C. Mark Ealy’s The Making of a Preacher: Naked in the Pulpit isn’t so much a misguided memoir as it is simply a memoir that never really falls into stride. Overly didactic and repetitive, Naked in the Pulpit will appeal only to a limited audience.

Centering around a character named Larry, whom readers will undoubtedly suppose to be the alter-ego of the author, Naked in the Pulpit delves into Larry’s history to find jumping-off points into moral lessons. Raised by an ousted Baptist minister of strange method and harsh parenting, Larry is a socially awkward child drawn into daydreams to escape his strange reality. He grew up to be a successful* preacher, homosexual, and apparently incredibly insecure man with an unnatural distrust of children.

That’s not to say that Larry and/or Ealy aren’t saying good things. Their emphasis on compassion and understanding of those much different from us echo Jesus’ most important teaching, of loving our enemies, since “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). However, these lessons are more than likely best appreciated by those who feel isolated from the world due to their ‘deviant’ social and sexual private behaviors, which, now that this reviewer thinks about it, is probably more people than he originally anticipated. If anything, the book will be a great help to those suffering souls who believe themselves unique. The lesson here is, you are not, and you need to have the strength to get over that.

While the book succeeds in these parts, it stumbles in others. The chapter entitled “What is a Child?” takes a rather harsh attitude towards its subject. Children are described as “self-centered in their use of time,” and “fundamentally… dishonest.” While Ealy counters himself with examples of children’s capacity for faith and wonder, the negative comments seem loaded, and leave a bad taste in at least this reviewer’s mouth.

In the end, finding meaning from this book can be as simple or as frustrating as finding meaning amongst the contradictions of all sections of the Bible (even the gospels). What is stated on one page is undermined on another. Larry says “Getting naked is required for my healing. As long as I hide from the world, the scars will never heal.” On the same page, Ealy exhorts us to use “discretion/wisdom about what we share,” stating that it is necessary to hide his sexual orientation from his congregation. While this may facilitate, in the short term, the sharing of “other truths,” it is absolutely contradictory to the doctrine of “nakedness” the book claims to support. It proves tricky to believe fully a man who declares that “To pursue authenticity is perhaps one of life’s greatest opportunities,” when he does not practice said authenticity in regards to his personal life.

*Tales of being repeatedly run out of congregations allow for a certain ambiguity to the word “successful.”

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