Meanderings of a Minister

Leonard Sweet’s Viral Seems More Like a Spiral
July 10, 2012, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Book Review | Tags: , , , , ,

I have to confess that I have been a fan of Leonard Sweet for many years. I have many of his books, including Soul Salsa, Soul Tsunami, The Gospel According to Starbucks, and many more. When I saw his latest offering, Viral, on the blogging for books site, I nearly clicked through my mouse as I selected it. I anticipated his normal fare of thought-provoking, challenging, disquieting critiques of modern-day representations of Christianity. I thought maybe I would receive some insight into parts of the gospel long forgotten or a challenge to be more organic in my approach to my relationship with God.  Given the subtitle, How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival, I thought I would receive some practical instruction on how to be a part of this Viral movement.

With all of these expectations, what did I receive?  Sadly, a great disappointment.  Sweet vacillates between what he terms “the Gutenbergers” (or those that rely primarily on print media) and “the Googlers” (those that rely mainly on electronic information and interaction).  While this is somewhat to be expected, and not the main source of disappointment, the author vacillates, not just in terms of describing their lives and interaction, but also seems to move back and forth from who is best prepared to bring revival to the modern-day church in America and beyond.

Dr. Sweet begins with an in-depth description of the two cultures, including their similarities and differences, and then moves directly into the various media used by the Googlers and how that can help move the gospel forward.  That seems to work, but he then brings warnings and caveats throughout, which seem to make the reader question if Dr. Sweet is completely convinced of his findings and recommendations.  For instance, Twitter can teach us to be more concise in our presentation of truths, but there is the warning that this does not always work when attempting to truly define those same concepts.

The author then moves on to Google, Facebook, iphones, etc. and then tries to get his readers to see the virtue of each technology and how is can move the gospel forward, but in doing so, Dr. Sweet undulates between effect and warning.  While these warnings might be, and probably are very salient to the discussion, the way they are dropped into paragraphs and the logic of the presentation, makes the book hard to read, harder to digest and even harder to get motivated to finish.

While I will always be a Leonard Sweet fan, and have actually purchased another of his recent books, and will look to his future work with anticipation, I cannot recommend Viral as one of his best.


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