Read Good God, Lousy World, and Me: The Improbable Journey of a Human Rights Activist from Unbelief to Faith by Holly Burkhalter Online


“In this extraordinary memoir of grace, one of the foremost human rights advocates of the last half century shares her brutally and hilariously honest story of finding God on one of the most unlikely, irreverent, and utterly beautiful pilgrimages through life as it actually is.” —Gary A. Haugen, president and CEO, International Justice Mission“It used to be that my own rel“In this extraordinary memoir of grace, one of the foremost human rights advocates of the last half century shares her brutally and hilariously honest story of finding God on one of the most unlikely, irreverent, and utterly beautiful pilgrimages through life as it actually is.” —Gary A. Haugen, president and CEO, International Justice Mission“It used to be that my own religious philosophy was to work hard, charm everyone within spittin’ distance, and do a lot of crafts. So how did this hard-core leftist skeptic find peace and happiness among Bible-quoting, praying-out-loud, born-again evangelicals? I realized that my two choices—the existence of a loving God or the reality of evil—weren’t the only options. Option three is that God is good and the world is lousy. But wait. There’s more. God knows the world is lousy. Knows it, hates it, and wants us to do something about it...” —Holly Burkhalter, Good God, Lousy World & Me   For over thirty years, Holly Burkhalter has worked as an international rights advocate for victims of genocide, rape, and injustice.   Throughout most of her career, the heartbreak she encountered around the world—and in her own life—had convinced her that there was no such thing as a loving God. How could there be? If God  was there, he should be charged as a war criminal for tolerating atrocities against the young, the poor, and the vulnerable.    Then, Holly discovered a new truth: God was there—in the grief, in the violence, in the questions. And God was good.   It was the greatest, hardest, most radiant surprise of her life.   This is her story....

Title : Good God, Lousy World, and Me: The Improbable Journey of a Human Rights Activist from Unbelief to Faith
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781601425089
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 208 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Good God, Lousy World, and Me: The Improbable Journey of a Human Rights Activist from Unbelief to Faith Reviews

  • Nancy Kennedy
    2019-06-25 10:29

    Having spent her life as a human rights activist and seeing first-hand the conundrum of the Christian's good god vs. the world's evil, Ms. Burkhalter is certain that a good and loving God wouldn't let carnage like the Rwanda genocide and the AIDs crisis happen. The very idea is repugnant to her.Although Ms. Burkhalter can't reconcile these two seemingly opposing ideas, she gradually comes to consider coexistence possible. But it isn't through any close reading of the Bible or a Billy Graham crusade or any of the typical catalysts. Instead, she begins to see the reality of faith lived out in people she respects; in particular, people working for the International Justice Mission, a Christian human rights organization. And she experiences a personal answered prayer. "God did not speak into my anxiety and fear until I asked," she discovers.Here's what's so great about this book: Holly doesn't have all the answers! Even as she comes to gradual belief, Ms. Burkhalter doesn't hew to the standard evangelical line. She questions the pitiless cruelty of the God of the Old Testament. Yet, she comes to admire the life and work of Jesus, and that powers her faith. "I'm fall-down amazed myself at Jesus's incredible courage and love for people that normal folks hate and fear."Ms. Burkhalter's writing is conversational and honest. She will have you laughing while you struggle along with her. ("Well, fine, you pagan snots," she thinks, trying to defend her faith to her skeptical siblings.) In the end, the author comes to a hard-won and very personal faith: "God exists. I know it because, oddly, I see signs everywhere, including in the very places that previously seemed to be proof of the Lord's absence, or worse, the Creator's neglect of a battered, hungry, suffering creation." This is a powerful testimony of one woman's struggle with the hardest moral questions and her inspiring quest to answer them.

  • Emily Colby
    2019-07-18 11:20

    Yeah, I'm really not sure how I feel about this. It was 1/3 a personal faith story, 1/3 an ad for International Justice Mission (which admittedly seems like a cool organization based off what I now know from this book), and 1/3 discussing Burkhalter's doubts from her days of unbelief without providing substantive, rooted discussion. In a lot of ways, I have more questions now than I did before. I do really appreciate the honesty about her doubts, which is part of the foundation for the book. And while there weren't really satisfactory answers, I'm not sure there need to be. It asked good questions, which is something I like and consider important. I also found it deeply interesting (although heartbreaking) to read about the author's work.I think I probably just had faulty expectations. If I had expected a story about coming to faith instead of one about engaging with doubts, my feelings would probably be less mixed.Also note that I was very uncomfortable with the way Burkhalter discussed mental illness (a semi-significant part of the book), and there was a page dealing with race that was at least weird.

