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Faith journey

Springs natives memoir explores struggles with doubt

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Atheists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists all deal with the challenges of faith throughout life. All people have to forge the murky, foggy waters of doubt, significance, security, moral boundaries and the mystery of a being greater and more powerful than the entirety of the known world.

And once the major issues of faith have been accepted, like which God (religion) to choose, the minor issues can still plague absolute trust. This is the subject of a recently published memoir, titled My Faith So Far, by Patton Dodd. Inspired by memoirs of other writers like Dave Eggers, Frank McCourt and Anne Lamott, Dodd conveys his personal faith journey, a subject that tends to be lofty and over-spiritualized in a tangible, practical way.

Dodd, a Colorado Springs native and former freelance film writer for the Independent, narrates his experiences of growing up as a typical American youth, bent on drugs, girls and partying. But during his senior year of high school, he has a radical Christian conversion and moves into a different phase of life. During that next year, he moves from the party scene into the Christian subculture, spending more than half of his days and nights at prayer meetings, youth group, Bible studies and Sunday services.

This time of his life he unveils to be wonderful and simple, a time of complete trust in God and freedom in faith. That soon changes, though, as a result of attending Oral Roberts University the following year. The university embodies many aspects within its culture and religious practices that Dodd doesn't agree with or can't fully understand, and thus he leaves after having been there for a year, laden with doubt, some cynicism and a new quest for the simple faith he felt he'd lost. The book ends with Dodd still realistically facing the difficulties of forging those waters, but also shows hope that he grows stronger in faith every day, fully aware that doubt is an essential aspect of true faith.

Dodd currently lives in Boston with his wife and 1-year-old daughter, where he is a doctoral candidate in religion and literature at Boston University. He contributes regularly to such publications as The Revealer, Killing the Buddha and The New Pantagruel.

Asked why he felt compelled to share his memoirs, Dodd replied, "I felt like there was nothing out there that represented evangelicals in all their complexity. We're woefully misrepresented." He also finds value in the topic of theological and cultural confusion visited in his book, "the confusion that comes when you realize you aren't really at home in your cultural environment," and he hopes that readers who are similarly confused will find comfort in his experience.

Dodd also feels that doubt and the unraveling of belief are part of the journey of all faiths and wants nonreligious people to see it as an "eye-opening portrayal of a major segment of American Christianity." His advice to those going through the same struggles is to "avoid cynicism, don't think too highly of your opinion, and keep in mind that you don't have any new ideas or questions -- plenty of people have been here before, so find those people and let them help you. The worst mistake people can make is to think they are alone."

The mainstream message of My Faith So Far is that people are not alone, and Dodd reveals painful parts of his heart and past to prove it.

-- Lindsey Michael Miller

BOOK INFO

My Faith So Far: A Story of Conversion and Confusion

By Patton Dodd

(Jossey-Bass: San Francisco)

$21.95/hardcover

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