This is a book for people who want God without the guff - showing that it's possible to ditch religion, but keep the faith.
In the course of his work as a vicar, Dave Tomlinson meets lots of people who describe themselves as 'not good enough' to be a Christian, thinking that faith involves going to church a lot, or believing in a list of strange things, or following certain rules. But being a Christian isn't about any of that - and actually, following Jesus is a lot easier, and more fun, than most people think...
In this handbook to Christianity for people who describe themselves as spiritual but not necessarily religious, Dave sketches out some key practices for how to be a 'bad' Christian, including how to talk to God without worrying about prayer, how to read the Bible without turning off your brain, and how to think with your soul rather than trying to follow rules.
With beautiful illustrations from artist Rob Pepper, this is an accessible, light-hearted book, but one with a powerful invitation: to be the person you've always wanted to be, following a God you've always hoped is on your side.
Dave Tomlinson was a house church leader for many years and is now an Anglican priest. Unable to accept the narrow restrictions of his tradition, he founded the legendary Holy Joe's, a church in a pub in Clapham for disaffected church drop-outs. He is now Vicar of St Luke's, Holloway, a thriving parish church in north London. He is the author of the seminal The Post-Evangelical, I Shall Not Want and Re-enchanting Christianity.
Here's my secret: sometimes, when I hear all kinds of outrageous things said and done in the name of Christianity, I think about turning in my membership. I don't want to be part of the elite club of the doctrinally correct and the spiritually superior. But then a book like this one comes along, and I say, "This is a way of being a Christian that makes sense to me. This is a way of life I can live with." I'm glad to be known as a bad Christian, thanks to Dave Tomlinson and this beautiful book. — Brian McLaren
Dave Tomlinson is superb priest who is driven by God's love in Christ, and who understands the spiritual instincts and needs of ordinary people. But he has to work within - or against - an institutional Church which too often either cannot communicate at all, or else communicates a false God with a repellent face. If the Christian faith is ever to capture the imagination of our culture, we have to learn the lessons of this book. — Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans
Dave is super-intelligent, funny, passionate, encouraging, generous, hard-working, self-giving, creative and a deeply faithful witness to the love of God - in short, a bad Christian. His book is a great gift to all who are searching for abundant life, in and out of church. — Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and Jesus Freak
A vicar in the pub is worth two in a pulpit. Dave Tomlinson's HOW TO BE A BAD CHRISTIAN is as welcome as a glistening pint to a thirsty patron. Free from religious claptrap and moralistic badgering, here's a book that talks about God without boring your socks off. Tomlinson allows humanity and grace to escape the shackles of pious pedants, and flow into the world we all inhabit. Beautifully written, full of streetwise stories and wisdom, delightful and engaging - read it and discover how good it is to be among the bad. A rip-snorting manifesto for a way of living that makes a difference in the world. — Mike Riddell
Where is God? It's a question I often ask people. Does God live in Church? Does God live in Christianity? Does God live in the world and everything we know? In Dave Tomlinson's book How to be a bad Christian we wander through paths of discovery that God is wherever God wants to be. This is a gentle yet profound book that nudges people towards receptivity through stories and reflections. It invites us to imagine that the "spirit blows where the Spirit wills", and through its stories we are invited into a generous orthodoxy of faith where people discover their humanity - through discovering God, themselves, and an accepting love. Bad becomes good and good becomes reimagined. Please read it: it could change our communities, and the world. — Fuzz Kitto, international church consultant
'Dave Tomlinson has written a book that should be read by every person disaffected by their experience of evangelicalism and by every leader of the contemporary evangelical movement.' (for The Post-Evangelical) — Bishop Graham Cray
'This is a book without the need for profound theology, but a reminder that faith is stronger than theory and based on our busy lives' (for I Shall Not Want) — Christian Marketplace
Honest, intelligent, articulate, insightful and with an air of urbane wisdom, this book really shines for me. Above all it's a book which is easy to read and understand, one that opens Christianity to those outside it, on the fringes of it and just as importantly to those already inside it. — Melanie Carroll, Together
Tomlinson's radically inclusive approach, if it is accepted, moves the tired old debate on religion forwards a little... by using the language he does, Tomlinson provides a framework whereby religious and non-religious folk might find it easier to work together on the issues we all agree upon. — Simon Clare, West Sussex Country Times
If you want a book that is alive with possibilities, that revels in the grace of God and wants to see faith in action in the lives of real people, then you'll love this book.
