subject is one I have been wrestling a lot in the last few months, and I truly meant that. I have been trying to get myself out of my own way and allow God to teach me how to love, with little success. I have been searching my heart and horrified, often, at what I have found. To receive this book was not a coincidence, it was an act of my heavenly Father who isn’t giving up on me yet. Even though he has never met me, there were parts of this book that felt like Eugene was writing about me. Like he had gotten a hold of my diary and was addressing all the sins and struggles that needed addressing, ninja-slap style.

When I was in college I went on several different trips to several different poor countries and the way I viewed them then, vs. the way I view them now, is incredibly different. I was asked to go on several of these trips so that I could photograph the work that was being done by different organizations. I felt amazing. I was getting to play with beautiful children, I was taking photographs of said beautiful kids, and I was making a difference. But I wasn’t, really. I wasn’t at all. Those trips didn’t benefit the children and people that I was meeting. They benefited me and my ego, but nobody else. I shake my head when I think about the facebook posts I made about these trips and the talks that I was asked to give at church about the importance of loving others. I didn’t know anything about loving others – I knew only that these trips would make me look interesting on facebook. What I was practicing is what Eugene would call doing unjust justice. In chapter 9 he writes,

“I don’t want to question somebody’s motivation, or the heart behind why he or she wants to act. But having a good heart is not enough. It’s not enough when our actions affect the lives of others… especially people who are already vulnerable. At times we choose to help others in a way that makes us feel as good as possible. When I say “we”, I’m including you and me. Perhaps we help others so that we can have a good experience, get good photos, or tell good stories later. This is not enough.”

*gulp* I haven’t done enough. And you may not have either. But praise Jesus, our Father hasn’t given up on us. He hasn’t been too disgusted by our pride and selfishness and laziness to call us into His kingdom and to participate in furthering justice. We are called, and “Overrated” affirms that on every page. This book is both empowering and humbling. It is Eugene’s confession of favoring the idea of changing the world more so than actually changing it so that we can, in turn, confess the same thing. We were not called to hashtag, we were called to help and love and move. But we are called to help and love and move wisely and intentionally. If you feel stirred to help wisely and intentionally, I highly recommend this book. Even if you don’t feel that stirring yet, I highly recommend this book. Essentially, if you are a believer in Christ, I highly recommend this book. But a fair warning: you’re going to get ninja-slapped. 

“When we are faithful to what God wants us to do, beautiful things happen. No, I am not suggesting that everything we will do must appear successful by the world’s standards of success. Our work may not be huge. It may not grow to a massive size and scale. It may not garner the attention and affection of media. It doesn’t have to be about those things. It will likely not be easy… but it will be beautiful nevertheless because we will have been faithful to the Lord’s call.”

To make it even easier for you to read his book, I’m having a giveaway! I really loved what Eugene Cho had to share and I truly want others to be able to read his thoughts as well. All you need to do is comment on this post by Saturday October 11th to be entered in the giveaway! I will pick a comment at random on Sunday the 12th.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 225: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choise of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

 

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7 thoughts on “That Time Eugene Cho Read My Diary: A Review of “Overrated”

  1. Thanks for reviewing this book Katie. With all we have been reading and discussing in house church, this has been on my mind quite a bit. I’ve felt the stirring of I’m not doing or caring enough, as well as the wondering if my caring is more self-centered than selfless. I have so much to learn…

    1. I haven’t read the book, but I’m interested in joining in the conversation. What are your thoughts on balancing sacrificial lifestyles to benefit others and enjoying beauty, art, trips to see friends and other seemingly superfluous expenses. I justify those things because I see merit in them, but I am still left with a feeling of “I could do more.”

      Also what are you thoughts on staying sensitive to suffering? As a Christian my ultimate hope is that when Jesus returns all things will be made new and pain and suffering will cease, but what good does that do to war torn countries, children orphaned, people starving now? The weight is heavy and I can’t bear it, so at times I plug my ears to it. How do we listen and see and not suffocate under it?

      1. The balance is tricky. In a way, I tend to think that enjoying art and community and other beeaitufl things help fuel us to be able to live sacrificially. Does that make sense? Music, art, poetry, etc. are good for our soul – they are practices in which we can praise God and they are good, enjoying them is just part of our humanness. And living sacrificially part from community wouldn’t work, I feel. I think it would be much easier to fall into bitterness or pride if we were attempting to throw our entire selves into social justice without christian brothers and sisters doing it with us or at least being part of a support system. So, in those specific regards, I think there is no guilt to be found for partaking in gifts from God that benefit our walk with Him and help us to further pour into the kingdom.

        The logistics of that get tricky, of course, as we wonder how much money and time and resources we should be spending on these technically good things. And for that, I suppose it comes down to specific and intentional prayer, asking God to reveal what is excess in our lives. Additionally, a honest searching of our hearts is necessary as well. Is the time we are spending with our friends edifying to God and refreshing us to that we can continue our work? Does our leisure time too often take up time we could be using volunteering and serving? It’s unfortunate there isn’t a clear answer or a clear guideline of allotted time for everything in our lives.

