Flirting with A/theism: a Review of Flirting with Faith - A book by Joan Ball - Review by Adele Sakler
Joan Ball’s journey from Atheism to a Christian faith in Flirting with Faith resonated with me because I have gone through similar experiences in my past. It’s just that I am finding myself no longer able to relate much anymore. Today I claim to be an Agnostic Christian who does not believe in many doctrines and interpretations of the Bible that run the gamut in evangelical circles. I am standing on the precipice of A/theism because I am falling out of belief of my human constructs of G-D. Yet, I really enjoyed Joan’s journey, and I will share some of my favorite moments from the book.
This book is an honest and authentic journey that never bordered on preaching. Joan Ball owns her experiences and never tries to say that anyone else should believe and/or do things the way she does. Her experience of having her own life and being in control of her own destiny previous to her exit from Atheism made the leap to belief in G-D all the more compelling.
The revealing descriptions of Joan’s misery resonated with me as well. “I had yet to read the clear indications that I was at the root of my own misery,” she wrote (p. 63). This gut-level honesty is one of the things I love about Joan! Her child-like faith became a motif throughout her journey. It all started from the beginning of her conversion: “Within weeks of my conversion, my journal was peppered with erratic talk of surrender and repentance and desperate pleas to be changed from the inside out (p. 81).” This culminated in Joan making decisions such as leaving her job and selling the home she and her husband built together.
Joan is a very creative and expressive person. An example of her open and poetic heart is when she said this: “I felt like a human zipper coming undone as God opened me up and showed me the best and the worst of myself through the lens of day-to-day life (p. 122).” She is also realistic in her approach to faith in Jesus: “Jesus is no genie in a lamp. All the happy thinking in the world will not keep life from being life (p. 165).”
There was a terrible church experience that rattled Joan and her family. How they waded through it all and came out on the other side inspired me. Joan says, “I can never be completely sure, but I think that God allowed my comfortable church existence to be shaken up so that I could learn what it means to forgive radically and to love beyond reason, even when dealing with people I would have preferred to hate (p. 179).”
Joan is now a teacher at a university and through her friend, John, learned what teaching is really all about. I loved her description of her friend’s advice, as I can see it reaching over to faith as well. John told her, “It is not about knowing everything and dispensing wisdom from on high. It is about reaching each student individually, heart to heart. It is about connecting with them as human beings in a way that meets their needs, not your convenience (p. 188).” Now, if more people would enact this principle in their daily lives when living out their faith we’d be in a much better place spiritually!
Now, I admit I am a walking contradiction, and scoffed at a lot of what Joan writes because I have been there, done that with so many similar kinds of stories. I just do not experience G-D anymore in the way Joan does, let alone sense the Holy Spirit at work. Maybe I am jaded or maybe it’s a season. I do not know. I personally find myself slipping from faith to atheism, the reverse order of Joan’s journey. I feel like there is no plan for my life and feel like a waste of space at times. Chronic illness ravages my body. I’m not sure where I will end up on this odyssey I’m on but I want to thank Joan for sharing hers.
She considers herself at this point in her journey a Christian agnostic because she just can’t seem to sign on the dotted line and ascribe to all the doctrines and long-held man-made traditions of Christendom any longer. ‘She is Thomas, doubter. She is Judas, betrayer. She is Nicodemus, reluctant in the night. She is St. John of the cross, soul darkened by love.’ (David Henson) ‘She is lost, wicked, and depraved but redeemed by the grace and beauty of God.’ (Eugene Cho)
She loves G-D and is a failing Christ-follower. Adele has been a Christ-follower for over 20 years and an “out” queer woman for over three years. Her involvement with the emerging church and Emergent Village has filled the better part of 10 years. She blogs at Existential Punk ( http://www.existentialpunk.com/ )and is the creator and site administrator for Queermergent ( http://www.queermergent.com/.) You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.