I’ve been a fan of Jason Boyett’s blog and writings for a while, so it was definitely a privilege to get a spot on the blog tour for his newest book O Me of Little Faith. Just as I expected, it’s different from anything he’s written before, but in a very good way. Read on for my take on the book, and come back Wednesday for an interview with the author!
Jason Boyett, an established blogger and author of several books (most notably the historical and snarky Pocket Guide series), isn’t new to the writing world by any means. But there’s always room for firsts, and O Me of Little Faith, his first memoir, turns from the history of saints and the Bible to the history of himself, and goes straight to the heart of his own spiritual doubt as he does it.
If it sounds like a heavy topic for a first memoir, you’re right. The Introduction gets the apologies and warnings out of the way: “if you are rock-steady in your faith and have no interest in reading a book about doubt, then by all means, put this one down… Firm faith is a gift. I’m happy for you — I wish I could be you.” (p. 13) And it’s a good thing too, because by the end of the first chapter, he voices the toughest question of all, “Does God even exist?”
This is a hard book to read. It’s raw and asks the questions that many Christians fear to address (out loud anyway), forces you to examine your beliefs, wrestle a bit. As I read it, I saw some of myself in the words, and I suspect many who are willing to pick up a book on doubt in the first place will see themselves as well. From the annoying quirks of evangelical culture that trigger cynicism to the bigger questions of science and history, he lays out his fears and doubts and hang-ups, exposes them to the light, and — and this is potentially the most frustrating part — doesn’t find easy answers.
But don’t think it’s all doom and gloom and that you’re going to turn into an atheist if you read this. Not at all. Sure, much is left unresolved, but all these questions give way to a more hopeful one: “Is faith simply what remains when God is absent?” (p. 100)
Jason recounts the things that keep him going God feels distant and all of Christianity looks like a joke, such as finding hope in the revolutionary person of Jesus and security in the tradition of liturgical prayers. The difference is choosing belief in the face of questions: “I try to keep pedaling, even when I’m doubting. I keep living as a committed Christian, even when I don’t feel like one.” (p. 190) This is as close as O Me of Little Faith comes to an answer to the problem of doubt, but it’s a spark of hope against the odds.
Of course, along with the tough candor, there’s plenty of Jason’s signature humor too. This is definitely a darker, more serious approach than his other books, but take heart — there are always turtles, French Daredevils, and awesome quirky footnotes to brighten the mood. There’s also the best description of Soren Kierkegaard ever: “If he were still kicking around today, he would have black-painted fingernails, deliberately unkempt hair, and a heavy rotation of The Smiths on his iPod.” (p. 171) (See? Philosophy can be fun.)
The warning holds true: this is not a book for the strong of faith yet faint of heart. This is not a book for those who don’t want their convictions rattled a little. I would still suggest you read it anyway, with an open heart, if only to better understand the darkness many fellow believers walk through. It’s not a pretty place, but it’s a very real one.
To those who find the road of faith full of twists and potholes, Jason is a friendly traveling companion. He speaks to the tension of hope and cynicism with compassion, honesty, kindness, and grace. O Me of Little Faith is both tough and refreshing, and a very rewarding read wherever you are on the journey.
Review copy provided by Zondervan.
Come back Wednesday for an interview with Jason Boyett, a conversation about memoir writing, doubt, and the mysterious disappearance of @FakeJasonBoyett.