"Schizophrenic Christians in search of orthodoxy."I'm usually not a fan of memoirs written by people still in their twenties. Maybe this is based on an unfair generalization, but let's face it--two decades and change makes for a pretty measely retrospective. It also doesn't give you much of an opportunity to write from the reflective, wizened perspective that comes only from years and years of seeing how your life actually turned out.
Yet it seems that these stories of life-in-process are becoming ever more popular in the publishing world, particularly in the religious press. There's Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God, which she wrote before she reached a quarter of a century. And Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, who is supposedly "the male Anne Lamott." (Not if you ask me, though.)
Patton Dodd is the latest twentysomething memoirist, but at least he's blunt about his limited life experience, given his new book's title: it's called My Faith So Far. While I hope this doesn't mean he'll be giving us an update every ten years ("My Faith Even Farther: Now With Cute Anecdotes About My Teenaged Offspring"), I'm interested in Patton's book, mainly because he appears to be the poster child for expatriates like me.
I first heard about Patton Dodd years ago, because of my friendship with Cameron Strang, now the all-powerful and omniscient CEO of Relevant magazine. Cameron and Patton went to Oral Roberts University together, and in the initial planning stages for Relevant, Patton's name came up as an excellent writer who might be interested in working with the publication in some capacity.
I don't think that connection ever materialized (and my connection to Relevant has since dissolved--which is one of those proverbial whole 'nother stories), but Cameron's enthusiasm for Patton's writing stuck with me. I've spotted Patton's byline here and there over the years, but most frequently as a contributing editor for Killing the Buddha. (If you are reading this blog, you should also be reading KtB. It's written in part for "people made anxious by churches." I don't know if that describes you, but personally, most churches give me overhead-projector-induced anxiety attacks. I wish I was kidding about this. I know I've found a church I can live with when I can actually breathe there--for me this usually means, as a commentor said in an entry below, "less sermon, more sacrament.")
But I digress. So, Patton Dodd has written this book, and everything's come full circle because I heard about it from Relevant's weekly e-newsletter. I wish I could link to the interview, but they don't archive them online. So here, simply, is the question that I thought summed things up rather nicely:
RM: So where are you now? How would you "label" your beliefs after all this?This certainly isn't anything profound, but there is a certain satisfying virtue in reading something that explicitly states how one already feels. Patton is one twentysomething writer I'll be giving a chance. Has anyone else read his book yet?
PD: This will come as no surprise to anyone who is at all in touch with trends among young religious people, but at the moment I'd say I'm a schizophrenic Christian in search of orthodoxy. I'm an evangelical by virtue of my past and the basic structures of my belief, but I'm not entirely comfortable there. As the book makes clear, I'm not comfortable rejecting it either. I'm middled.