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Faith, Interrupted [Kindle Edition]

Eric Lax
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Faith, Interrupted is a profoundly personal, deeply felt exploration of the mystery of faith—having it, losing it, hoping for its return.

The son of an Episcopal priest, Eric Lax develops in his youth a deep religious attachment and an acute moral compass—one that he is willing to go to prison for when it leads him to resist military service in Vietnam. His faith abides until, in his mid-thirties, he begins to question the unquestionable: the role of God in his life. In response, Lax engages with the father who inspired him and with his best friend, a Vietnam War hero turned priest. Their ongoing and illuminating dialogues, full of wisdom and insight, reveal much about three men who approach God, duty, and war in vastly different ways. Lax provides an unusual and refreshing perspective, examining religious conviction sympathetically from both sides as one who has lost his faith but still respects it.




From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Questions for Eric Lax on Faith, Interrupted

Q: Amid the current battles over faith and religion, there appears to be a silent majority of people who don’t align themselves either with the fundamentalists or the atheists, who don’t know quite what to believe about their faith. Your book gives a reasoned and passionate voice to this group; was that your intention?
A: It certainly was my hope. So many books about faith--and many written by really intelligent people--take a single line: “You’re crazy if you have faith” or, “You’re crazy if you don’t have faith.” I marvel at their surety. I’ve always experienced faith as a mystery, when I had it, and now that I don’t. But I have no assurance that I’m right in my thinking or that I’m even close to an answer about belief. I just know in retrospect how wonderful it was to have faith, and that I can’t fake having it when it’s not there. I suspect there are many people with my dilemma, and I hope that my experience will be useful to them as they struggle with their own changing faith, or its loss. And I hope as well that people of faith who read this will be understanding of friends who grapple with belief.

Q: You are perhaps best known for your books on film stars like Woody Allen and Humphrey Bogart. What made you want to write your own story? And why now?
A: I’ve also written about life on a bone marrow transplantation ward, and the development of penicillin, so I like a lot of different topics. I’ve been thinking about this book for at least 10 years. I’ve long been curious about how people come to faith, how they keep it or lose it, and how they use it for good or ill. An omnibus book about faith didn’t appeal to me (nor do I have the scholarship to write one). As I thought more about the subject, I realized that my own story, intertwined with those of my father, an Episcopal priest, and my college roommate George Packard, whose youthful faith mirrored my own, might be a way to examine the subject in a way that would be enjoyable for me to write and also draw readers into a story that would prompt them to consider their own faith as well. As for why write it now, I’m at a point in life--my mid-sixties--where if you aren’t thinking about God and faith and what happens next, you’re not paying attention. As there are no definite answers to these questions, I knew the book had to be short.

Q: As you mentioned, there are two men whose stories are closely tied to your own faith journey, the first being your father. What kind of influence did your father have on you when you were growing up?
A: My father was a monumental influence on me. He was very funny, not the first thing you associate with a priest, and he had a great understanding of and sympathy for human nature. So although he was very devoted in his faith, he was not rigid. That doesn’t mean he didn’t strictly adhere to the teachings of the Church, but he understood and practiced forgiveness, and held love as the central tenet of Christianity. I was an acolyte from age 6 and was as comfortable in church as I was at home; being in church with my dad was like visiting him in his office. I learned my practice of faith by his example, just as I learned the value and enjoyment of humor through his jokes, puns, and shaggy dog stories.

Q: You write that you started losing your connection with religion after your father’s death. How do you think he would have reacted to your “interruption” of faith?
A: I like to think he would have accepted and perhaps even admired the honesty of it--and then would have prayed very hard that I find my way back to the Church.

Q: The other man whose life you chronicle is your friend George Packard or “Skip.” Why did the direction his life took become so important to you?
A: Skip and I were much alike in our faith as college students. We both were acolytes from an early age and we both were active in the college chapel. Then Skip’s army experiences--many officers considered him the best leader of an ambush and patrol platoon--and mine in the Peace Corps were so dissimilar that our lives were no longer parallel. After the army Skip entered seminary and in the years following, his faith grew in ways much different and deeper than my own. But because we started at more or less the same place, he has been a natural touchstone for me, and the direction his life in faith has taken is what for a long time I thought mine might be.

Q: What was the most important thing that you learned about yourself through the writing of this book?
A: In tracing the path of my spiritual progress (or regression), I was able to understand how I’ve come to where I am in a way I did not know before. One of the biggest questions most people have to answer is where we stand in our faith. Whatever the degree to which we believe or disbelieve, we have to honestly face our deepest feelings, reservations, and doubts. I think only then can we find our way to meaningful faith, or accept that we have none. And in that self-examination I came to realize that the foundation of the faith I had, articulated again and again by my father--that the heart of it is to love one another--has not disappeared, even if that foundation no longer is “religious.”

(Eric Lax photo © Patricia Williams)


Review

“An intelligent, elegantly composed and open-hearted memoir. . . . Valuable, even instructive. . . . [Lax] is a writer of gentle precision and clarity.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“Lax has written a steady, quiet love letter to a faith he has lost. . . . Sympathetic and engrossing.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
“A poignant, sensitive and thoughtful memoir that illuminates the complexity of the phenomenon that we call faith.” —Karen Armstrong, author of The Case for God
 
“Candid and heartful. . . . Faith, Interrupted resonates because Lax confronts questions common to believers everywhere, and he does it without pomposity, self-righteousness, or condescension.” —America
 
“A gentle, rueful book . . . Lax’s polished writing style and lack of assurance that he has all the answers are . . .  definite pluses.” —The Christian Science Monitor
 
“Heartfelt. . . .  An honest and affecting memoir.” —Boston Globe
 
“Lax is a good storyteller, careful with words and reflective of the many ways in which he has had to ponder the eternal questions. This is not a book that ends with faith restored, God in God’s heaven and everything right with the world. But it is a book in which faith is taken seriously and, in the end, respected, even if the author cannot count himself among the faithful.” —Faith Matters
 
“Insightful. . . . Although this book is as much about a fascinating life as it is about religion, it will appeal to a wide audience both for its engaging subject matter and first-rate writing.” —National Catholic Reporter
 
“Vietnam . . . was at the core of the experience [Lax] recounts as part of his spiritual journey. . . . This book brin...


