Friday, February 15, 2013
Faith, Doubt and Other Lines I've Crossed: Walking with the Unknown God
Jericho Books, 2013
192 pages Spiritual
Jay Bakker continues his faith journey with his new book, Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I've Crossed. I read his book Fall to Grace in 2011 and found it to be refreshingly honest and forthright. I feel the same about this book, although this one reads more like Bakker's sermons than the last book did.
The three themes he dwells on in Faith, Doubt are uncertainty, inclusion, and grace. Grace was the theme of Fall to Grace, of course, and he continues to explore that theme while also expressing his own uncertainty about the certainty of faith.
He emphasizes exclusion and inclusion extensively; he is known for his gay rights advocacy. Bakker continues to fight against his Pentecostal background with its exclusionary atmosphere and literal acceptance of the Bible. He says, "The Bible isn't the place for answers. If we look to it for answers, we are expecting what it cannot deliver." The Bible is a story of an evolving faith, and we are supposed to evolve in our faith as well. Now I would suppose that might be heretical to some, but for liberal Christian me, it sounds rational and forward thinking.
He also expresses the doubts that come with an evolving faith, and I think that the passages in the book about doubt are probably Bakker at his strongest. I can just see a questioner coming to one of Bakker's sermons at the bar where he preaches on Sunday afternoon. Here is tattooed Bakker telling the skeptic, "You think you've got doubts? Well let me tell you--I've got doubts!" He is telling his parishioners and his readers that doubt is part of what makes us Christian. Certainty is the enemy and the concept of hell that keeps people in rigid conformity is also the enemy. "When people fail or make mistakes, we distance ourselves from them instead of restoring them. We're so reactionary. We don't seek the lost sheep--we thank God that we aren't like them, and we make sure they don't lead any other sheep astray. This is exactly the attitude that Jesus reacted against with the religious leaders of his day."
Bakker evokes the great 20th century theologian, Paul Tillich several times in his book, but he also quotes current movies, music and other aspects of popular culture as he seeks to be relevant to a new generation and a new world. My mainline, slow-moving denomination is also seeking to be relevant to a new generation and a new world. It is much easier for "one punk under God" to move ahead than it is for an unwieldy mainstream denomination to do the same. I stick with my denomination because it is trying to change and evolve. We live in a post-Christian age, and if we are to survive as Christians, we must listen to the voices of change and not be reluctant to the change that is coming.
There is an excellent review of the book in the March Sojourners magazine. The author says "In this honest, searching, and ultimately uplifting book, Bakker pulls doubt out of the shadows where many believers wrestle with it on their own and instead presents it as a reality that Christian communities can and should address together."
Let the nay-sayers fuss and fume about potential heresies they hear coming out of Bakker's mouth. I for one will read him for what he is--a preacher who is willing to step out and testify about a sustaining faith that is changing, growing, and evolving. He says, "I've found peace thinking that faith is bigger than I used to allow it to be. I've found peace in the mystery, peace as the black and white fade into gray."
Jay Bakker is the author of two other books: Son of a Preacher Man: My Search for Grace in the Shadows and Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self & Society. There is also a documentary about him: One Punk Under God. I watched it on Netflix.
His website is: jaybakker.com
The review in the March Sojourner's magazine: http://sojo.net/magazine/2013/03/uncertaintys-graces
You might also want to check out my posting about Lillian Daniel's recent book, When Spiritual But Not Religious is not Enough. Or, you will probably also be interested in Rob Bell's book, Love Wins.