Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism)
By Frank Schaeffer
Hardcover: for the price of a paperback
"Patience With God presents an alternative that we would do well not to ignore. It is an appeal for sanity, compassion, tolerance, and authentic Orthodox spirituality."
Reverend Antony Hughes, St. Mary Orthodox Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Frank Schaeffer has a problem with fundamentalist Christians. But he also has a problem with the New Atheists. And despite the obvious differences in their ideology, it's the same problem: mindsets that leave no room for questions, and even less for tolerance, let alone Orthodox faith. He'd even argue that atheism has become a religion in itself and that fundamentalist politicized religion American style has become anti-God.
In Patience With God, Schaeffer offers a middle ground for those who find right-wing evangelists as distasteful as the liberal lefties who mock them. As Schaeffer explains, there are many people out there—Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal—who are disgusted with the polarizing forces that exist in our nation, and who believe (or at least try to believe) in God.
Patience With God offers a personal look at religion (and its intersection with politics), detailing Schaeffer's own relationship with God as he went from helping his father, Francis Schaeffer, found the Religious Right to joining the Greek Orthodox Church. Along the way, we come to see that he, like so many Americans, could best be described as a member of the Church but that this did not mean he no longer had questions. Schaeffer describes his embrace of paradox and holy mystery as the alternative to the false certainties of both right wing fundamentalism, commercialized "Christianity" and the anti-God movements that have gained such popularity. In other words Schaeffer presents authentic spirituality it a spirituality for the rest of us.
This book brings a note of nuance to the religion/atheism debate, Patience With God will resonate with religious and secular people who treasure their faith as well as their freedom to question their fondest beliefs.
FROM THE BOOK:
"Until I was on my way out of my evangelical/fundamentalist subculture and actually read a little church history and some of the writings from the earliest Christians, I assumed that older is always stricter. In the case of the Christian religion, this is not so. It's mostly the later eras of Christianity that produced the most rules-based approach to faith, something like the transition from the sixties and early seventies to the 'Reagan eighties,' as hippies got haircuts and put on suits and turned out to be more middle-class and 'bourgeois' than their parents.
"So for people who think that Christianity was strict, literalistic and fundamentalist and filled with nothing but rules and regulations from the beginning and that a more 'mystical,' 'tolerant,' 'progressive,' or 'liberal' approach to faith is a lax modern phenomenon, the writings of some of the most important early Christian figures are a startling wake-up call. For instance, one fourth-century ascetic—Evagrius Ponticus—was a revered spiritual leader. He led by example rather than by official standing because he was not a bishop. Writing in The Gnostikos, he made this anti-fundamentalist statement: 'Do not define the Deity: for it is only of things which are made or are composite that there can be definitions.'"
Frank Schaeffer is the author of the New York Times bestseller Keeping Faith and the memoir Crazy for God. His novels, including Portofino, have been translated into nine languages. He has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show and NPR's Fresh Air, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and AlterNet. He and his wife, Genie, live in Massachusetts and have three children.
"Frank Schaeffer is a patient writer but a passionate one too. This beautiful argumentative and even funny book is popular theology at its best, an explanation of tradition and its absence from a man who has lived both, a writer who knows better than most that God -- whether you do or don't believe -- is always a brilliant story."
Jeff Sharlet, New York Times best selling author of "The Family."
"Ever feel straitjacketed by the Church? Convinced that God can't be put in a box? You've got to read Frank Schaeffer's explanation of why you're not alone, and how contradictions can be a paradox to be celebrated. You'll be intellectually challenged and spiritually heartened by his life story and lessons learned."
Richard Cizik, President, The New Evangelicals, Fellow, The Open Society Institute
"Patience With God gives us voice, it validates our experiences, it starts a conversation-one that has been needed for a long, long time."
Patricia Fernández-Kelly, Princeton University
"A meditation on the follies of religious and atheist fundamentalism... [Schaeffer's] criticisms, buttressed by quoting his targets' own words, are on target."
"Schaeffer adopts a feisty tone in this essay about evangelical Christianity and aggressive atheism. He explains why he has become an Orthodox Christian."
"[Schaeffer] suffers no one who advocates a devotion so rigid as to exclude any but the staunchest. He names names but is an equal opportunity assailant, laying into fundamentalist atheists and religious zealots alike...Make no mistake, Schaeffer is not proselytizing. He knows, or at least hopes, that with this book he is singing to the choir of millions fed up with or unable to commit to full-blown atheism or stiff-necked religion of any kind."
"Schaeffer condemns the closed-minded intolerance of the Evangelical Christianity in which he was raised. This is something Frank does well, both as a storyteller and as a writer of non-fiction...This is religion that is more comfortable saying what it does not know than what it does know; this is a faith of humble, loving compassion that sustains the father who sends his son off to war, and that inspires even the hardest heart to give thanks for the beauty of a new day. It is faith for people who don't always know all the answers and who are tired of pretending they do. In short, this is my kind of religion, and I'm happy it's so well represented by as skilled and as admirable a writer as Frank Schaeffer."
Sacramento Book Review
"A thoughtful and compelling guide for maneuvering between the twin poles of fundamentalist religion and atheism. It is a moderate approach that many people will find fits their actions and beliefs."
"Even readers who struggle with their faith can find help from a new book, Patience With God."
"Schaeffer goes well beyond the typical pat answers of specious Christians who allude to Christianity as a 'relationship, not a religion' and deconstructs the eager certainty, venomous literalism, and widespread insincerity that taints and has since formed the mould for the modern evangelical and fundamentalist movements. Not content to merely strike at one side of the aisle, Schaeffer also volleys a fair-sized wad of equitable critique at many of the so-called New Atheists...This book is a war on the evil concept of certainty itself...Patience With God is part 'sermon' and part memoir...It is, indeed, a refreshing book and incredibly easy to read. While many atheists and religious people alike will feel targeted by Schaeffer, his is an even-handed approach that does well to strip away the childish shell of fighting over who's 'right' when the question can't be answered."
"Schaefer tackles a lot of significant theological and philosophical issues...In short, he considers why we humans have such a great need for faith and such divergent views on what faith means...The real strength of Schaeffer's perspective, however, is not that he recognizes that there is uncertainty in faith but that he acknowledges that there is uncertainty in not having faith, too."
"Schaeffer turns his eagle-eyed gaze from his religious past and focuses on the New Atheists—Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris & Dennett...Put[s] a couple of sharp, stinging whacks across the backsides of some of today's popular Christian leaders and their fear-based teachings that produce hate, hypocrisy and intolerance...Frank Schaeffer is a thoughtful and talented writer and I'm glad that he continues to share his journey with us."
Starred Review, Library Journal
"Offers a hopeful vision for genuine faith in a messy, mysterious, and unexplainable world full of contradictions and paradoxes. The book effectively serves as an opening of dialog among those searching for something to hold onto, the devout but doubting members of the 'Church of Hopeful Uncertainty'...His is a humble and beautiful narrative that interweaves elements of memoir, popular theology, inspiration, and meditation. The end result is a deep and rich reflection on authentic faith in the contemporary world that focuses on how to live rather than on what to believe or not believe...Highly recommended for all general readers of religion, both believers and nonbelievers, who hunger for faith and meaning but are repelled by the polarizing exclusivity of new atheists and religious fundamentalists."