By Matt Walsh
Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway (2020)
Reviewed by RICHIE HAWKINS
As I read Church of Cowards, I literally had to take extended breaks after each chapter because I felt mentally exhausted; I needed to contemplate on what I had just read. Matt Walsh is a conservative blogger and political commentator at The Daily Wire, as well as a public speaker and author. Walsh writes with passionate frustration and, at times, righteous anger. He wastes absolutely no time and holds nothing back when he begins his book with a chapter aptly titled: “Christians Not Worth Killing.” In it, he describes a scenario in which a bloodthirsty foreign power could invade the United States with the primary goal of killing all of the Christians unless they willingly renounce their faith. He boldly suggests that if a foreign power did invade, they would have a very difficulttime finding devout Christians who are truly willing to lay down their lives, let alone their smartphones, for their faith. He solemnlycloses out the chapter by stating: “They unsheathed their swords only to discover that what they came to kill was already dead. They had traveled all that way to persecute a corpse” (p. 11).
Walsh suggests that we, as Christians, have attempted to force the once narrow road to become wide by repeatedly compromising our beliefs in a desperate and futile attempt to avoid offending others. For some reason, we seem to be more focused on not offending people than we are about saving them. He reports that “around 70% of Americans claim to be Christian” (p. 13) but goes on to suggest that “the 70 percent is mostly composed of the sort of Christians who cannot be readily distinguished from atheists” (p. 14). We were called to stand out in the world and to be different but, as his title suggests, Walsh believes that we have willingly and disobediently chosen to become a group of cowards. Instead of being on fire for Jesus, we have let the world put us out.
One of my favorite points that Walsh made was the modern-day difference between the words “faith” and “belief.” He notes that there are multiple instances in the Bible where those words are used interchangeably, but in our culture, those words mean two very different things. He suggests that if God only wanted everyone to believe in Him, He could easily open up the heavens and reveal Himself so that everyone would instantly believe. Instead, He wants a deeper relationship with us than that. He wants us to willingly choose to love Him so that we will put our faith in Him, just like a child who puts his trust in his father.
One chapter that especially convicted me was Chapter Nine, entitled In and of the World. In it, Walsh points out that “Americans spend about eleven hours a day consuming media in various forms” (p. 130), and most of it is openly anti-Christian and directly contradicts our beliefs.
One example he uses is the popular show Lucifer, in which the devil is portrayed as a handsome, kind man who is just misunderstood. He points out many other examples in which media has mocked Christianity and how many write it off as “just entertainment” or a temporary escape from reality. Walsh states, “The problem is that we are always escaping” (p. 132).
At this point, I should probably note that this book was not written by someone who believes that they are perfect and have it all figured out. Walsh openly and honestly shares his shortcomings and how he has been convicted to do better. He wrote the book with the intention of causing everyone who reads it to reexamine their faith and, if necessary, to repent for theircompromises. To some, this book may come off as finger-pointing; however, through Scripture, Walsh reveals the hard truths that we need to hear. This book was not an easy read, but if you pray for conviction before you sit down to read it, it can and will open your eyes to the mistakes that you are making while there is still time to correct them.
After reading Church of Cowards, the reader can see that Walsh did not just sit down and write this book based on his own feelings and opinions. He has done extensive research and is very well-read. He includes nine pages of references that he used to compile this book and two pages of biblical references.
This is not a book to be taken lightly, and it is not an easy read by any means. There is not a single instance in which Walsh reassuringly pats the reader on the back, telling them that everything’s going to be all right and to just keep doing the best that they can. Instead, he outright says that if we are serious about God, we can and should do better, starting right now. It is a sobering read, but one that, if you read with an open mind and an open heart, could completely change how you look at religion. If we are going to be examples of Christ to the world, we need to not only practice what we preach but also know exactly what it is that we believe. The only way that we can be a brightly shining city on thehill instead of just a blinking light at a four-way stop is to completely give ourselves over to God.
Walsh himself acknowledges, “I will be accused of writing a bleak and despairing book. But I think this has been a book about despair, not a book of despair” (p. 171). I highly recommend this book for every Christian who believes that they have been doing good enough in life to reach others for Christ. After I finished, I realized that I have some serious work to do in my life. By reading this book with genuine introspection and constant prayer to the Holy Spirit for conviction, I believe that we can once again become a people who are known for their bold faith and genuine love instead of being complacent Christians.
Richie Hawkins is the pastor of the Camden Maine Seventh-day Adventist Church in Rockport, Maine, USA.