  • Jim
    2019-06-24 15:28

    “I wanted there to be a God who was good and whose creation mirrored it, and it just wasn’t there. So perhaps the term for me was “twisted, pissed-off, betrayed, former Christian.” I can’t find that in the dictionary, but that’s what I was.”As human rights activist, Holly Burkhalter had seen humanity at its worst. Spending a life time of documenting, reporting, and attempting to persuade those in power to come to the aid victims of terrible torture and suffering, Burkhalter, raised in the Mennonite tradition walked away in part because she believed that a ‘Good God,’ if there was one, would never permit such terrible evil to exist. But she also walked away from her faith because she saw the pain and suffering of mental illness in the life of her grandmother, a devout person of faith, who would be swallowed up in the darkness of depression and wondered where God was.But two things happened to Burkhalter that began to move her from bitter unbelief to hesitant belief.First, she and her husband adopted two girls, one from China and one from Vietnam, had them baptized and then went to church. But even then, she notes, ” I did not encounter God… I would watch a sea of people who were intently listening to a voice I couldn’t hear… It made me bitter, all those years ago, that God’s presence was so readily available to everybody but me. ” Second, a friendship with Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission, a devoutly Christian organization and a sermon Haugen gave (in a “happy-clappy” evangelical church, Burkhalter noted) in which she heard about God’s concern for the poor moved her even more toward belief in a God she had given up on.And as her story unfolds toward hope, and belief, in a God who did care, Burkhalter tells the story of her life growing up in the church and the reality of suffering and pain she witnessed first hand in her own extended family. As she does, she reveals the pain, mental, emotional, and spiritual that she experienced along the way.What I liked about this book is that while it has a familiar trajectory of belief – doubt/unbelief – emerging belief that I have read in other books similar to this, it is Burkhalter’s hard, and refreshing, honesty about her current state of faith which makes this a wonderful book to read. She is not a ‘happy-clappy’ believer. She still struggles with doubt, frustration, and even anger with and toward God but yet cannot deny the grace and hope which she has experienced over the course of a decade plus.I rate this book a ‘great’ read!The publisher is Convergent BooksNote: I received an ARC of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

  • Margaret
    2019-07-02 13:34

    I was frankly planning on skimming this book, but after the first chapter or two I could see this was not going to be an option. Burkhalter presents a refreshingly honest and humble memoir of her journey from a non-Christian who was bitterly angry at God for all the suffering she saw in the world around her, to a Christian who came to see the unmistakable evidence of a good God in those very places. She admits right off the bat that she still doesn't have it all figured out and has an incredibly humble attitude towards all she has learned and believes. Her wonderful sense of humor and the wit she infuses in her writing doesn't hurt either. While I did not agree with certain theological points that occasionally surfaced (such as God being referred to as "him-or-her"), this was not a theological book, and she does not try to argue her opinions on anything, from theology to politics. Rather, she just shares her struggle throughout life to accept that a good God could allow suffering and shows readers where she saw Him show up in answered prayers and through Christians-- His hands and feet. It was so refreshing not to read the canned stereotypical Christian answers for all the hard questions this world poses and to see how God met her right where she was.

  • Jim Dressner
    2019-06-25 15:32

    This is a good book, very readable (although a bit jumpy in its topics), and highly personal. I don't think the arguments for a loving God are greatly convincing, but her experiences and perspectives have force for those open to consider them. They correspond with the idea that as pain and suffering are a problem for the theist, so joy and beauty are a problem for the atheist. Don't read this as a systematic or comprehensive theological look at the way a sovereign God works in a fallen world. But read it as a helpful account of a person grappling with their faith in a world of injustice and suffering.I found Susan Isaac's book Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir to be a more entertaining read and to touch me more deeply.

  • Leslea Abshire
    2019-07-17 11:25

    great read and good reminder for me and my busy life to slow down

  • Sarah Tregre
    2019-07-02 17:34

    I read this for a book club or I never would have finished it.

  • Kathy Hassig
    2019-06-24 13:32

    I wasn't sure about this book when I first started reading it. It made me cry some and laugh some and pray some.