Product Details

  • File Size: 488 KB
  • Print Length: 290 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307455548
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (April 6, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4B4E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #944,585 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey worth sharing July 30, 2010
Format:Hardcover
I found Faith Interrupted to be a refreshingly honest examination of one's life - past, present and what may lay ahead. I myself am just a bit too young to have had friends or immediate family drafted into the Vietnam War - the backdrop to a good part of the book. Lax's decision to seek CO status and all that entailed was fascinating to me as was the contrast it painted to his early years as a church acolyte.
As life proceeds, his faithful convictions, for a number of reasons explained, begin to quiver and then evaporate. His story includes a parallel figure - a good friend in college turned warrior extraordinaire turned Bishop - and their separate but intertwined journeys provide a richness of the human experience that Lax conveys in a down to earth, approachable way. Lax, witty and unapologetic, gives us where he is today and how he got here. I could feel his sadness(disappointment?) that he didn't end up at another point - one with faith. Yet another reader may take away something different. Which is why I found this book to be particularly satisfying; nothing is neatly tied up in a bow at the end. No exclamations of 'I was lost and now I am found!' Or, 'I was once naive and malleable and now I know better'. Rather, it is messy and nuanced, filled with compassion and honest intention to figure it all out - eventually. He repeatedly goes back to the one Christian tenant which he still firmly holds on to; 'God is Love' and it is apparent and wonderful to read about a life so clearly guided by that light.
In closing, my favorite chapter is the last one; that's the one I believe I will go back to time and time again - when my own stagnation and sense of loss need a muse - not a professor with the answer, but someone else who is still willing to look under the rocks - just in case.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Chicken Soup for the Unexamined Soul July 3, 2011
Format:Paperback
Had Eric Lax's book delivered an honest story about the faith journey of two baby boomers it could have been okay. The first quarter the reader endures a clinical recounting of the Lax family Sunday morning as Eric's father performs his duties as an Episcopal priest. The depersonalization is initially irritating, its persistent disengagement consequentially boring. The story begins as a caricature, like a sentimental scene of a boy going through dad's treasure drawer filled with Aggies and sports medals in order to understand the man. Lax's father is the keeper of the faith, something forever "out there" preserved in the amber of memory and the poetic language of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

Readers making it past this first quarter in the hope that Lax evolves will be disappointed. This is not a story of a seeker, exploring and internalizing faith through prayer, serving the poor, studying the Bible, or discovering the Divine in life experience. Rather than enter the noble struggle of doubt essential for true faith, Lax replaces his father with his college roommate, heaping the onus of explaining faith on to a surrogate. The vacuum of ownership for participating in his own faith journey is heightened by the fact that the roommate is a Vietnam combat veteran while Lax is a C.O. who spends the war years in a tropical paradise.

The division defining the boomer generation couldn't me made clearer. Is it the "me generation" as embodied by Lax waiting for someone to gift him with a boy's notion of faith? Or is this generation defined by the over 9 million who served in Vietnam, the reality of warfare affecting exponentially families and friends, work, health, and yes - faith - through the dark night of the soul?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Unless you personally know Eric Lax, his preacher father, Eric's friend Skip Packard or have memories involving Camp Stevens or remember your own personal struggles getting out of the Vietnam War, just skip to about page 190 of this 270 page book. There you will find more of the beginnings of a discussion about a person actually having their faith interrupted and the thought processes that helped them break out of the religious trance they had been steeped in from birth.

Page 250 has a nice listing of the reasons that he stands behind his dismissal of Christianity but waiting until page 250? Really? This book is 85% personal memoir and 15% discussion of why a person might reject Christianity. If you are looking for any Harris or Dawkins type of discussion, or an explanation of how a person who has fallen off the bandwagon now leads their life, you really won't find it here.

This guy has fallen off the bandwagon and sounds like he wishes he could get back on.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Aurora
Format:Hardcover
Interesting book which resonated with me in many aspects. I also had a clergy father (reformed tradition). His focus was on bible teaching and preaching as opposed to the more sacramental aspects of the church . My mother was dedicated to his ministry, but also had her own public world separate from him teaching and writing where she found much meaning. Though younger than Mr. Lax by about 10 years I also I experienced the threat of Vietnam and had a friend in high school a couple of years older than me who talked about applying for CO status and even asking my dad for a recommendation (but he refused). I did not know anyone personally who died in the conflict but my I knew the fear of my male friends and my brother when draft numbers were published.

Looking back on my own experiences of faith, I recognize how difficult it can be for children of a pastor/priest to separate and come to their own sense of faith from that of their father in my case. My parents were huge personalities (a little self absorbed in their work) which made it challenging for me to find my own spiritual path and I found myself adapting to them often to gain their approval and fit into their own busy schedules. My dad as a major aspect of his ministry was about encouging people to read bible and scripture and having a relationship with Jesus Christ. (He would get in trouble because he was too liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals.) Anyway,this mind set has kept me moving forward with my faith in Christ in all the challenges and murkiness and the importance of seeing Christ as the example of God's love (not some vague sense of love) and the importance of connection/relationship with others.
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