May 21, 2010

O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling by Jason Boyett

When this book came up for review I was excited to get the chance to read it. I'd never heard of the author and I'm not generally a reader of non-fiction, but lately I've become interested in the subject of apologetics.

I grew up in a Pentecostal Christian home. I never questioned any of what I was taught. I remember getting into a discussion my senior year of high school with a bewildered librarian who simply could not wrap her brain around my stalwart faith. I battled Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, ripping their dogma apart and sending them home with with their own faith in tatters. I did always feel strange about things like speaking in tongues and being slain in the spirit. Having extensively studied the scriptures I knew that only some were to have such gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-10), and it was clear there was a lot of play-acting going on. In my church I went against the flow, the lone solid stump below the swaying canopy of a windy forest. All that waving around and noise-making just felt wrong to me.

Then I started college, and that's where doubt really begin to set in, especially as my study of evolution coincided with my life-long pastor running off with the multi-million dollar church building fund. I wrote a bit about this time in my last review.

I can't really put my finger on any one thing that finally brought me back to the fold, but I didn't come back because my doubt had been dispelled; it never has been. So my attraction to apologetics is born of a desire to give credence to this way of life I've chosen.

I don't know why I always expect books to hold these huge answers for me. Books are written by people, not God, and people have puny little brains. Even the smartest of us can barely hope to do more than ask a really intelligent question, which inevitably leads to another question. No matter what science dreams up, there's never an absolute answer. Each question branches off into two or more new questions, and those questions get in a bitter argument over which question is more accurate. Blah! Yet I still expected Jason Boyett to answer my question of faith.

Instead, this book is an exploration of the question, which Boyett struggles with at least as much as I do. It is also a "coming out" of the question. In Christianity there's a lot of pressure to be perfect, and that means having perfect faith. Anyone admitting to less than that is either avoided or quarantined until he or she can be duly straightened out by pastoral counseling and a major laying-on-of-hands at the post-service altar call when everyone really just wants to get to Applebee's. So this was a very brave move for Boyett, especially as a respected writer in the Christian genre.

I respect that, and I'm glad I'm not alone. And I'm babbling on and on about myself because Boyett seemed interested in other tales of doubt, and he may read this and appreciate mine.

If you've read any of my reviews, you know I'm a bit of a Nazi when it comes to content, plot, organization, grammar, voice, and style. I probably go overboard in this area a lot of the time, but considering that getting a book published (by a real publisher) at all is akin to winning the Lotto, I think I have a right to be picky. Because somehow people that abuse sentence fragments and try to wrap two plots together that having nothing to do with one another keep getting in (*cough* Dan Brown *cough*).

Like I said, I'd never heard of Jason Boyett before this book was sent to me (free for the purpose of review, here is your requisite disclaimer). I wasn't halfway through the first page before I was struck by the thought that the book read like a blog. And the more I read, the more that thought stuck. This isn't really a compliment. In my opinion a blog has its place, and that place is on the InterWebs, not between the covers of a duly published book. Boyett's writing style is a strange combination between frat boy and scholar. His organizational strategy is just about non-existent. It seems as though he wrote this book the exact way I'm writing this completely unorganized review: by sitting down one day with a cup of coffee and just writing whatever popped into his head on the subject. It's not uninteresting, but it could have been done better. It should have been done better, the subject matter deserves it. We're talking about our eternal souls here, Jason!

When I finished the book I discovered that Boyett is indeed a blogger and has been for a few years. Having been there myself, I claim the right to be both sorry and snide. Or apologetic as the case may be.

If you are a Christian doubter yourself, or are outside the faith and curious as to how a doubter can remain a Christian, this book could be interesting for you. If you are short on time or have the attention span of a chipmunk, I suggest picking it up and just reading the last chapter. The last chapter says everything the rest of the book does, but seems to have been written with more forethought and weight than the preceding nine chapters.

I leave you with a quote from the last page of the book: "I'm a Christian, but I'm a big fat doubter. And I have to be honest: there are times -a growing number of times- when I'd rather be a doubter than have it all figured out."

And I also leave you with a question, which is how all things inevitably end. Why, Jason Boyett, does the little boy on the cover have band-aids on his nipples?

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