Growing up in Alabama, USA, Chad Gibbs lived the fairly typical Christian life of anyone in the Bible Belt. When you live in a place where there is a church on every corner and even finding a Catholic person in the neighbourhood can be difficult, it’s easy to assume that Christianity is the same every where else.
But as Gibbs began to travel outside his home state, he began to see that there are a wide variety of people and practices in this far-reaching religion. And he decided that it was time for him to step out of his comfortable existence and explore what it is like to be a Christian in all corners of the earth.
So he set off travelling around the world, from Brazil to China and everywhere in between, to meet with Christians and visit churches, and find out what influences their faith, what is different about their practices, and if at the end of the day are we are who we are because of our faith or our culture or both?
Jesus Without Borders: What Planes, Trains, and Rickshaws Taught Me about Jesus is a chronicling of Chad Gibbs' travels to find out what life is like for believers around the world.
I found the premise of this book very interesting, especially because my life as a Christian is very different from that of Gibbs, even though we live in two similar countries. My faith has been influenced by that of my European parents and my Caribbean husband, while also living in a city made up every faith on the planet. I love learning about the different ways we share this earth and think it’s a great idea to learn about the different ways we share our faith.
Gibbs writes with great honesty and humour and that makes this an enjoyable book. I was very impressed at the way he talked about his preconceptions, even if they were very silly and sometimes bordering on a bit offensive. He’s very open about misconceptions that Americans can have and the way some view themselves compared to the rest of the world. And he’s very real about how these ideas were challenged while on his trip and how he began to look at American Christianity in a different light.
There were a few things that I wish were different about the book. I understand that the scope of the book and what it is taking on is very difficult, but I would have liked to see a bit more depth to it. At many times it felt more like a travelogue with a bit of religion thrown in along the way. I also had hoped to see more of a variety of countries - the Western European countries tended to be the same in terms of religion and there wasn’t much to add about the way Christianity is practiced. His visits to Turkey and India were fascinating because these are areas where Christians make up a small minority population. I was expecting more of that in this book.
For people who are interested in Christianity around the world and the different ways in which it is practiced, this is a good place to start, but by no means the only read (though Gibbs is very open about the book being that way.) Many of Gibbs’ insights and observations made me laugh, and this was an enjoyable and easy book to get through. It will definitely make people think about how different our faith is practiced around the world and the ways that God is working in the midst of Christians everywhere.
"I'm just saying we make up a very small part of Christianity, and while there are things other denominations can learn from us, there are also things we can learn from them." (e-book, Loc. 831)
"We're not always best at diagnosing our own problems, but spending time with Christians in other cultures, and even Americans living overseas, really helped me identify the biggest stumbling blocks to my faith." (Loc. 2952)