  • Paul Waibel
    2019-07-08 15:23

    Whenever I hear of cruelty to women, children, or even animals, I immediately react with feelings of rage. Let me avenge these wrongs. Let me decide the fate of those who commit such atrocities. I will surely fit the punishment to the crime.After I calm down and remind myself that in doing so I would become like those monsters I want to make suffer, a different emotion takes over. Although I was never the victim of abuse, I feel that I can identify with the victims of abuse. I can feel the pain, the fear, the despair that they, the victims, must experience. I want to cry, but most of all I ask God why he allows such evil. He is sovereign, is he not?Theologians, preachers, and a wide variety of self-appointed spokespersons for God are quick to provide an answer. More often than not they expose their ignorance. Better to remain silent than address issues about which one is not qualified to speak. Reading a few books, especially the syrupy inspirational goo that clutters the shelves of Christian bookstores, testimonies by those who suddenly “found Jesus” and no longer need bother themselves with the challenge of living in the real world, will not do. One must get up close and experience the true banality of evil.Holly Burkhalter is one who has earned the right to ask the really tough questions of God. She spent many years as a human rights advocate. She has seen firsthand just how depraved human beings can be towards the most vulnerable. She has seen the horrors of children of preschool age held in bondage to pimps who rent them out to adults willing to pay for the opportunity to sexually abuse them.Ms. Burkhalter has intimate knowledge of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Many of the victims took refuge in churches only to discover that the churches were slaughter houses. The Rwandan church leaders refused to condemn the genocide, even when it took place in the churches. The whole of Christendom remained largely silent. American Christians turned their faces away and ignored the cries of those they called “brothers and sisters in Christ.”The Rwandan genocide was the result of human choices. Likewise is the inhuman treatment of the children enslaved in the brothels that cater to well-to-do tourists from Europe and America the result of human choices. The perpetrators of such crimes are entrepreneurs providing services that others demand and are willing to pay for.None of us, you and I, would ever participate in such criminal activity. After all, are we not Christians living in a Christian nation founded on Christian principles by our Christian Founding Fathers? We go to “big box” retail outlets in order to fill our closets with cheap clothing we do not need, while plugging our ears to the cries and shielding our eyes from the tears of the children who work long hours under harsh conditions for pitifully small wages to produce our plenty.Not only non-believers, as was Holly Burkhalter for much of her life, ask, “Where is God?” Many Christians also ask that question, again and again and again, as did the Old Testament prophets. There isn’t an answer. Of course, there are attempts at formulating an answer by theologians who labor long hours over biblical passages in a variety of languages, ancient and modern. But their answers fall short no matter how learned and logical they sound. Some find that no matter how hard they try, they cannot go on without some answer as to why God, the great I AM who spoke to Moses from a burning bush, sovereign over all that exists, does not intervene and deliver the justice he promises.Ms. Burkhalter writes of Kevin Carter, a photographer who won the Pulitzer Prize for his picture of a starving Sudanese toddler lying in the dirt while a vulture waited patiently nearby. Two months later, Kevin Carter took his own life. In an attempt to explain why, he wrote, “I am depressed. . .I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain. . .of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners.”What Burkhalter discovered, was that the awesome question of why cannot be answered. It is a mystery. But what we do know is that only the God revealed in the Bible and in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ can provide an answer for the existence of evil. No other religious or secular philosophy can do so. Why God does not do what we would do, and what we would have him do, is a question we cannot answer. We do know God is sovereign over all, and that justice will prevail, as he has promised. No injustice will go unanswered. No tear is shed that is not seen, or will not be wiped away.In the end, “after forty-plus years of skepticism, cynicism, and doubt,” Holly Burkhalter came to the conclusion that God exists. “I know it,” she writes, “because, oddly, I see signs everywhere, including in the very places that previously seemed to be proof of the Lord’s absence, or worse, the Creator’s neglect of a battered, hungry, suffering creation.”

  • Jeanne
    2019-06-26 11:41

    4.5 stars. This book means a lot to me.

