Monday, April 26, 2010

Jason Boyett Interview: O Me of Little Faith

Jason Boyett is a writer, speaker, marketing professional, and the author of Pocket Guide to the Afterlife, Pocket Guide to the Bible, and several other books. He has appeared on the History Channel and National Geographic Channel and written for a variety of publications.

In O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling, Boyett brings you a transparent and personal account of his own of struggles with doubts and unbelief in living out his faith. With humor and frankness, he uses personal anecdotes and a fresh look at Scripture to explore the realities of pursuing Christ through a field of doubt.

CPYU: We have never met. Is that a picture of you on the cover?

JB:
No. The little guy on the cover is a kid named Drew who lives in Michigan. That photo was taken a couple of years ago for an ad campaign promoting the Grand Rapids Marathon. He was six years old at the time. When the Zondervan art department came across the photo, everyone knew instantly that they'd found the cover of my book. Drew is in 2nd grade now, and he thinks it's pretty cool to be the face of O Me of Little Faith.

CPYU: What motivated you to write O Me of Little Faith?

JB:
I have been dealing with spiritual doubt for most of my adult life, but until a couple of years ago that struggle had been completely private. I kept it hidden inside because I didn't feel like my uncertainty was something I could admit in my church or among my family and friends. I pretended to have it all together. But then I got tired of pretending. As I became more honest about these questions, I discovered that a lot of other people have the same kinds of questions and doubt -- but we lack a safe place to talk about them. My hope with the book wasn't to "fix" a person's doubt or give them the answers to their questions, but rather to tell my story, explain how I've maintained my faith despite persistent doubts, and let them know they're not alone. Doubt can be lonely. I wanted to reach across the loneliness -- mine and theirs -- and offer the kind of encouragement that comes from shared experience.

CPYU: There have been a few books written recently about how doubt relates to faith. Why do you think reconciling doubt and faith is such a popular theme right now?

JB:
We're living in a fascinating time in human history. People have more options than ever in regard to spiritual expression. Due to the Internet and entertainment industry, the world has gotten smaller -- we're exposed to far more religious traditions than previous generations. Advances in medicine and science continue to provide explanations for things that used to be mysteries. We're seeing major failures of the Church, from the Roman Catholic abuse scandals to public sex scandals among evangelical leaders and religious politicians. All of these things add up to a lot of uncertainty. If you're paying attention at all, you're going to be confronted with some big questions -- and some of those questions don't have easy answers. Doubt is what remains when the answers aren't always satisfying. I think, in this global religious climate, believers are going to have to learn how to handle these doubts when they show up. You can't avoid uncertainty altogether, but can you still follow Christ despite it? Can the presence of doubt actually deepen your faith rather than damage it? I believe the answer to those questions is YES, and that's partly why I wrote the book. In our culture, doubt is inevitable. But doubt doesn't have to paralyze you. It works alongside your faith, and ultimately can make it stronger.

CPYU: Many of our readers are youth pastors and parents of teens. What advice would you give them about nurturing faith in young people, especially as it relates to doubt?

JB:
We need to pull down doubt from the scary pedestal our culture has placed it on. Doubters of all ages hide their uncertainty because we're afraid of what it looks like -- that you'll hear our honest questions and come to the conclusion that we're falling away, or about to abandon our faith. Help us realize that we're human, so it's perfectly OK to have questions about the divine, or the Bible, or the history of our faith tradition. Help us understand that doubt doesn't have to cancel out faith, but instead is essential to faith because faith requires uncertainty...or else it's not faith. (Faith without doubt isn't faith -- it's knowledge.) But most importantly, live out Jude 22 with us. "Be merciful to those who doubt." We need grace, understanding, companionship, and the freedom to ask hard questions in a safe place. Give us opportunities to serve and take action as we strive to follow Jesus, even if the following sometimes gets ahead of the belief. But don't react to our questions with judgment and fear. That kind of response is what makes us bury our doubts in the first place.

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MORE FROM CPYU ON FAITH AND DOUBT:

Interview
: David Dark on The Sacredness of Questioning Everything