Review: Flags Out Front

Douglas Wilson, Canon Press, 2018, 2016 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Summary: a satirical novel mocking the worst of evangelicalism to show all things rest beneath Christ’s feet

This book brims with current and vital themes in the church: courage under fire; weaponized apologies; strong, chivalrous masculinity; talented, clever femininity; the leprous effects of spineless Christianity; vapid feminism; Islam and her fruit; theological liberalism.

Wilson packages all this in a funny little novel, sprinkles in some romance, rebukes us for our fear and urges us to fight! The Christian flag story is just a platform for Wilson to show that Christ should reign at home, at school, and in the public square.

Pros: Wilson picks the right people to be the heroes. Hollywood loves carrying Jezebel and Ahab away on their shoulders. Not Wilson. I want my sons to be like the college kid Trevor (tough, competitive, and engaged to be married) and my wife to stay like Maria (savvy, beautiful, manager extraordinaire). And I want to be like Dr. Tom: humble and courageous. Wilson knows who the good guys are. These are the ones we’re to imitate (1Cor. 11:1).

Second, Wilson’s insight is magnificent. On every other page I paused and thought. That’s so true. I never thought of that before. You know–he’s right! Wilson wants his readers to swallow the Christian worldview. But it doesn’t need to taste bad. His colorful, humorous vocal makes it go down easy.

Third, Wilson sheds light on Satan’s strategies and implores Christians not to fall for the same thing over and over again. “If your left tackle is a weenie, they are going to find that out right away, and run their plays there all night long” (p. 96).

Cons: The book started off a bit slow. I skipped ahead and read the last chapter. Then I went back. Wilson hits his groove about chapter four or five and sprints to the end. Don’t quit too early. Here’s one caution. Encourage your teens to read this book even though Wilson writes with an edge that may surprise you. He uses one curse word but not gratuitously. Rather, he employs it the way a Western movie uses a black hat. His portraits of feminists are accurate but vivid  (“Her outfit was like a sale at Macy’s–forty percent off”).

Conclusion: This beautiful, little parody is filled with pretty secretaries (the kind you want your sons to marry), gung-ho college students (the kind you want your sons to be), and spineless evangelicals (the kind you want your sons to spurn). I added dessert in morning family worship by summarizing Flags for about fifteen minutes. What a teaching tool. The kids (and mother) all said: “Don’t stop!”

Excerpt:

  1. “Well, yes. I do believe in a certain form of American exceptionalism. James Madison and the others wrote a Constitution that clearly didn’t trust Americans at all. That really was exceptional. But now that we have started to believe in our own uniqueness…well, that’s not exceptional at all. Everybody has done that, from the Babylonians on down” (p. 101).

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