41S+K+dTvML._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Addie Zierman
Convergent Books
2013

To the general outsider, American Evangelical Christianity (TM) can seem, at best, rather odd. As someone who has spent the better part of a decade within this, shall we say, unique bunch of bright-eyed believers, I can attest that we can, at times, seem like an altogether alien sub-culture. That was a lot of alteration that I just used, there.Anyway, we have our own language (Christianese), our own music genre, our own movies and art, and so many stylized varieties of ministries and outreaches it’s a wonder why most of the world hasn’t been converted yet. Well, it’s not really that much of a wonder, but since this is a book review and not one of my annoying blog rants, I shall digress.

When We Were On Fire was the second book I purchased from Google Play, after testing the e-reader waters to see if it would be a good fit for this old-school bibliophile. I’m always interested to hear and read about other people’s’ experiences with American Evangelical Christianity (TM), and how it impacted their faith, for better or worse. And this title seemed intriguing, to say the very least.

Here, author Addie Zierman goes through her experiences growing up as an Evangelical teenager, an on-fire adolescent spearheading and getting involved with various student and youth endeavors in the name of Jesus evangelism, and traces her journey through college, when everything faith-related seem to fall apart, through to her finally rebuilding from the resulting debris, reforming her faith as an adult.

I absolutely adore When We Were On Fire. It has an inviting laid back conversational style, but is also unflinchingly honest with the narrative. Meaning, this isn’t an easy book to read, yet at the same time you won’t be able to put it down. For some, reading When We Were On Fire will be a look into a side of American Christianity they’ve never experienced; for many others–like myself–reading this memoir will trigger many flashbacks to our own experiences of a time that we remember as “The 90s”. Specifically, two things really stuck out at me while reading this: One was her recounting her first boyfriend in high school, which turned out to be rather toxic in that he would use God as a means of manipulation (I cringe, because I recognized my old self in the boyfriend, really), and her experiences with Youth With A Mission, aka YWAM, one of the many evangelical youth outreaches that have had their fair share of controversy come out of the woodwork. I remember specifically, I once went to a YWAM-affiliated event called Aquire The Fire, where I very narrowly avoided getting signed up with YWAM. Reading this (plus the stories of other former YWAM workers), it’s rather evident what kind of a bullet I managed to dodge, there.

Overall, reading When We Were On Fire, you not only grow to appreciate Mz. Zierman’s honesty with her journey, but also how she managed to maintain her sense of humor with all of this. I highly recommend this book, not only for those who’ve been through these things, but also for those who haven’t, to gain a perspective that can be lost with all of the hype. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.

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