He is very likeable and generous and loves people of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds.
— Christian Today
Dave accompanied Vanessa Feltz on her BBC London programme to speak all about HOW TO BE A BAD CHRISTIAN — BBC Radio London
Guardian coverage of Dave Tomlinson taking the funeral of Ronnie Biggs:
Tomlinson, who had conducted the funeral of Biggs's fellow robber Bruce Reynolds last year, said he had received many anonymous emails asking him how he could justify taking the funeral.
"Jesus didn't hang out with hoity-toity, holier-than-thou religious people," he told the congregation in the standing-room-only chapel.
"He seemed much more at home with the sinners. At the end of the day, we are all sinners."
He anticipated that Biggs's arrival at a metaphorical pearly gate "will create a bit of a stir".
— The Guardian
Dave Tomlinson's How to be a Bad Christian is a heartening, life-affirming volume about how to get the most out of your existence...
Atheists and rationalists will also find aspects to enjoy, taking away some insights into how to live a good life; and Tomlinson's friendly treatise may persuade those generally repulsed by religion that can also present itself in a palatable form.
— Greg Jameson, Entertainment Focus
Church Times piece on the funeral of Ronnie Biggs:
After the Biggs funeral, many of us piled into a pub around the corner, where I had a stream of conversations with people whom many would classify as "sinners". Yet what I discovered was a great deal of goodness, love, and openness towards this particular man of the cloth's talking about Jesus.
They represented the hordes of people who know that their lives are a bit screwed up, who make no claim to being squeaky-clean Christians, but whose hearts are open to God, in all sorts of ways.
The Revd Dave Tomlinson is the Vicar of St Luke's, West Holloway, in London. His latest book is How to Be a Bad Christian - And a Better Human Being (Hodder & Stoughton, 2013).
— The Church Times
The Daily Mail reporting on Dave Tomlinson's involvement in Ronnie Bigg's funeral:
Was the floral V-sign on Ronnie Biggs's coffin evidence that the career criminal went to his grave unrepentant at the start of this month?
Some people thought so, but the trendy vicar who took the funeral insists it is none of our business and that Biggs and his fellow villains are the essence of Christianity.
The Rev Dave Tomlinson asserts that it is 'arrogant judgmentalism' to deplore Biggs's apparent lack of contrition. 'Constantly I hear people refer to Ronnie Biggs as unrepentant,' he writes in the Church Times. 'But how are we to know? That is God's call.'
Tomlinson, who also conducted the funeral of another Great Train robber, Bruce Reynolds, says he would be happy to be known as 'the villains' priest'.
After the funeral Tomlinson 'piled into a pub round the corner' with several of Biggs's mates.
He adds: 'What I discovered was a great deal of goodness, love and openness.'
— The Daily Mail
The Independent ran a two page spread on Dave taking the funeral of Ronnie Biggs:
"He was criticised for burying Ronnie Biggs but passing judgement is not Rev Dave Tomlinson's style. Tomlinson, author of a book 'How to be a Bad Christian', has embarked upon a mission to sweep up the disaffected hordes who would never set foot in a church by urging them to ditch religion ...in favour of a creed based on generosity and compassion. '
— Adam Sherwin, The Independent
If you're looking for labels, then Tomlinson is a liberal-leaning Anglican priest, with high church tastes (he wears vestments ) and a low church manner (he sometimes swears). He's most at home when chatting over a pint, and lately it's his ability to speak to ordinary people (who don't care much about labels) that's getting him noticed. — Justin Brierly, Christianity
[The Lady] said: 'Your book, your book, Dave. My Dad couldn't put it down. It's the first book he's ever read in his life.' That's pretty good really. He's the sort of person I wrote the book for. People who are not part of this religious conversation. — Stephen Tomkins interviews Dave Tomlinson, Reform Review
There's a lot of wisdom and insight in here, and I'm glad people like Dave continue kicking at closed doors and asking questions. It's a healthy sign in the Church. — Inspire Magazine