The Chicago Tribune featured me and my bookshelf recently and described my space as a sanctuary. How suitable. When I began to process of consciously decoupling from church, books became even more of a refuge. This article highlights a few of the books that have influenced me over the course of my adult life and career as a journalist.
Last fall I was having panic attacks. My first book was coming out, my infant was having health problems and I had overbooked my travel schedule. (Our healthcare system + mysterious health issue = stress, fear, crippling anxiety.) I threw myself into caring for my son and tried to keep up with the rest of my life, but I couldn't. The stress overwhelmed me. I couldn't do everything. I canceled a bunch of trips. I set aside the million op-ed ideas I had to promote my book. I had worked seven years on this book and when it came out, I could only do so much.
I focused on my son, who is in great health now. I continued to work, but at a more reasonable pace. I hired a publicist. I saw a therapist. I asked family and friends for help. I took deep breaths and meditated.
My whole life had led up to this book. It's about losing religion and, through journalism, finding a movement of marginalized people rebuilding faith communities rooted in authentic social justice and radical inclusion. (It's called Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism.) I had to accept the fact that my book would find its way into the hands of my audience without my guidance. Slowly, over time, it did.
There were heartfelt messages from readers, crazy wonderful starred reviews, dream interviews (like the time I was a guest on NPR's On Point), speaking gigs and more. Perhaps the biggest development came when a pastor reached out to me. She wanted her entire church to read my book. When others began reaching out with similar sentiments, we decided to launch a national inter-church book club, called One Book, One Church. Now, this summer more than 700 people across the country will be reading my book and participating in live, online conversations with me, all with the goal of developing concrete strategies for pursuing authentic, intersectional social justice in our communities. This book club launches next month and has already made national news!
I thought that if my book didn't make a big splash the month it came out, if I didn't flood the internet with op-eds, it would die and be forgotten. But as the months have passed, I've been reminded to play the long game. To pace myself. To be kind to myself. To work but to also live and love and linger.
I can't believe this is happening.
In December, Erin James-Brown, a pastor from Urban Village Church in Chicago asked me out to coffee. I met her at Metropolis Coffee, a cozy neighborhood cafe on Chicago's North side. Erin was sitting near the front of the cafe with a copy of Rescuing Jesus on the table, which felt totally surreal to see. She had read the book, loved it and wanted her entire church to read the book as, like, one big book club, and she wanted me to speak to the congregation when they had finished.
This is an author's dream come true, so of course I said yes. But then something even cooler happened.
We realized that other communities were responding to Rescuing Jesus with similar enthusiasm, so we opened this up to everyone. Now, Erin and I are running a national, inter-church book club that will read Rescuing Jesus with an eye toward developing concrete strategies for practicing radical inclusion and pursuing authentic social justice. It's called One Book, One Church.
Over the course of summer 2016, communities across the nation will read Rescuing Jesus together, discuss the material online and participate in online events featuring conversations with the author and leading progressive evangelical thinkers and activists. At the end of the summer One Book, One Church will host a live event with me and special guest panelists.
I'm so excited to announce that we're launching this this summer 2016 and YOU are invited. If you want your church, small group, book club, campus ministry, blog community or other group to participate, we'd love to help you do that. We're sending out "starter kits" (discussion guides, leader's preparation material, a social media kit, invitations to events, Rescuing Jesus bookmarks (limited!) and more) to anyone who signs up here.
I'll share more details about the events very soon, but for now, I want to mention one that's coming up soon that'll be very important to Rescuing Jesus readers. In June we'll be hosting an online event/discussion about healing from spiritual abuse. We'll draw from mental health professionals and others to discuss self care, identifying spiritual abuse and ways communities can systemically break the cycle of spiritual abuse. I invite you to send me your questions and thoughts on what you'd like this conversation to explore. Feel free to comment below, tweet at me or message me at email@example.com.
Want more info on One Book, One Church? We've got all the details, answers to FAQ and more here.
Please invite your friends to join! Click the share buttons below!