One of the paradoxes of our age seems to be that although we place a great emphasis on authenticity (“just be yourself”), we’ve also created endless opportunities to hyper-manage our own image through the likes of social media, etc. This state of affairs makes a resource like Faker really valuable. It’s a very readable little book offering a refreshing and practical invitation to reject a life of “faking it,” for the ‘real reality’ that knowing Jesus brings. Author Nicholas McDonald, the man behind the website Scribblepreach.com, begins like this:

“Have you ever felt a faker? I have. I’ve felt like no one in the world knew who I was. I’ve felt like I had to be someone I’m not. I’ve felt like, no matter who I was, no one would care… I’ve felt like I was living with a mask. Maybe you’ve looked around your work or school and thought: ‘What are we all doing? Why are we all trying to impress each other? Why can’t anyone accept me for who I am?’

fake_medium3d.n7bly6fo4uoa7gzkleoznqwuuyqyfup4Faker is humorously laced with McDonald’s own story, including typically teenage struggles (as well as present battles), but the heart of his book sees him explain and apply the short parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, which Jesus tells in Luke 18:9-14. His conviction is that much ‘faking it’ is rooted in both fear and self-righteousness, and it is only an encounter with Jesus that confronts these.

Every chapter begins with a quotation from a contemporary film or book, from Tony Stark in Iron Man through to Gaga and The Hunger Games, with McDonald illustrating how the issues the parable raises are weaved into our culture and world. The clean font and blog-style paragraphing, along with quirky little line drawings by André Parker all mean Faker is a pleasant and easy read. The style and tone means McDonald is definitely writing for a ‘youthful’ reader, but that could feasibly be anyone from 14-30, and even beyond that.

However, don’t read any of that as suggesting Faker is ‘light’. McDonald isn’t afraid to unpack concepts that he considers critical to understanding Jesus’ parable, even when they aren’t necessarily everyday concepts. He shows why the tax collector’s cry for “mercy” is actually a plea for propitiation, and what that word means anyway (and why it matters)! He reflects on why a God of love is not at odds with a God of holiness, and how that can be. He’s a clear and engaging teacher who can tell a good yarn, and evidently he has a real passion for seeing young people engage with the gospel in such a way that its embedded into everyday issues and currents.

If you’re looking for a short but stimulating summer read, something to give to a young friend or relative, or even something for a camp bookstall, Faker is a worthy choice. It’s published by the Good Book Company, and available from their website, as well as most book retailers.

Full disclosure: The author sent me a copy of the book for free, but I hope this is still a fair and honest review!

Here are a few lines that stood out:

“It’s pretty tough to love God or anyone when you’re afraid they won’t approve of you.”

– “Being a faker is ugly. Not only does it cause us to live on an emotional roller-coaster, it also causes us to look down on others when their masks aren’t as pretty as ours.”

“Let me ask you: is your religion making you real, or fake.”

– “According to Scripture, simply looking in the mirror and saying ‘I’m great’ isn’t going to work. We don’t need more of our opinion – we need less of it!”

“See, the God of the Bible is a God I wouldn’t have made up. He’s a God who’s over me, not a god who’s under my thumb. He’s a God who confronts me about my claim to the throne of my life.”

– “If we want to give up our masks, we need to swap stories. We need to forget the silly story about our fame, and soak ourselves in the true story of Jesus.”

Self-righteousness is never satisfying righteousness.”

– “It’s a bit like the Pharisee stepped into God’s throne room to build an altar to himself.”