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John 21:17

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

Sept. 20, 2011

Stumbling toward Faith

by Reneé Altson

One always needs to be a little suspicious of Christian book cover endorsements, especially when the book is an indictment of one branch of the faith and all the "famous name" endorsements come from another branch.

Such is the case with Stumbling toward Faith. The book is a first-person horror trip through some of the worst sins of right-wing evangelical excess—in the home, from ordained and non-ordained church staff, in the congregations, and in the closed-in societies that exist within this segment of the church universal.

After reading the endorsements, which reflect the thinking of more liberal voices, I was tempted not to give the narrative much of a chance.

That would have been a mistake.

Reneé Altson writes a stream-of-consciousness, postmodern accounting of her childhood, teen and young adult years living with a sexual predator father who was seen as a stalwart of his local independent evangelical church. The man skewed the author's view of God as well, by, among other things, singing hymns and reciting the Lord's Prayer during the many times he raped her.

Meanwhile, the church culture around them (private Christian school, youth groups, Bible studies, mission trips and prayer groups) turns a blind eye to the father's behavior and brands the author with a succession of increasingly damning labels and punishments.

How the author sorts through all these things and eventually comes to form a growing relationship with God despite all she's been through in the name of religion is a gripping story.

There is much for the church to wrestle with here. And not just hard-line evangelicals. Similar scenarios play out wherever blind eyes are turned, sin is not reined in, and obedience is more important than truth.

ISBN 0310-2575-57

©2011 Rebecca Copeland


The church is not the Kingdom. This personal account of how abuse at home can be compounded by a church focused on the wrong things should give all Christian leaders pause... and a determination not to do likewise.