interview with doug pagitt, part 2

Hopefully you’ve heard about the Church Basement Roadshow that’s coming to a city near you this summer. It features three close and respected friends of mine – Tony Jones (whose new book The New Christians is a must-read), Mark Scandrette (whose beautifully-written 2007 release Soul Graffiti is being released in softcover), and Doug Pagitt (author of A Christianity Worth Believing).
Here’s the first part of a brief interview with Doug … with a few comments of my own at the end.
Brian: Tell me the story behind the book – what motivated you to write it?
Doug: This book was motivated by my impulse as an evangelist – I hope the book is as helpful for those who see themselves outside the faith as inside. I entered into Christianity as a teen and immediately wanted to extend that same invitation to most everyone I met. Part of that invitation was to help people who knew nothing of Christianity (people like me) to learn of it.
But I quickly realized that there were many people who had learned versions of the faith that were actually getting in the way of them living the kind of integrated Christian life they wanted. A faith where their practices could have content partners that were suitable for a life-time relationship. I met many people who would need to use all kinds of caveats around the content of their faith when talking about it – “Well, I know that such and such is true, but …

“Well, I know that such and such is true, but in my experience…”
I was rarely satisfied with this arrangement and started trying to give my understanding of the content of the faith that could go along with the benefits that come from living as follower of Jesus. It never made sense to me that someone would have to suspend their belief in order to stay faithful. But I saw it happening all the time. So this book is my attempt to recognize the places where the versions of faith that were well-suited for one period of time have become a burden on our time.
But mostly I wanted to create an invitation into a a faith that was hope-filled and not afraid. Not afraid of questions or answers, no matter where they led. I felt the need to break the “no-talk” rules that had been established to protect “orthodoxies” that were really nothing more than other people’s best attempts to tell the story as they saw it. And frankly, I wanted to honor that effort by making my own contribution.
I think the sub-title fits my intention really well. It is intentionally long – I like the idea that there is much to say – a Hope-filled, Open-armed- Alive-and-Well Faith for the Left Out, Left Behind and Let Down in us all.
Comments by Brian: Several things strike me about Doug’s reply.
1. The fact that his primal impulse is as an evangelist – this resonates with my work as well. So many of us feel, at heart, that the good news of Jesus is exactly what the world needs, and we’re seeking to make the new wine available in new wineskins. With all the controversy over the term “E(e)vangelical,” I think Doug represents a truly evangelical spirit.
2. The word “versions.” Many people don’t realize that what they call “Christianity” is actually a version of Christianity – a good version (for them), no doubt, but not the only version by any means.
3. The theme of fear. The “no-talk” rules have a great deal of power in many religious communities, and those in power in those groups use fear – sometimes quite unconsciously – to keep people from thinking outside the lines they draw.
4. The theme of hope. It’s safe to say that in our political and religious lives, leaders tend to line up as those who lead by primarily by fear and those who lead primarily by hope.
5. The irenic tone. Doug isn’t saying, “All these people in the past got it wrong, and I’m finally getting it right.” He’s saying, “People in the past made their best attempts to articulate and live the story and message of Jesus Christ, and I’m following their example by making my best attempt as well. We’re all in this together.”