I, like Frank, grew up in an evangelical minister's family. I, like Frank, saw and heard things done in the name of God that seemed not only unethical but immoral and evil. I, like Frank, spend some of my early years in Europe and developed a love of intellectual pursuits that allowed room for both faith and reason. I . . . Well, I like Frank.
Sadly, many readers (particularly those who know his parents' books and teachings) will look for reasons to discount the ideas in "Patience With God." This is not a book to be held up like a battle herald for believers or atheists. It's an attempt--and a very good one--to bridge the gap between spirit and mind, between theology and science, between purpose and progression. Yes, Frank is candid about his parents' shortcomings, both domestically and spiritually, but he is equally candid about his own. He pulls no punches. He points fingers at those on both sides of the fence, but in particular those who claim to know it all--whether they be right-wing fundamentalists or the atheistic, self-proclaimed "Brights." Over the years, I've found myself struggling to reconcile the mostly good-intentioned but poor behavior of both sides. I appreciated some of Pat Robertson's early ideas, for example, but cringed when he put himself in the place of God and declared God's purposes in natural tragedy. I also appreciated Bill Maher's early years of candor and humor, but find it increasingly mean-spirited and--ironically enough--narrowminded in its accessment of religion.
Do I agree with all that Frank says here? No. And he and I are fine with that. We could sit and discuss these ideas logically, even passionately, but never lose sight of our love for God, life, and each other. That's the beauty of embracing the paradoxes of which he writes. We don't all have to subscribe to one narrow brand of faith, cutting others off or discounting everything they say because of nitpicky differences over End Times theology or evolutionary theory--or whatever the argument du jour may be. Personally, I love God and believe in the Jesus of the Bible. I hate the directions American Christianity has taken, turning the "milk of the Word" into smorgasbord affairs that masquerade as nutritous spiritual meals. It seems that, in many venues, Christians choose to hunker under the "safe" and "protected" bubble of their own beliefs, rather than relating to those around them with the love that Christ personified, living "dangerous" and "prepared" lives in the trenches of the real world.
"Patience With God" will challenge Christians, Muslims, and New Atheists. It will cause thinking readers to reevaluate and reconsider. It is sane and logical, while never dismissing the possibilities of faith and feelings. It accepts the concepts of a loving and gracious Jesus, while never confining Him to a particular evangelical bent. Some will find that threatening. Some will prefer to remain "safe" in their bubbles of religious or scientific thinking. Others, hopefully many, will admit the paradoxes on both sides.
For those who are tired of hateful atheism or exhausted by self-righteous religion, "Patience With God" offers a meeting place in between, a place where discussion can be honest, intelligent, and kind. The two extremes--thank God!--are not the only options. I always knew that. It's just nice to know that I'm not alone.