Surprise, surprise, I’m working on another book. Because of the unexpected success of my first memoir, Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter, which ranked #51 in Amazon’s top 100 paid books on personal growth this summer (for six days!), I think now is the best time to write a second one.
I didn’t expect to be a nonfiction author, particularly a nonfiction religious author, but writing about religion is when I am most honest, most authentic, and I would not have nearly the same number of blog and Twitter followers as I do if not for all my questions. Some of my favorite religious writers are people who dare to ask the questions I’m afraid to acknowledge even in my own head. I like to imagine that that’s how many readers of this blog and of Confessions feel.
But a second memoir was inevitable, regardless of how well the first one did. It was inevitable not because I’ve lived such a unique life, but because the questions keep on growing, and they are hard to find addressed in mainstream Christian books. There are plenty of stories out there about finding God, but not so much what to do when no one in church can answer your questions, and when those questions threaten to break your faith. There are few books out there that address doubt but don’t end neatly, and for converts like myself, who still carry some baggage from the faith of their childhood, that pool of books has even fewer options.
Add Jesus and Stir: a Jewish-born Christian’s attempt at understanding evangelical culture is my response to Christians who claim to love Judaism, but don’t really understand what it’s about. It’s also a book for anyone, not just converted Jews, who embraced a new tradition as an adult, but cannot for the life of them fit in with the surrounding cultural norms. My story of wading through evangelical waters has been, and continues to be, a fish out of water experience. In Evangelical World I have met some truly amazing people, but have also experienced a lot of damage, which my Jewish background made me particularly prone to.
This is a book about questioning all the beautiful parts – an incarnate god, the promise of redemption – because of the ugly: when not enjoying worship music is sinful, and your non-believing relatives are assumed destined for hell.
What is one to do with a dichotomy like that – especially coming from a religious tradition that affirms more than one viable path to God?
Add Jesus and Stir doesn’t offer any answers, but it has been therapeutic for me to write (100 pages and 22,000 words so far, some of which have been test-driven on this blog). I have a love-hate relationship with my unusual testimony, but I don’t think it’s so “out there” that no cradle Christian can possibly relate. I come from a tradition that is known for asking questions, and I want this book to be encouraging for Christians bred with the idea that doubt is not okay.
Much has changed since the first edition of Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter was published. The honeymoon phase of my new relationship with Jesus has long faded. Restlessness has moved in. Frustration and irreconcilable differences are daily battles.
At the time I started writing that first draft, I was an opinion columnist for my college newspaper. I wanted the job because I was tired of the pervasive liberal attitude of seemingly every editorial. It didn’t take long to develop a reputation as “that Christian columnist,” and the title was not always used favorably. I can see now that my tone was obnoxious in many columns, writing as someone who thought she found indisputable Truth. But the biggest mistake I made as a columnist was adopting the assumption that I was disliked by so many because I happened to be Christian, which could not have been further from the truth. As a Jew raised in a small, conservative Christian town, shouldn’t I have known better than to play the persecution card? Why would I have done that?
I know why, though I wouldn’t have admitted it then. It’s very much a cultural trend to take on a persecution complex, no matter how outrageous it sounds compared to Christians across the world who are losing their lives for their faith. I just wanted to be included more than anything. I wanted to know what being part of the religious in-crowd felt like. If that meant pretending that the Christian majority I recognized so clearly growing up was actually in danger of extinction, so be it.
Thankfully, the mindset didn’t last. I could only pretend for so long that being the odd Jew out (an actual minority) for most of my life wouldn’t catch up to me at some point. Sure enough, during my stint at seminary, it did.
Add Jesus and Stir is the story of what happened to my faith when I confronted my inner Jew, who was buried for a time, but never actually went away. Perhaps she was never meant to.