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Patton Dodd

- About the Book

MY FAITH SO FAR
A Story of Conversion and Confusion
by Patton Dodd

Published by Jossey-Bass, An Imprint of Wiley
(ISBN: 0-7879-6859-5, 208 pages, hardcover, $21.95)
Available from this site or directly from the publisher:
http://www.josseybass.com/

"Honesty is a rare commodity. Sometimes it's rarest in the world of religion. Like the blues in music, there's something oddly uplifting about it. Patton Dodd offers an honest and engaging reflection of his experience in the world of charismatic Christianity -- poignant, even painful, yet somehow uplifting. Whatever your religious background, you'll learn here, and perhaps be nudged toward greater honesty in your own spiritual search."
-- Brian McLaren, pastor, author of A New Kind of Christian

"Patton Dodd's memoir is the most honest account of the constant conversions, backslides, and rebirths of a life of faith that I have read in years. In its acknowledgment that the intellect, too, can be a path to salvation, My Faith So Far brings to mind the classics of spiritual memoir genre, perhaps especially The Seven Storey Mountain. In fact, if the evangelical world is in need of its own Merton, a young writer willing to keep his wit sharp while searching for both sustenance and relevance in his faith, Dodd might be the man for the job."
-- Peter Manseau, coauthor of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible

"My Faith So Far is at once feisty and irreverent, rebellious and tender… Patton Dodd is an evangelical trying to break free from the superficiality and smugness of his subculture, but he is never more evangelical than in his pursuit of this struggle. This book is an urgent dispatch from the cutting edge of religious and cultural change. This is news."
-- Gregory Wolfe, Editor, Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion

In this frank, funny, and often challenging memoir about life in and out of the church, twenty-something Patton Dodd reveals his quest for an authentic experience of God. On his journey he attempts to pinpoint and justify his belief in God, first with the fervent absolutes that characterize a new believer's faith but then with a growing awareness of the cultural complexities that define his faith and encompass his understanding of Christianity.

When a spiritual awakening in his last year of high school wrenches Dodd out of his rebellious party days, he embarks on a quest for God. He exchanges pot smoking for worship dancing, gives up MTV for Christian pop, and enrolls at a Christian university. Soon, however, he finds himself ill at ease with the other Christians around him and with the cloying superficiality of the Christian subculture. Dodd tells his story in contradictory terms -- conversion and confusion, acceptance and rejection, spiritual highs and psychological lows. With painstaking honesty, he tries to negotiate a relationship with his faith apart from the cultural trappings that often clothe it.

Dodd's moving story paints a nuanced and multilayered portrait of an earnest quest for God: the hunger for genuine faith, the bleak encounters with doubt, and the consuming questions that challenge the intellect and the soul. This is a story that will resonate with the emerging generation of young adults attempting to break new ground within their own faith tradition.

 

 

 

- Excerpt

Is Jesus Mean?
an excerpt from the new book

MY FAITH SO FAR:
A Story of Conversion and Confusion

by Patton Dodd

INTRODUCTION

In the excerpt below, Patton Dodd reflects on the Gospel of Matthew. It is part of what Dodd calls the "screwy Christian stuff" he is discovering as his fanatical faith begins to unravel.

Publishers Weekly calls My Faith So Far a "lively coming- of-age story [that] succeeds both as literary memoir and as an intimate look at a popular variety of American religious experience." Dodd chronicles his conversion to a Colorado Springs "charismatic megachurch," his enthusiasm for praise music and inner struggles over listening to secular music, his enrollment at Oral Roberts University and his subsequent disillusionment while searching for "belief without blinders." This book contains a controversial expose of ORU along with a "painstakingly honest" look at the rise and fall of a self-proclaimed zealot, and an examination of what happens to faith when it is wrenched out of the culture that contains it.

More information about the book, My Faith So Far, and author Patton Dodd follows the excerpt. Enjoy!


Is Jesus Mean?
by Patton Dodd

I am sitting in the lighting booth at the Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University running lights for a conference (it's my work study gig; nice work if you can get it). I raise the lights at one point and lower them at another, and have ninety minutes in between to fill as I please.

I please to fill these minutes by reading the Gospel According to Matthew, but I am not pleased to discover something there that I have never noticed before: Jesus sounds rude.

