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My Faith So Far: A Story of Conversion and Confusion Hardcover – November 12, 2004
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Too much pot. Too many beers. Tired of lying to his parents, Patton, 18, is ready to come clean. He goes looking for God at a charismatic megachurch where people are "unabashedly excited about Jesus," and his life turns around. He speaks in tongues, dances spontaneously during worship services, enrolls at Oral Roberts University. And he prays incessantly: "My prayers cover the nation, the world. They pour out of my mouth and gush through the air, rumbling up the foothills of Pikes Peak and leaping into the sky, splashing down into the plains and rushing across into the towns and boroughs and metropolises, seeping under people's windowsills and covering their entire homes like a film that won't come off." Now a grad student and contributing editor to the webzine killingthebuddha.com, Dodd engagingly recreates two years of passionate faith and excruciating doubt, weaving historical notes and sociological observations into his personal narrative. Though his experience as a fanatically "evangelical, Bible-believing, chest-pounding Christian" was short-lived, Dodd's tone is sympathetic as well as wryly humorous, and his analysis is usually kind: "ORU is not a place of insincere devotion; it is a place of extreme devotion sincerely and frequently expressed." This lively coming-of-age story succeeds both as literary memoir and as an intimate look at a popular variety of American religious experience.
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There is nothing new about the crisis of faith that afflicts adolescents as they question and rebel against the religion, or lack thereof, of their parents. What is new is what Dodd brings in this personal, sometimes embarrassing, always pithy and articulate account of his own journey through the valley of doubt. En route from his Southern Baptist roots, he gave up pot smoking and philandering, plunged headlong into the evangelical charismatic movement, chose to strengthen his faith by attending Oral Roberts University, but then dropped out, only to pick up his education later at a secular university. In an engaging writing style that allows him to be both protagonist and dispassionate observer, Dodd stands outside himself and, with insight and humor, presents a young man's search for God, piety, and the answers to all life's imponderables. In conclusion, "the only honest way for this story to end," he says, "is for it to come to silent rest right in the middle," where he has found two out of three. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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We get to follow Patton's trip through the culture of evangelical/charasmatic Christianity in Colorado Springs and then at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. He writes much of the book in present tense, which sometimes makes it hard to tell whether he's describing beliefs he had then or ones he holds now, but which also give his story immediacy. I was with him as he struggled with listening to Christian music, which was often second-rate, versus secular music, which made him feel guilty. He's the real deal, not a tourist--he speaks in tongues, prays for hours, testifies to unbelievers--but he still questions himself and what the church is telling him. I loved the tour of Oral Roberts University, where the students have a dress code and prayer circles take up most of Technical Journalism class. Patton shows himself and other students making fun of the excesses of Christian culture, but he never loses the earnest desire to find out what Christianity is for him.
As a secular person, I found nothing in this book to offend me--no thoughtless slams or assumptions-- and much to fascinate me. Patton's philosophizing and angst were sometimes skimmable, but it was an accurate portrait of the thoughts and conversations of someone that age. I will definitely check out any future books of his.
While most readers probably won't identify with Patton's over-the-top, radical, other-worldly embrace of Charismatic worship, his critique of the Charismatic culture will resonate with anyone who has earnestly observed this brand of Christianity and walked away scratching his/her head.
My Faith So Far is a very brisk read and easy to get through in one or two sittings. It's not a scholarly read, but it does put the Charismatic movement into context and may help lead readers into a deeper discussion about the oddities of faith and the struggle to become authentically Christian.
This would be a great book for high school youth groups, especially evangelical youth groups.
The book centers on 2 years encapsulating his experiences in college and life as they pertain to the building and deconstructing of his world-view. It's whimsical and sardonic at once and has, at least for me, a great contemplative feeling.
You won't read too many books from Christian authors that have this depth of honesty. And the rawness with which he handles his emotional/intellectual experiences is the real treasure found in the pages of MFSF. An author's ability to connect with the reader via memoir is closely linked to his ability to be transparent, Patton Dodd allows you to feel what he feels, examine what he thinks, and come to your own conclusions about faith,life and God.
If you're trying to:
a. Get a grasp on your belief system,
b. Understand contemporary Chrsitian culture,
c. Have a good read before you go to bed at night,
Then this book is for you.
I would recommend this book to believers and nonbelievers alike. There is nothing preachy or judgmental or pretentious about this book. It's just a straight look at how doubt interacts with faith.