“Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door”

Don't Check Your Brains at the Door coverDon’t Check Your Brains at the Door:
Know What You Believe and Why

By Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler
Thomas Nelson Publishers
02 August 2011

According to the book description:

“Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30—both evangelical and mainline—who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, according to the survey by LifeWay Research.” (USA Today)

I am no exception. In fact, I wanted to quit going before I even got to high school, but my parents wouldn’t let me. (It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, though; they said I had to go to some church, and they weren’t picky about which, even if I refused to attend their church.)

Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door was first published in 1992 (with an appropriately ’90s book cover), but I was too young to appreciate it then. Unfortunately, I’m probably too old and possibly too cynical to appreciate the “updated and revised” version now.

I understand this book is for teenagers, but it seems like each short chapter (3-5 pages) almost makes a good point—until I think about it for more than a couple minutes. I mean, for not checking my brains at the door, so to speak, there are a lot of assumptions made and underlying “you’re just a kid, so what do you know?” conjecture tossed out at the reader, whether we like it or not. I’m just not convinced that these four-page chapters are enough Christian apologetics to stand up to someone who really knows what they’re talking about.

The subtitle is Know What You Believe and Why… This book may be an interesting devotional (there are questions for consideration at the end of each chapter, for example), but I don’t think it would help a kid (or anyone) who was on the fence about what he or she believed actually figure out what to believe, or why. It has some funny stories—why God isn’t a killjoy (ch.1), why people who think Jesus was “lily-white” are wrong (ch.8), why the Bible is actually The Inspired Word of God and therefore has absolutely nothing wrong with it in any way whatsoever (ch.10), why being better than someone else still isn’t good enough (ch.19), how argumentum ad populum is a good way to prove that Christians aren’t deluded (ch.25), and on and on—but there’s very little in the way of actual help figuring things out. Plus, there were a few chapters that rubbed me the wrong way, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why. (Well, almost all of the chapters disagreed with me, but I knew why for most of them.)

Also, a side note: the entire book is totally down on the devil. Which is a fine thing, I guess, if you’re a Christian. But why doesn’t anyone ever remember that he was/is an angel, too? A fallen angel, yes, but if you follow Christian doctrine, that actually makes us more like him than Jesus. Maybe it’s okay to step outside Christian boundaries once in a while. Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay not to know what you believe, or why. Maybe young people quit attending church not because they don’t know what and why but because they do, and things just don’t add up. Just sayin’.

Overall, Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door didn’t change my opinion about attending church, having “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”, or really anything else about Christianity. It’s a nice idea, but I don’t think it lives up to the hype.

DISCLAIMER: I received Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door free from LitFuse Publicity in return for a review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Read other reviews and learn more about the book on the blog tour’s main page.

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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