The Jesus I know, the Jesus I love, is uniformly kind, caring, sacrificial, wise, supernaturally powerful. I've read the gospels regularly for over a year now and have found this Jesus reliably present. But now, for some reason, as I turn the crinkling, red-and-black inked pages in the lighting booth, a new, sterner Jesus suddenly and forcefully comes into view. A Jesus who is unhelpful. Intentionally confusing. Rude.

When Jesus saw the crowd around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to Him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Another disciple said to Him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead" (Matthew 8:18-22).

This is not the Jesus I know, not the Great Lover, the Provider of My Every Need. My Jesus is desperate to save souls. He is desirous of helping people receive His love. He is passionate for everybody, and He is so glad when we acknowledge that passion and dwell in it. He is happy when we are happy. But is the Jesus in these passages that same figure?

I am fine with Jesus being critical of His criticizers. He is hard on the Pharisees and Sadducees because they are legalists who want to control people. I cheer Jesus on as He chastises them and uses their own Scriptures against them. I even understand why he pledges to bring not peace but a sword to the earth. He says He has come to turn family members against one another, that households will be torn apart because of Him. I can appreciate this because I have seen it happen -- friends who accept Jesus against their parents' agnostic will, and such.

But Jesus' harsh criticisms also reach into places I do not expect. After one parable, Jesus' friend Peter asks for an explanation. "Are you still so dull?" Jesus snaps. Worse, Jesus appears to dishonor His own family. Once when someone tells Jesus that His mother and brothers are standing outside and waiting to see Him, Jesus replies, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" He suggests that His true family is "whoever does the will of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 12:46-50). I see His point, but does He have to ignore His mom? And how does this fit with my understanding of a God who wants everyone to be a part of a loving family, a God who focuses on the family and wants us to do the same?

Turning more crinkly pages, I read -- as if for the first time -- the story of Jesus calling a Canaanite woman a dog. She cries out to Him to deliver her daughter of demonic possession. "Jesus did not answer a word," says Matthew (15:23). The Great lover ignores her cries. The woman doesn't let up, and finally, Jesus' disciples beg Him to do something to shut her up. "Send her away," they plead. "She keeps crying after us." Jesus will have none of it. Why? Because the woman isn't a Jew. "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." Even when the woman forces her way to Jesus, kneels at His feet, and cries, "Lord, help me!" Jesus is unmoved. "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs," He says.

No, not says. He mutters. He snipes. He sneers. I try to imagine the way He must have spoken to her. Could He have said it lovingly? Please oh God, show me how He must have said this lovingly. But I know He didn't. It's right there on the page, plain to see. I've read Matthew a hundred times and never noticed it, but tonight it is leaping from the page.

Fortunately, the Gentile dog is ready with a witty retort. "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table."

Jesus likes this. "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." Her daughter, adds Matthew, was healed that very hour.

He rewards her faith in spite of her ethnicity. Maybe it is all about faith, but this kind of faith, faith-as-token, faith-as-ticket, is not what I expected from my journey into faith, not what I expected from Jesus.

There's more. Jesus doesn't always appear to want people to understand His parables (Matthew 13). So far from trying desperately to help people understand that He is the Savior of their souls, Jesus obscures the truth. He predicts quick death and destruction for people who won't believe the disciples' preaching (Matthew 10). He cries out against the cities that don't repent after He performs miracles (Matthew 11).

I can make sense of some of this. Of course Jesus is mad at people who don't repent after He heals diseases right before their eyes. Of course He becomes frustrated with the silly disciples who have to be told everything ten, twenty, fifty times before they get it. But still, on the basis of everything else I've learned about Jesus from CCM and Quiet Time devotionals, the gospels are nothing short of scandalous. Jesus storms through the pages of Matthew in a way I have never seen before, and I am frightened by it. My stomach clenches. I would cry if I were not so horrified. Why has this stuff not been explained to me? I am attending a Christian university. We should be talking about this!

But maybe the problem is that my biblical vision has been veiled. Maybe I have developed cataracts of doubt. If I cannot see in the gospels the wondrous grace of God -- even after I have believed in it fully and experienced it excitedly for over a year -- then something must be wrong with me.

 

About the Author

Patton Dodd has worked as a ghost writer, editor, movie reviewer, and submissions director for a film festival. He has written for both religious and general audiences in publications such as re:generation quarterly, the Colorado Springs Independent, and Life@Work, as well as numerous webzines, including Killing the Buddha, The New Pantagruel, and The Revealer. He is a doctoral candidate in religion and literature at Boston University.

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