Nye writes from his location as a pastor in Silicon Valley, California, which provides a backdrop for contrasting the excesses of American ideologies. While personal examples are scattered throughout, the primary material for forming his descriptions come from a wide array of social critics, demographic data, and theologians (although he does have a tendency to cite conservative Christian leaders more frequently and has more than one footnote pointing to a Wikipedia page).
Over three sections (ten chapters), Nye presents an underlying premise of disillusionment (You Probably Thought There Would Be More) and then contrasts five specific areas where the social expectations and the Way of Jesus are incongruent (Growth and Pace; Isolation and Connection; Fame and Obscurity; Power and Vulnerability; Wealth and Generosity). A third section discusses the implications of these distinctions in one’s life and for the Church (Death and Life; Among the Ruins).
My only real critique of the book is that is seems entirely absorbed in existential problems facing white, upper-class Americans (this would fit for his contexts in suburban Portland, OR and San Francisco Bay Area, CA). People experiencing poverty are, at times, lionized for their lack of materialistic influence and categorically devalued by outdated terminology (“third world”, particularly). While most of the social data and examples are contemporary, there is little discussion of the impacts of racialization or economic exploitation.
Despite these flaws, the book provides a consistent critique of (white) American society and its incompatibility with Christian faith. It is not arguing for a baptised sense of Americana, though it could achieve greater depth by sharing representation of non-white cishetero male perspectives.
The book would be a good resource for a small group study or mentorship. It could be covered in three sessions, though more likely 4-7, depending on the scope of the group.
Throughout the book, I had a feeling of reminiscence for Lesslie Newbigen’s “Foolishness to the Greeks” in laying side-by-side the Western world and the counter-cultural call of the Christian faith, which is not bad company to be in.
(A complimentary copy of this book was made available by the publisher in exchange for an honest and thorough review)