How to Believe
Teachers and Seekers Show the Way to a Modern, Life-Changing Faith
By Jon Spayde
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400064021, 240pp.)
Publication Date: February 12, 2008
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After seeing Christianity become increasingly defined in the media as a narrow and punitive political movement, Spayde began to wonder: Are religions now just combatants in the culture wars? Should he leave the organized church? How are ordinary people using faith positively to search for the truth and improve their lives?
Spayde takes a journey across America that introduces him to an array of believers, eminent and obscure, who relate their personal stories of active and living faith–how they balance Jesus’s love and judgment, the church’s dictates, and their own free will–to live and love completely while on Earth.
Here are veteran religious leaders such as John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop who advocates a radical reform of Christian teaching that would eliminate talk of miracles and stress social justice, and Kosuke Koyana, an important Protestant voice in Asia whose firsthand knowledge of World War II horrors made him see Christ’s teachings as neither liberal nor conservative but simply “care for the widow and the orphan.” Spayde meets those committed to unorthodox beliefs, such as Joyce Rupp, a Catholic sister dedicated to the concept of the feminine as divine, as well as those who have for the sake of their faith drastically altered their lives, including Cynthia Williams who left a high-powered job in finance to work for a struggling inner-city church in Minneapolis, and Thien-an Dang, a Vietnamese refugee who became a top Radio Shack executive only to quit and work for a Texas ministry deeply connected to Vietnam. We’re also introduced to Mary Forsythe, a self-described “train wreck for Jesus,” who found the roots of her work as an evangelical preacher while serving time in prison, and hospice chaplain Anna Bradshaw, who was transformed by the “aliveness” of people near death and personally touched Spayde’s life while tending to his dying mother.
Spayde’s odyssey brought him to a new understanding of why action is more important than the intellect in faith, how true solace is found in forging a personal relationship with God, and why worrying about one’s own “worthiness” is always beside the point.
This is a crucial book that reveals the different paths that can lead to the same inspiring place, a book that teaches “how to believe” in ways that honor individuality, allow for personal journeys, and spiritually enrich not just our own lives but the lives of those around us.
Advance praise for How to Believe
“Jon Spayde has assembled a wonderfully vivid portrait gallery of Christian faith in our times. It’s a wild ride, this mystery tour across the deep divides of contemporary religion into the lives of believers and seekers. These are not ‘arguments’ against atheism or in favor of belief, but compelling voices of struggle and astonishment gathered by a writer of integrity on his own ardent search.”
–Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist’s Daughter
“Jon Spayde is a convivial and wise spiritual scout, who guides us in the direction of a robust Christianity that is deeply grounded in love. Along the way we meet remarkable figures from diverse religious traditions who inspire with their intelligence, insight and faith. This is the perfect book for all of us who yearn for a greater connection with the divine but still feel a little nervous walking through the church doors.”
–Jay Walljasper, senior editor, Ode magazine and former editorial director of Utne Reader
Jon Spayde is a former editor at the Utne Reader, where he wrote about personal growth, arts, spirituality, and many other subjects. He is the co-author of Visionaries: People and Ideas to Change Your Life and Salons: The Joy of Conversation.