You practically cut your teeth on a Bible.
That’s how long God has been in your life: since you were old enough to understand language. You grew up in church on Sunday, Bible camp in summertime, and Bible study in between. You’ve never questioned it, ever.
But Jerry DeWitt has — even though he grew up knowing that he had a calling. In his new book “Hope After Faith” (with Ethan Brown), he explains what happened to shake his belief.
Born and raised in a “deeply religious small town” in Louisiana , Jerry DeWitt always felt pulled toward the Word of God. As a child, he was a fan of Jimmy Swaggart, and the local Presbyterian Church was his second home. It was no surprise, then that, at a time when most boys were choosing high school classes, DeWitt decided to have his own ministry someday.
It was a bumpy ride to that point, though.
When he was not quite 3 years old, DeWitt’s father died in a truck accident. That, the “rough style of parenting” his father practiced, and several household moves made DeWitt “withdrawn, anxiety-ridden,” and shy, but his fourth-grade teacher saw potential in the boy and took him under her wing. She encouraged his dreams and even took him to a Swaggart revival camp meeting.
Later, because of a girl, DeWitt decided to attend Baptist services, but it “lacked the energy … I had grown accustomed to” at Presbyterian services. He also noticed that some Presbyterian Church members seemed disdainful of other churches but, undaunted, he moved forward with his mission. He met a woman, fell in love, got married within three short months, and almost immediately pulled his bride into a lifestyle that was Spartan, to say the least.
But when one “Brother” hinted that DeWitt couldn’t be friends with someone from another church, and another “Brother” tried to trick him during a service, DeWitt’s fervent faith began to crack.
He eventually became “completely disenfranchised from the relationship with God that I held very dearly,” he says. And when he realized that he couldn’t pray for a friend, he knew that the crack was canyon-wide.
Aside from the fact that it’s plagued with a common memoir flaw (infinitesimally tiny details that mean absolutely nothing to a vast number of readers), “Hope After Faith” isn’t horribly bad.
To the positive, I was intrigued by peeks inside revival tents and behind the podium. Authors Jerry DeWitt and Ethan Brown show that being a Man of God isn’t a smooth path; in fact, it’s really not for wimps. This provocativeness, however, is bruised by a long and convoluted back-and-forth, in-and-out-of-the-ministry section of the book, which culminates (rather quickly) in an ending that I’m betting will cause abundant controversy.
Overall, I think fervent believers are going to be aghast at this book. Non-believers will find something to bolster their tenets between these covers. Therefore, if you’re in the former column, pass. If you’re in the latter camp and need a new thought-provoker, “Hope After Faith” should make the cut.
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“Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism” by Jerry DeWitt, with Ethan Brown
c.2013, Da Capo Press $25.99 / $29.00 Canada 270 pages