‘50 Shades of God’ book ‘may offend’

Author Jamie Bryson with his new book "The First Shades of God" pictured at Stormont. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Author Jamie Bryson with his new book "The First Shades of God" pictured at Stormont. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A YOUNG Northern Ireland Christian has written a controversial book claiming our churches are too boring and offer nothing to attract today’s generation.

Jamie Bryson from Donaghadee, Co Down, told the News Letter: “The churches aren’t stuck in the last century, they’re in the 19th century.

“What young person wants to sing Victorian hymns and say prayers with all those ‘thous’ and ‘arts’? Most would rather go to McDonalds or watch a DVD than go to church on Sunday mornings and that’s very sad.”

Jamie’s book warns that if the churches don’t change with the times and reach out to young people, they will become even more irrelevant than they already are.

His book, ‘The First Shades of God’ is the initial instalment in a trilogy ’50 Shades of God’, deliberately named after the best-selling erotic novel, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ which has made headlines across the world.

Jamie acknowledges that some Christians will be offended by the name of the book.

But he adds: “Given that my aim is to provoke public interest and to tell the churches they need to adapt to popular culture, not look down their noses at it, the title couldn’t be more appropriate.

“And there are plenty of sexually explicit stories in the Bible – the story of Samson for instance.”

The 22-year-old stresses that he isn’t attacking any churches or ministers: “I’m just voicing an opinion common among young people.

“There’s no point pretending that opinion isn’t there. I want to be constructive and I hope the churches will listen and change.

“Ministers constantly complain ‘we can’t attract young people to our church’ so I’m telling them why. They are on a different wave-length to today’s generation. There is more chance of attracting young people to a flower show than a traditional church service, that’s how bad it is.

“The only times when most cross a church door – for a wedding or a funeral – they can’t wait until the service is over and they get out.”

If the churches want to reach out to young people they must embrace change and make Christianity “fashionable”, Jamie claims.

“A balance can be found which maintains religious principles but makes church fun and not a dreaded place to go. Some Christians are so boring, they can hardly crack a smile.

“Young people want excitement and a bit of banter with their friends. They should be able to have a laugh in church and enjoy God’s presence. They don’t want a myriad of rules and regulations and people looking down their noses at them when they tell the odd rude joke or use a swear word.

“The predominant attitude in our churches is ‘stay away from those terrible young people’. But they’re the ones the churches need to work with. The people Jesus used to change lives were sinners.

“Drinking the odd tin of beer won’t exclude anyone from the kingdom of heaven.”

Jamie criticises the “politically correct, judgemental” tones of some older Christians: “They seem to be against fun. Aren’t we allowed to enjoy life before death?”

Jamie admits that he himself has been on the wrong side of the law. He was convicted of possessing an offensive weapon – an extendible baton – earlier this year.

He told the court he was carrying it to protect himself from drug dealers with whom he had clashed in his work as a community activist. He stresses that he would use any weapon only for defensive purposes.

The young Donaghadee man says that “stony-faced Christians” give young people – particularly in working-class communities – the impression that church has to be a “very buttoned-up” place.

“But it doesn’t. These are all man-made traditions,” he says. “You don’t have to wear a suit to church, for example. There’s nothing wrong with going in a football top.”

In his book, Jamie also urges more independent thinking among Christians. Followers can end up so dependent on their earthly leaders – as opposed to their real leader Jesus – that they become sheep, he claims.

“It’s so bad that if their minister told them to burn their bibles, they would shout with hands high ‘Praise the Lord!’, and then strike their matches.”

Jamie Bryson admits the title of his book ‘50 Shades of God’ may offend some Christians