  • Loraine
    2019-07-04 14:32

    SUMMARY: Human rights activist Burkhalter begins her journey of faith in 1990 in West Africa as thousands of Liberians were displaced from their homeland by rebel forces. Weary and heartbroken from the ongoing violence, she wasn’t a Christian then—although her grandparents were Mennonite missionaries—or quite an atheist. Instead she was a “twisted, pissed-off, betrayed former Christian.” She discusses the numerous reasons to believe in God and, paradoxically, to not believe. She rails against an indifferent God even as she offers anecdotes about the believers she meets. She discusses, too, unconditional love (her very personal story about her beloved German shepherd will break every dog lover’s heart). Gradually, things change: she and her husband adopt two children from Asia. Her friendship with Gary Haugen, the founder of International Justice Mission (IJM), a Christian organization that speaks out against violence and injustice, sealed the deal. “IJM taught me,” she writes, “that the atrocities that broke my heart broke God’s more.” A moving memoir on the joys and agony of faith.REVIEW: I am not much of a non-fiction reader but selected this book from our United Methodist Women's reading program list for 2015 since I am the Reading Chair this year and will need to share some of the books from the list at our meetings. I felt like I would have to force myself to plow through this book and was pleasantly surprised when I found it very interesting. Holly Burkhalter begins her career as a Human Rights activist basically as a Legislative Representative for the non-profit group for which she worked. So even though she was pushing for assistance for issues such as child slavery, child prostitution, HIV/AIDS, Land Mine Victims etc., she was ensconced in theory and not up-close and personal. As she became more personally involved meeting those for whom she was pushing legislation at the US federal government level and put faces and names with these issues, she began to realize that so many of these victims were full of hope and love for God even after all they had been through. Her conception of an evil God who brought horrors to the world slowly evolved to a Good God who gave hope and love to the helpless and hopeless through God's people here on earth. . Overall, a very eye-opening story particularly about human rights issues.FAVORITE QUOTES: "My friend is able to live and work with joy in this crucible of random suffering and random rescue, and he is only able to do that because he believes what he cannot see: that God has a plan to redeem brokennes, find lost girls, and wipe away every tear from their eyes.""unconditional love. It is the Rosetta Stone of emotional health. If we have it throughout babyhood and early childhood, we are pretty much assured of a sturdy, contented adulthood. If we dont', we'll pay a heavy price for the rest of our livess unless we --or somebody--can rewrite our past. "But believing that there is a possibility of some higher goodness in all situations has allowed me to think about the world differently and to start to reconcile the polar opposites of a loving God and a wretched earth.""..doing what Jesus asked when you don't want to is a truer example of obedience.""And the atrocities? Where do they come from? They come from us. We are made in a good God's image, but we're free to disfigure outselves into something ghastly--and do so in small and large ways all the time."

  • Holly
    2019-07-08 12:20

    I picked this up because, as a Christian with my eyes wide open to the contradictions in faith, I am always interested in the faith journeys of others. This author had the added appeal of being a human rights activist with international experience, a life calling I admire and can relate to as someone who has devoted a portion of my career to international humanitarian work. Lo and behold, a few pages into the book I learned that the author is also of Mennonite heritage. Yet another interesting turn. Unlike me, however, she was not raised in the Mennonite faith. Her father was an academic and a musician and the family attended the Presbyterian church where he served in a professional capacity. The author became an atheist as a teenager after witnessing her beloved Mennonite grandmother "lose her faith" (but actually lose her sanity) after her husband of many years died. The author's journey back to faith came late in mid-life, after learning to respect Christians working for human rights and doing it with a sense of purpose, hope and humanity that she admired and wanted for herself. I liked the book a lot but gave it just four stars because it's a bit thin. I get the sense that the author is more a do-er and a relational person than she is a memoirist and writer. Still, she brings a valuable voice to a conversation about faith and I'm glad she shared her story.

  • Nicki
    2019-07-02 17:31

    I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.This book is a refreshing and honest memoir. What I like best about this woman is that she came to Christ as an older adult. She is also wonderfully honest about her flaws and shortcomings and confesses that she still questions God's presence at times. Many Christian authors try to hide their imperfections, but Burkhalter places them right out in the open and scrutinizes them. I think what some authors forget is that readers can find just as much comfort in reading about other Christians' struggles as they can in constant advice. Plus, she's a liberal. AMEN!This book sort of left me wanting, though. I was hoping to read a lot more about her work in the field, but she focused more on her time in the U.S. It was also difficult to see a "journey," as she went back and forth instead of chronologically and because there wasn't a turning point for her. Hers was a slow and bit-by-bit transition, which was hard for me to see, perhaps because it was difficult for her to describe.Overall, I wish there were more books like these.

