Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review: O Me of Little Faith

First of all, how cute is this cover? I probably wouldn't have picked this one out were it not for the cover. I'm really torn over my review for this one. I wouldn't necessarily describe it as a memoir, but more as a collection of the authors thoughts and feelings about his faith - or lack thereof. He brings up doubt as a potentially taboo topic in the church and asks some hard questions about the relationship of science to religion and describes his struggles in finding a way to trust God while keeping his intellectual integrity.

As far as the writing is concerned, the book is flawless. I love the author's voice and I've laughed out loud several times. He has great, funny stories and his style is easy to read. I have however, struggled with this one. The author did not have a positive experience with the church, the Southern Baptist church in particular, growing up. I find him hard to relate to in this area because I grew up in the Southern Baptist church as well, but had only positive experiences. Because I feel like "conservative", "evangelical" and "right-wing" have all become derogatory labels (and I consider all them applicable descriptions of myself), I found myself feeling very defensive as I read the book. However, I think that makes it all the more important for me to hear the author's point of view and determine what truly bothers me: the author's theology or his analysis of my heritage. Be forewarned, I am about to write a book-length post on my theological differences with this book. I recommend it because the writing is fantastic, and the book itself is funny and challenging, but before I can recommend it, I have to give my disclaimer that there are a lot of theological assumptions that I strongly disagree with.

I think I've determined that my only major issue with the book is the over-simplification of Scripture and of conservative Christianity. For example, in one chapter the author describes his problems reading the book of Job, specifically the part where God gives Satan permission to test Job. The author believes that this shows that God is in charge of Satan, therefore, Satan must be on God's side, therefore the Bible contradicts itself. In his analysis it can't be both ways. But just because my boss at work tells me what to do and I obey doesn't mean we are always on the same side. It's an issue of authority.

The entire issue of faith itself is treated the same way. In the author's opinion, a person's response to doubt is to either hide your head in the sand or become an atheist/agnostic. I've struggled with doubts about my salvation, much like the author has. But I think that faith is a choice, not a feeling. So I can feel like I'm not saved/God doesn't exist/God isn't loving/etc and choose with my mind to believe anyway. I really want to mail the author a copy of Faith Is Not A Feeling by Ney Bailey. That book revolutionized the way I think about faith and how it isn't an emotional response, it's a choice that you make. You can always choose to believe despite what your emotions are saying - like the father in Mark 9:24 who tells Jesus "I do believe; help my unbelief". It's something I've prayed over and over - and I don't think it's ignoring the issue or putting my head in the sand.

Finally, I feel like I have to point out that I completely disagree with the author's opinion that people overstate coincidence in the name of God. He mentions people who feel like God speaks to them every day in a tone of disbelief, but I know those people. He mentions worship songs that are so trite that God wouldn't want to claim them - I can't get on board with that. He talks about how feeling God's presence is an emotional response to music in worship many times - so what if it is? If a group of people are in the room loving Jesus and praising him, even if the lyrics are stupid and the worship leader is "traditional", does that really change the fact that I'm worshipping? I say no.

So anyway, go read the book and when you have, tell me what you think. I'd love to hear other people's opinions of the theological questions raised as well as the author's style and sense of humor. Even if I don't agree with some of the author's ideas, I think this is a great book to use in starting a discussion on topics that are very relevant for the church today and that must be addressed by all of us conservative, evangelical, right-wingers if we want to be taken seriously on an intellectual and cultural level.
Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of this book.
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  1. I may have to pick this one up. I agree with each of your points entirely, and it does frustrate me when people write off the relationship with Christ in the way he seems to. But it still seems like it would be worth a read.

  2. I say definitely pick it up! It was a frustrating read, but I also feel like it really helped me grow as well. It gave me practice in reading an opinion outside of my comfort zone and also caused me to really think about why I believe certain things and how I would counter some of the author's arguments. It's one that I know will be on my mind for a while.

  3. I definately want to check this out next time I'm at the bookstore.

    Thank you for writing about books you don't agree with 100%.