Briner, Bob Final Roar. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman. 2000. 164 pages; no index.
Bob Briner (1935-99) was a thoughtful and successful businessman-as well as a visionary(?) for the Kingdom of God. In several books written in the 1990s, beginning with Roaring Lambs (1993), he admonished Christians to be saltier and more visible in contemporary culture. He challenged disciples of Jesus to make their presence better known in the media, the arts, and education. In other words, they should be "roaring lambs"-notable, but meek and Christ-like throughout culture. He discouraged Christians from claiming victim status or complaining about cultural disintegration when, in fact, they were doing almost nothing to inject a Christian worldview and ethic into their culture.
This was Briner's last book, which was completed by others after his death in 1999. He chides Christians that "we are the problem" (chapter one). "We haven't given our country the opportunity even to reject the truth of Scripture because we have rarely been in the place even to offer it. In this way, we have not shown up. We have failed America" (page 10). Instead of trying to "win a culture war" (and defeat our "enemies"), we should offer hope and truth to the world, as Christ did. From a wealth of personal experience, Briner urges Christians to engage in intelligent, active, and effective involvement in the media and the arts. Christian educators should "raise the bar" of excellence and challenge their students to permeate their culture for the glory of God. Moreover (and this warmed my curmudgeonly heart), they should insist on the proper use of English-in both writing and speaking-when linguistic laziness is winning (and debasing) the day.
I applaud most everything in this stimulating and challenging book. As Os Guinness says, the problem is not that there are not enough Christians, but that they are not Christian enough where they are! That was Briner's essential message, and it desperately needs to be heard and heeded today-especially as American culture moves increasingly away from a Christian ethic and worldview and instead embraces all manner of debauchery and degradation.
Nevertheless, Briner is sometimes overly simplistic, as when he says we are not called to reform society by changing laws but to be salt and light. Both, in fact, are needed. Laws may be unjust and oppressive. If so, they need to be changed for the good of society. Remember the civil rights movement. Think of law pertaining to abortion today. When Briner writes of a Christian presence in music he seems to assume that musical forms are morally neutral and that Christian content and character is what matters. I agree with Ken Myers (see his All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes) that cultural forms are every bit as important as content. We must labor to make both form and content as honoring to God as possible.
These criticisms, however, do not counterbalance the overall value of this book to educate and mobilize Christians to be all that their Lord called them to be.