  • Brendon
    2019-06-22 14:25

    DISCLAIMER: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.I felt pulled into this book based on the subject. Sometimes I feel the same way she does about the state of the world and how could a good God allow such suffering. Her ideas and thought process really resonated with me and the impact was even greater since it was a personal testimony. This book is very readable, easy to comprehend and sends a good message to any audience – especially to a person in midst of a faith crisis. The question of a good God in a lousy world comes up a lot in Christian faith. I think this book provides a first hand glimpse at trying to answer that question, using a practical lens instead of a theological lens (rooted in her experience and not so much in Scripture). For some reason, I perceived the book would focus more on her specific work in non-profits and advocate groups. Although, I was wrong, it was not a bad surprise.I thought Burkhalter was able to tell her story well and with conviction; however, I thought some of the chapters jumped around topically too much. Overall, I enjoyed the book because I could relate to her large and deep questions about faith.

  • Robynn
    2019-07-02 14:22

    I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.Now THIS is how one should write a book about Christian apologetics! Holly Burkhalter's story can wander from time to time but it's so worth reading through it to learn how she became a believer in God in such a "lousy world," which is a conundrum so many Christians struggle with. Instead of reciting Bible quotations or expounding on exegesis she just, quite simply, tells her story. And it's a powerful story! Any Christian, or non-Christian, who has ever wondered about all the terrible things that God allows to happen in this world should read this book from cover to cover.

  • Barbara
    2019-07-16 18:17

    This is a powerful read of how the toughest questions in life drive a human rights advocate towards faith in God, rather than from it. Holly is damn honest, and I love it. I found her honesty freeing and affirming of the message that no matter our exasperation or confusion or roaring anger, God can handle it. Being a longtime volunteer with IJM and having several friends who have worked there made this an especially relevant and personal read. I highly recommend it to anyone struggling with the concept of suffering in the world and the idea of a good God in the midst of it.

  • Michael
    2019-07-07 10:38

    I sought this book out as I struggle with reconciling my loving God with the brutal suffering that marks the human condition for so many. Burkhalter 's memoir of faith is genuine and heartfelt. She speaks directly into my own struggle; yet, I found this presentation lacking. Burkhalter gives us the depth of her conviction but not the full might of her reason and intellect in attacking the problem of suffering. I have appreciated meeting a fellow traveler but do not feel better equipped to face the struggle by this acquaintance.

    2019-06-20 16:25

    A great coming to faith journeyThe author showed both her doubts and her questioning of "is there really a God?" Her faith journey was a long one even though she was already the hands and feet of Jesus. Looking into her unbelief helped to solidify in our own minds the ancient question: why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? A great book challengers on my mind. I highly recommend it.

  • Meepspeeps
    2019-07-04 10:18

    This is a memoir of a non-famous person with quite a bit of repetition. However, her description of moving from being mad at God for all the suffering to finding God in human rights work is a fascinating journey. She features specific incidents of prayer and friend intervention that led her to faith. This book may help those who want to know how a good God can allow suffering in the world.

  • Michael
    2019-07-14 14:28

    A touching, very personal, and at times irreverent memoir of the author's journey to Christian faith and belief in a good God. It's a quick and enjoyable read, and the author's authentic experiences (especially her continuing struggles) make this a good book to share with others who are also on a journey from unbelief to faith.

  • Ruth Barrineau-brooks
    2019-07-10 18:42

    At various parts of this book, I considered not finishing it because I disagreed with something the author said. I'm so glad I didn't. I learned so much reading this book and also realized that I have a lot in common with this author despite our differences. It was an eye-opener and a challenge to action.

  • Stephen
    2019-06-26 16:18

    Five stars for Holly Burkhalter, for her life and work; for her blood, toil, sweat, and tears in ongoing service to the cause of justice in the here and now; and for this, her frank witness to the goodness of God even amidst the darkness of the world.

  • Sylvia
    2019-07-08 13:43

    A middle-age woman learns to see God in other people. A surprising and deeply moving spiritual memoir.

  • Sarah
    2019-06-29 13:36

    A series of vignettes by a thoughtful, funny, down-to-earth woman who has seen amazing events and worked for change.

  • Archi
    2019-07-14 12:17

    A great memoir about having, losing and returning to faith in the midst of some of the most extreme instances of human rights abuses and brokenness of the world.

  • Trena
    2019-07-11 14:38

    Worth reading :) The only disturbing part was when she referred to God as he/she.

  • Pam
    2019-06-27 17:32

    Excellent....came to believe God largely through IJM