        The second part of your comment is a little harder for me to answer because that is my biggest struggle as well. It is incredibly difficult for me to not get totally overwhelmed and suffocated underneath all the things that are happening that are just.. wrong. There’s so much hard and so much pain and when I think about the grand scheme of it all, I too just want to plug my ears and shut my eyes. I know that referencing a Matt Walsh blog post is a scandalous thing to do to many christians, but my first thought when I read your comment was this post here: You’re Here for a Reason. In it he says, “The truth is that God knew what challenges we would face before we faced them. He knew where our society would be before we were born into it. He knew of the despair, violence, and misery before we felt it. He knew that our time would call for warriors, and so He sent us. He sent us — you and me and everyone. He sent us here, now, today, because we have work to do. We have a mission to complete, a purpose to fulfill.” And honestly, that’s the only thing helps me not suffocate. To know that God created me when He did on purpose because there are people for me to love and to help. Entire countries or social groups? Probably not, but little things turn into big things. If I reflect Christ to who I can, and you do the same, and other people also are sharing love, then things change. But it’s still overwhelming sometimes – praise God our Father is who He is.

      2. These are great questions, Angela. The thought, “I could do more” I think is a very pertinent and sacred one. What we see in the Gospels when Jesus is asked about what people should do, the answer is always “more.” The Spirit is an ever-convicting personality; she is always trying to move us forward. In this fallen world, we can never plateau. There is always an “I could do more.” And that’s good. We shouldn’t look at that as a burden, but should take it step by step. What more can I do right now? Don’t dwell on the ideal that you need to get to; just focus on what you can do with what is in front of you, and go from there.

        Your second point, like Katie said, is quite challenging. The prophets in the Bible knew that struggle well. Jeremiah called it an “incurable wound”–this awareness that so much of the world is so tragic, so horribly wrong. My wife and I spent one night in utter sadness, shedding tears over the fact that so many of the industries we take for granted are fueled by slave labor, and the people running these companies could put an end to it if it was important enough to them, but increasing their bottom line takes priority. Sometimes it’s just a terrible and unbearable sadness, like when Jesus cried over Jerusalem because they knew not “the things that make for peace.”

        And this is why actively working against injustice is so important. Apathy is indifference to evil; it’s not rationalism. Some think that there’s just nothing we can do and so there’s no use dedicating time and energy to it. Not only is this historically false, but Plato rightly stated that the cost of such indifference is to be ruled by evil men (which is historically true).

        A good way to deal with the suffering is through art and community. I like Katie’s point about not living sacrificially apart from community. I Interviewed Douglas Meeks, author of God the Economist, and I asked him about the individual duty toward social change, and he said that it has to be in the context of a community of love if it is to be truly effective. Part of the systematic problem is Western individualism. The Psalms, however, were not for individuals. They were for the community–even and especially the lament psalms. We have lost the art of lament in today’s church, and it needs to be revived if we are going to honestly wrestle with the injustices in the world. Art is also key, for it provides us a mode of communicating our inner experience, especially our laments. What I love about the Bible is that the people in it know how to express inner turmoil. Sometimes you just need to cry out, “God, why have you forsaken me?”–even if you know that he hasn’t. There’s no nice way of saying some things, and the prophets and Psalmists understood that very well.

        I hope I’ve been able to help some. 🙂

  2. We all suffer from hyper selfishness. I think the majority of us Christians experience momentary brokenness and compassion for the less fortunate, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we are most of the time, consumed in the business of life or the idolatry of a church building and social ego enhancers and it all clouds the urgency of the FACT that people are literally dying or at least suffering from incomprehensible emotional pain bc of injustices created by the exploitation of the weak, the depravity of our sin and evil perverted attempts at achieving a worldly status of success, and listlessness. We just can’t be bothered. We have what we need and it’s unfortunate that someone is suffering, but it’s the hand they were dealt. We have the power to bring healing in the name of Jesus if we want to. We have to daily be reminded that we don’t deserve the air we’re breathing. It’s a gift. And so is every other living person on this planet. Stop believing that we have earned the life we have and the things we have. We start by accepting God’s grace in our own lives and we are sanctified as we are confronted with the truth of the need of Jesus in our own lives and in the world. We must understand that justice is not getting what is deserved or earned. Justice is being freed from the punishment we DO deserve! There are guys sleeping on the front porch of a gas station 1 minute from my house right this very second. There are women walking up and down my street every day who get paid to have sex. There is a family across the street who is caring for one another right now as one of its members is dying from cancer….that’s three opportunities I can think of off the top of my head where the grace of Jesus is needed. They deserve to experience the freedom…the justice, in Jesus that we have also been handed. Katie is totally right by saying if each of us helps our neighbor, eventually the micro investments have a macro effect. Justice is the gospel and we are its distributors. Generous Justice is an extremely convicting wake up call and now I’m interested in reading Overrated!

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