Book Review of ‘Guerrilla Gospel: Reading the Bible for Liberation in the Power of the Spirit’ by Bob Ekblad

Bob Ekblad. Guerrilla Gospel: Reading the Bible for Liberation in the Power of the Spirit (Burlington, WA: People’s Seminary Press, 2018).

It is a great honor to be asked to read and review an advance copy of Guerrilla Gospel: Reading the Bible for Liberation in the Power of the Spirit by my friend and teacher, Bob Ekblad.

Bob and I first met fourteen years ago, when I was a seminarian at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. It was through his classes that I began to discern my sense of call to ordained ministry. I walked into his class with one career plan and walked out with another. Over the intervening decade and a half, Bob’s ideas have continually influenced the shape, location, and direction of my ministry as a substance abuse counselor, street chaplain, and pastor to a congregation of mentally disabled people.

Click here to read a blog post on how I have made use of Bob’s methods in my own ministry setting.

Bob taught me how to read the Bible with a new set of eyes. I had previously approached the Scriptures as a compendium of morals and doctrines. Bob showed me how to encounter and inhabit the Bible as a treasury of liberating news for people who live outside the bounds of institutional religion.

Guerrilla Gospel is a follow-up to Bob’s earlier book, Reading the Bible with the Damned (WJK: 2005). Both books present the sound theological basis for Bob’s method of biblical interpretation and illustrate the process with copious personal stories. Readers will derive the most benefit by perusing both books, though either one can stand on its own merit.

While Reading the Bible with the Damned focused on the theological framework, Guerrilla Gospel gets down to the nitty-gritty details of preparing and leading Bible studies with marginalized people. With its more practical emphasis, Guerrilla Gospel answers my one remaining question after finishing Reading the Bible with the Damned: “How do I actually do this?”

Clergy will find much in this book that is familiar from seminary courses in biblical exegesis, and will benefit from seeing how Bob applies these study methods in ministry contexts outside the institutional church. Lay leaders will also find in Guerrilla Gospel a thorough, yet accessible, crash-course in biblical interpretation. I would recommend this book for anyone seeking to start a Bible study in a traditional church setting, but especially for those who practice their ministry in marginal places like jails, prisons, drug rehabs, and homeless shelters. Hopefully, those who read Guerrilla Gospel from within the institutional church will be inspired to reach out and find the Spirit present and active in unexpected places. Believe me, you will be glad you did.

One of Bob’s greatest gifts is the way he so skillfully navigates the convergence of disparate streams of Christian thought. There is something in this book for almost everyone. Evangelicals will connect with Bob’s deep love of Scripture, charismatics with his openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit, contemplatives with his explications of centering prayer and monastic spirituality, academics with his erudite scholarship, and social justice activists with his background in liberation theology.

At the same time, Bob’s unique theological location guarantees that Guerrilla Gospel also has something to make everyone uncomfortable. Readers of all theological stripes should come prepared for a challenge to their unconscious biases and assumptions. Wise and discerning readers will remain open to having their horizons expanded.

As a high-church Episcopalian, the one thing I would have liked to read more about in Guerrilla Gospel is the role of the Sacraments in ministry contexts like Bob’s. To be sure, the subject is not entirely absent. Another of his previous books, A New Christian Manifesto: Pledging Allegiance to the Kingdom of God (WJK: 2008), has an amazing chapter on Baptism. Personal stories from his several books, including Guerrilla Gospel, frequently touch on the topics of healing (Unction), confession of sin (Reconciliation), family relationships (Matrimony), personal commitment (Confirmation), and ‘deputizing’ for ministry (Ordination) from a less formal perspective. In a future book, I would be very interested to read more about the ways Bob has witnessed the Holy Spirit liberating ministry through the celebration of the Eucharist, and what its theological implications are for margins and mainstream alike.

Whether the reader is clergy or laity, evangelical or progressive, contemplative or charismatic, leading ministries of education within the church or outreach beyond the church, Bob Ekblad’s Guerrilla Gospel: Reading the Bible for Liberation in the Power of the Spirit has something to inspire, inform, comfort, and challenge anyone who wants to be part of Jesus’ liberating movement on earth.

Also by Bob Ekblad:

Further reading:

“We’ll have Nun of that!” (or “Is the Pope Catholic?”)

It seems to me that His Holiness is having a hard time of it as of late.

Apparently, having run out of every other kind of human being to alienate, he’s had to turn against his own once again.  I wonder, at what point will ole’ Benny answer the question, “What’s wrong with Catholicism?” with the response, “All those damned Catholics!” or, better yet, “Jesus.”

When he first took office back in 2005, he blamed the pedophile priest scandal on gay men sneaking into seminaries (Benny likes to assume that every gay man is a card-carrying member of NAMBLA).  It struck me then that those sounded like awfully strange words, coming from a man in a sequined dress.

Before that, during his days as the head of the Inquisition, he presided over the silencing of Fr. Leonardo Boff, a liberation theologian who dared to suggest that the hierarchy of the church existed in order to empower the laity, not vice versa.  For this, Boff was branded as a communist and eventually excommunicated.  Galileo is spinning in his grave.

These days, the newest threat to Catholicism comes from another unexpected source: nuns.  I can imagine Jon Lovitz in papal regalia, shouting, “That’s the ticket!”

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has produced a fabulous column on Papa Benny’s latest witch hunt.  Click the link below to read it for yourself:

We Are All Nuns – NY Times

If you’re into signing petitions, you can support this one at change.org:

Support the Sisters

Drawing from my years of experience working with the mentally ill and chemically dependent, I typically find that one is most insane when you think that you’re just fine and it’s everyone else that’s gone mad.

Having turned the spotlight of accusation on every other Catholic but himself, I think the rhetorical question, “Is the Pope Catholic?” is worth asking.