Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Review and Giveaway: O Me of Little Faith by Jason Boyett

Ever since reading Rachel Held Evans's review of O Me of Little Faith by Jason Boyett, I've been looking forward to reading this book. Generally when I build something up in my mind like this, it rarely goes as well as I would hope. I'm so happy that this time, the book completely lived up to the hype in my mind!

I knew I was going to enjoy reading this book right from the introduction. When a book starts off asking questions like:

  • What if I had been born into another culture and practiced another religion with complete devotion, would God still allow me to be tortured for eternity in hell? Even though I was pursuing him, but through the wrong religious system? (pg. 19)
  • If some Christians really are able to heal people, why are they putting on big conferences -- and making people come to them -- rather than hanging out in cancer wards or visiting the sick? (pg. 18)
  • Do I have to completely disregard scientific ideas like the theory of evolution or the incredible age of the universe in order to maintain my belief in the authority of the Bible? (pg. 17)
  • If the Bible is supposed to be completely inspired by God, why does it seem to have mistakes and factual contradictions in it? And why do the typical Christian explanations of those contradictions always seem so lame? (pg. 17)
These are questions I've asked myself at times (not to mention the biggie -- am I even sure God really exists?), and it's always reassuring to know that you're not the only person who applies the label Christian to yourself while still asking these things.

In chapter 1, Boyett simply outlines his status as a doubter. Where he and the faith-full tend to part ways. Again, I felt like I could really relate to a lot of this chapter. 

In chapter 2, he uses the Hawking story of "turtles all the way down" and says that basically you have two choices for your "base turtle." One that says God (or at least a god) exists and one that says he does not. He discusses several arguments for the existence of God and also discusses where those arguments fall apart. He also shares his hopes for the existence of God, which was one of the most moving passages in the book. 

Chapter 3 outlines his history of doubt, from doubting that he was really saved when he was young to doubts of a more fundamental sort as he aged. My experience is definitely not like his, so I didn't relate to this as well, but I do remember doubts emerging during my confirmation years (seventh and eighth grade) from questions about the doctrine of our particular church to things like, "How can we be sure that we're following the right religion?" so it was again comforting to know that for some of us, doubt is a long-time bed-fellow. 

In Chapter 4, the author shares some of the stories where he knows that he experienced God's presence and offers some explanations as to why he believes this to be true. He also for the first time makes a statement that was my take-away from the book, "If God were always visible...then faith wouldn't be necessary. Commitment wouldn't be necessary either. It would be too easy." (pg. 99) (Of course, this is also the chapter where he will deeply offend all WVU fans, by calling our school "the University of West Virginia" on page 94. As the wife of a WVU student, the sister of a WVU grad and the daughter in law of another WVU grad and who goes to church that was started by someone who built the largest church in WV from WVU, I'm begging you Jason, please fix this GRAVE error in future editions!)

Chapter 5 discusses prayer. He talks about how he had misused prayer in the past, how that affected his prayer life, and how he has chosen to deal with that through the use of the Book of Common Prayer. I will say that I think that our history plays a large part in this. Having grown up in a faith tradition that used something similar, it makes it difficult for me to relate to this as a go-to solution for the "problem" of prayer. But he certainly makes some compelling arguments in favor of this choice.

Chapter 6 was probably my favorite chapter in that he discusses some of the contexts for doubt. He identifies different situations that can cause doubt and how these play into just how powerful our doubts can be. Despite there not really being anything "new" in this chapter, Boyett really just laid it out in a way that made sense for me.

Chapters 7 & 8 further develop the idea that Boyett presents in Chapter 4, the idea that faith and doubt are inextricably linked. Again, even though these ideas aren't unique to this book, they really came alive for me in a new way while reading this. When you feel like you should be "fixed" from your doubts, it's incredibly refreshing to read something that shows how faith may only be called faith if doubt is present.

In Chapter 9, Boyett offers us a list of things (based largely out of the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew) that he does believe with certainty. He talks about how sometimes we need to act without the faith to back it up, and how that in itself is a step of faith (or rather a step TO faith).

And in Chapter 10, Boyett does not bring it all home. Which is what I loved most about this book, to be honest. I want my fiction to have a resolution, but really, if you're a skeptic and a doubter, there's rarely any major resolution in the area of faith. There will probably be moments of clarity and certainty, but in general, we tend to live in a state that is primarily unresolved. And Boyett acknowledges that he's okay with that. Which can give the reader permission to feel the same.

Overall, this was really just a great book. And while you can't tell from my review, the whole thing is approached with great humor and gentleness. There were several laugh out loud moments and I read more than one passage aloud to my husband. Jason Boyett's writing style is a great blend of informative and entertaining.

Certainly (ha!), if you know someone who is a doubter or if you are a doubter yourself, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. It's a really great look at some of the most common thoughts that doubters have and it also offers ideas on how to address those doubts. I found it to be both thought-provoking and also practical, which is really something special in my mind.


Now for the give-away! I wasn't actually planning on giving away a copy of this book, but it was just really something special to me and I found a gift card to Barnes & Noble I didn't remember having, so I'm definitely sharing this with one lucky reader (who I hope will pass it on as well!).

There are several ways to enter, but you will need to make a separate post for each entry. And you must do #1 in order to qualify at all. Thanks! I'll leave the contest open for one week, so be sure to check back next Wednesday (around noon or so Eastern) to see who wins the book!

  1. Leave a comment here telling me something about doubt. Your own experiences with it, people in your life who have experienced it, your feelings about it, the name of a book or message or blog that helped you through -- whatever. Just something about doubt.
  2. Follow this blog either through Google or Networked Blogs on Facebook. If you already follow, that counts, just be sure to let me know!
  3. Post the following on Twitter (be sure to include the hashtag), or you can follow me and retweet it: Review and give-away of O Me of Little Faith by @jasonboyett #bigmamaomolf
  4. Post a link to this on your blog or Facebook page.
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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
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