Broken-down Poetry: O Me of Little Faith


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Monday, May 3, 2010

O Me of Little Faith

A review and commentary on Jason Boyett's new book.


Context: I've been embracing this thing called doubt since last November. I could tell you the specific date, if I looked it up. It was that Saturday Jacque came to visit me at school, the first time we hung out since she stopped believing in God.

I didn't talk to her about it; I wonder if she even knows about my doubt.


Jason Boyett makes me feel a little better about myself. Doubt is still very new to me. Like I said: November. For someone who's been annoyingly sure about everything pertaining to faith, a few months is not a long time.

Jason starts his book by saying: "I am a Christian." (Me too.) "I have been a Christian most of my life." (Me too.) "But there are times--a growing number of times, to be honest--when I'm not entirely sure I believe in God."

Me too.

I didn't have to face my doubt back in November, because I was crushing on a boy, and when you're crushing on a boy, there are more important things to worry about than your faith, like whether or not that boy likes you back. He didn't like me back. In December I had to face my doubt.

Jason says that doubt is something we need to walk alongside. (Hey, Doubt, can we be friends?) It's not to be pushed down or reasoned away. It's something you need to live out.  He says it's okay to ask questions because John the Baptist doubted ("Are you the One who was to come?") and so did Thomas ("Unless I see ... I will not believe it."). He needed proof.

I feel like Gideon, who even after God made the fleece wet with dew and the ground dry, I ask him to make the fleece dry instead. Prove yourself to me, God, I say. Sometimes he does. Sometimes he seems vague and aloof.

In December, when the crush was gone and all I had was myself and my doubt, I wrote a creative essay about how the God I believed in was dead. It ended with a stream of cusswords I'd never say in real life. It made me feel better, though, to get it out in the open. In the same way, doubt is better dealt with in community. It's not something that we should hide. We shouldn't be afraid to expose our weaknesses.

Jason writes:
My impulse here is to write "Owning your doubt means refusing to pretend." Don't pretend to be better than you are. Don't pretend to be smarter than you are. Don't pretend to be more spiritual than you are. Don't pretend to have it together when you don't. Don't pretend to have all the answers when you don't. Don't pretend to worship when you don't feel like it. Don't pretend.
But I can't write that in good conscience, because I still pretend. A lot. Too much. (pp. 157-158) 
The few months I've wrestled with doubt have been marked with isolation and cynicism - especially at a Christian school. I still talked to my friends about my doubts, but I didn't feel like they really got it. I felt like they just saw me as one of those baby Christians who's just figuring things out.

For me, writing it out helps, like with my creative essay. Talking it out helps too, but it's harder. It's hard admitting to others your doubts. I remember Jacque was afraid to tell me when she started doubting God, because she thought I'd try to Four-Spiritual-Laws her back to salvation. (I didn't.)


Doubt isn't very fun to talk about. It isn't much fun to read about either - not typically. But Jason keeps his book light and humorous. He gets into the deep stuff (he quotes a lot of Latin phrases) but he adds his signature subtle humor by frequent use of footnotes.*

And if this were a style critique, I'd say Jason effectively uses rhetorical questions to bolster his theme of doubt. This also keeps the writer (Jason) from sounding elitist or arrogant. The reader thinks hey, this guy's got a lot of questions too! I can trust him!

If this were my Sojourn column, I'd tell you that you should buy the book just because Jason is a stellar human being. If this were a cannarf review, I'd give it a +5. If this were my blog - and it is - I'd direct you to Jason's blog because he does a better job of promoting himself than I.

Also, you should go buy his book.

* footnote. Yeah, I know, I'm clever with this whole footnote thing. Right after I tell you about Jason's use of footnotes, I add my own. 
But one thing that's really attractive about this book is its size. I'm not the first one to comment on this either (ahem, Katie McCollister). It's small enough to keep your hands from cramping, but the print is still large enough to read without squinting. Kudos to Zondervan on this one.


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