Testimony - Issue #333
When a non-religious person hears the word testimony, they think about courtroom settings: the rat's testimony puts the capo away. When people like me hear it, the reaction is visceral. Testimony? I cringe. My physical discomfort comes from one of two scenarios, both from church events.
The first a cringe from silence. It's usually a medium-sized room, large enough to have some folks, small enough that you can't quite disappear into the crowd. No one is says anything. The speaker just launched an open mic moment, with a plea or two for the sharing of testimonies, and you could cut the silence with a knife. Bueller? Anyone? Maybe an accusation: surely god has done something for you recently. You just want someone to say something, anything; you certainly don't want to be that person. The second cringe inevitably and sometimes immediately follows the first: someone grabs the mic and starts talking.
Here's a real example. Having just mistakenly moved to Georgia, we were trying to find a church to attend. We found decent-looking websites and thought the place may fit. Upon arrival, we sang a few songs and then sat down for the pastor's talk. He took the stage, explained it was the fifth Sunday of the month, and so this would be testimony Sunday! He opened the mic, a hush fell on the room, a rando walked up to speak, and we walked out.
This is what came to my mind when, about a year ago, I learned Jon Ward's book would be called Testimony. What was he up to, trying to trigger people like me? The subtitle gives it away: "Inside the evangelical movement that failed a generation." Ex-evangelical memoirs could fill a not-small shelf: something about people who grew up that way and changed prompts them to write books about it. Jon's not on that path: his book is about how to become fully and more deeply Christian: part of the historic faith, not a contemporary political movement.
This booked connected with me in more than a few ways: I know Jon, and knew him better twelve or so years ago, as he was in the early throes of his journey; his experience during his early 20s directly corresponded to mine, down to the churches, authors, and celebrity pastors; his political journey, from reflexive dogmatism to thoughtful pragmatism, seems similar to mine. I've long-admired Jon and his wife for being a life-segment ahead of us and for helping us along. In a sense, this book encapsulates his wisdom and experience for the rest of you all. I'm glad he wrote it and commend it to you.
"Jon Ward's honest, meditative, and beautifully written memoir shines a bright light on the often-obscured links between religion and politics in America."
"Ward's personal story, of faith and family and things left behind, is also the story of how our culture came unglued. Testimony is a deeply moving book, and deeply important."