The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2018
*** Best Book of 2018!!!
Jonathan Merritt: I expected that when I moved to New York, there would be some culture shock. What I didn’t expect was that I would encounter a language barrier, not that I couldn’t speak English…. I just no longer could speak God; I no longer felt confident in the vocabulary of faith, and I no longer was having spiritual conversations. For someone who grew up in a religious household, and for someone who has devoted his life personally and professionally to matters of faith, that was jarring and discouraging. To tell this story would simply be a memoir, and I don’t think that the world needs another memoir from a 30 year-old. This book project became more urgent for me when 1) I began to have conversations with friends, family members, and strangers, who were describing exactly the same feelings, sentiments, and experiences that I’d been having, and then 2) I commissioned a study of over a thousand Americans with Barna, I realized that this inability to speak God was a widespread problem. In addition to what the Google nGram data tells us—that there is a massive decline in the use of sacred words and moral and ethical words, and religious words, and virtuous words—people are not having spiritual conversations in America, despite the widespread religiosity, and that to me was stunning because if you love something, you talk about it. If you have friends that say they love their children, but if you are good friends with that person for five years and they never mention their children ever, and you just found out after all these years that they have children, you’d be shocked. And yet about three-fourths of Americans say that faith is part of their lives and they identify as a person of the Christian faith (or another faith), and yet they never talk about this faith. And so, I wanted to explore why it is that we talk about the things we love, but when it comes to this thing, we’re tongue-tied. This became a pressing question for me, and I thought that it was a question that others were missing, that others were not answering, and that’s the point when I decided to pick up the pen and write again.
- From our interview with Jonathan Merritt
in our Fall 2018 magazine issue
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