Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Review: The Year of Living like Jesus by Ed Dobson

NOTE: this book was provided for review by Zondervan.

The cover of Pastor Ed Dobson's "the Year of living like Jesus" states "It may appear from the cover as a nice book about growing a beard because Jesus did but be warned..."

Dr. Ed Dobson was diagnosed with ALS, 9 years ago and told he had 2-5 years of life left. As he says in one of his videos on the Ed's Story website , a website about his journey with ALS, he thought if he were diagnosed with a terminal disease, that's when he would get serious about praying and reading the Bible but he is finding that rather, he is concentrating on living his life to the fullest for as long as God has him here.

He likely has the type of ALS that Stephen Hawking has (very slowly progressive) so he might be here for a while yet and he seems to be making the best of it for now, as far as enjoying a bit of fame. He's appeared on "Good Morning America" and is apparently doing some book tours with this book I am reviewing. He's also on Twitter (according to his "tweets" he's on the road now) and has a blog website called, ""

It seems Reverend Ed Dobson who has accomplished a lot in his life (pastored a church for several years, worked with Jerry Falwell and even done some TV work) is a charming sort of man as well as clever and well educated. He is very highly respected as an evangelical Pastor and was voted "Pastor of the year" in 1993 by the Moody Bible Institute.

In "THE YEAR OF LIVING LIKE JESUS", Dr Dobson spins a good tale and does acquaint the reader with several stories from the Gospels, re-told in an understandable manner. He also includes interesting experiences with observing Jewish law, dress and Kosher cuisine.

But he (like many clever people, I would suppose) is anything but conventional. His living like Jesus did not extend to things becoming inconvenient for him. His fasting for 40 days ended up being 1 day. He also enjoyed comfortably traveling in a vintage Corvette and had a difficult time parting with his tailor made suits, although he wrote that this might be the right thing to do if he really wanted to "live like Jesus".

In sharing his accumulated wealth with the poor, he wrote

"Of course I wasn't willing to give everything away, my house, my cars, my savings and my retirement. But I thought Lorna and I could give away one or two week's salary. Then we'd have to trust God to meet our needs."

Dobson did in fact, he said, go into bars to reach those who would never darken a church door and have a beer with them and perhaps show a view of a Christian which they could better tolerate than the traditional view. He wrote:

"I would often go down to the bar, sit up at the counter, drink a beer and talk about God, which Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard,"

This seems to be taking the Bible out of context to me - something which is easier to do if one is not guided by the Roman Catholic Magesterium and left to one's own devices in interpreting the Bible. As Fr Corapi on EWTN says, "You can use the bible to prove ANYTHING!". Very true.

Dr Dobson also stated that he was finding atheists and agnostics easier to deal with than some Christians because they were "less judgmental". Although it is easy to get that idea, one finds that they are only "less judgmental" when you don't get TOO much into what Jesus taught. I find that in my later years when I have become closer to the church, I am not popular at all. But of course, neither was Jesus.

In the Wikipedia, in his biography, it states that although he worked with Jerry Falwell, he, by 1980, had decided the "Moral Majority" had been wrongheaded about politics changing the country.

By the time, he wrote "The Year of Living Like Jesus", he seems to have drifted from Conservatism enough to justify abortion as not being an important issue "because Jesus never mentioned it" and voted for Obama because he felt Obama more exemplified what Jesus taught, a stance which endeared him to the media. He still loves Jerry Falwell, he stated on "Twitter" and wishes Jerry would call him. He lamented that he upset Conservatives with his voting decision, though not too much - apparently he felt that his stance about disregarding the 5000 unborn killed daily as a non issue and voting for Obama was right and Conservatives are incorrect and perhaps not "Jesusly" about this issue.

I personally felt that he should not have spent time on politics at all in a book about a spiritual journey but that's my opinion. I do NOT think abortion is a non issue and I feel that Jesus who is the Word of God through Whom "all was created" (see John 1:1 ff) would NOT advocate voting for a candidate financed by the abortion industry who openly promises abortion providers that he will advocate unrestricted abortion (whether the American people want that or not). And of course, it's questionable that a politician who does not have concern for the youngest and weakest of humans would really have concern for the poor, and disabled humans already born.

Perhaps this is what I found less than inspiring about this book. It often seems to express more the worldly view rather than the strictly Christian view.

That is, we don't have to grow a beard, nor eat Kosher food, nor attend services in a synagogue to live like Jesus - we just have to love one another, reach out to those in need, share more than what is comfortable, pray a lot and stand up courageously for "truth, justice and the American way" which is often less than endearing in our world as well as, a most difficult thing to do. My impression of Rev. Dobson's walk was that it was, perhaps a bit lacking in the hard line things about living like Jesus - you know, the things which eventually got Jesus crucified.

What might be interesting to Catholics is that Rev Dobson did pray the Rosary at least some of the time and found it a good way of praying. Perhaps one day, he might be appearing on EWTN's "Journey Home" program as one who has decided to return to the Mother church. Stranger things have happened. We never know where a journey will end.

If I found some of Rev Dobson's stands to be less than inspiring, I also found his candor and honesty, very refreshing. He seems to be up front with how he is feeling which is a very good quality and definitely (as he would say) "Jesusly".

Would I recommend the book? Ed Dobson states in his blog that:

"I wrote this book for those on the fringes of the faith. People who are interested in Jesus but not "the church." I did not write for those who are in the church. My passion has always been for those who are "unchurched."

I do agree that this book would be interesting and intriguing for the very group Rev. Dobson mentioned above - the unchurched, the agnostics and so forth, an entertaining way to acquaint yourself with what Christianity teaches and providing you with much food for thought. Also for those with a terminal illness or who are dealing with disability, perhaps this book (and also the Ed's Story website) might be very inspiring and helpful for you. As for the serious mainline Christian or Catholic, you might consider giving it a try - whether you agree with Rev Dobson or not, you certainly will find "The Year of Living Like Jesus", intriguing and a good read.

This book is available on Amazon or for more information please visit Dr Ed's website,

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