As the church section editor, I thought we could mix things up a little and interview three authors from various backgrounds on writing, what books have influenced them and their unique contribution to the church. Rod Dreher, Brian McLaren and Dan Kimball were gracious enough to share their insights. Enjoy.
*Rod Dreher is an editorial writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News. His book Crunchy Cons is a solid read about grassroots conservatism.
RELEVANTmagazine.com: How are your views on the environment and politics connected to your faith?
Rod Dreher: God clearly calls us to approach the natural world as good stewards, not rank exploiters. We are also called to look upon creation with an attitude of reverence—which is not the same thing as worship. My politics are primarily motivated by a reverence for human life, most especially unborn life. But God made the world too, and Christians are commanded to treat it with reverence. If we really believe that, our politics will reflect it.
RM: What is one of the most important books to you and why?
RD: The Seven Storey Mountain. Thomas Merton’s 1943 spiritual autobiography tells the tale of how he went from being a literary-minded bon vivant and careless young man to a Trappist monk. I read it when I was in a place in my life a lot like Merton was when he discovered the faith. Reading it helped bring me to Christ, and helped me to understand that I did not have to sacrifice my intellect and love of beauty to be a man of faith, but in fact in Christian faith could find the fulfillment of all my intellectual and aesthetic longings.
RM: What is your favorite book-memory?
RD: It was the night I was lying in my old bedroom at my mom and dad’s house, having gone through a miserable two years as a lost and drifting agnostic. It was 1986, the springtime of my freshman year in college. I had somehow found a book called Kierkegaard’s Philosophy: Self-Deception and Cowardice in the Modern Age by John Douglas Mullen. It was a basic introduction to the thought of the Danish Christian philosopher considered by many to be the father of existentialism. Kierkegaard had anticipated all of the false choices I had committed myself to as a way to escape the anxiety of being human and showed that the only way out was through religious commitment. For the first time, an adult faith made sense to me. I was elated. I closed the book, turned out the light and prayed the first sincere prayer I’d prayed in years. I believed in God again.
*Brian McLaren is a pastor, author, speaker and networker among
innovative Christian leaders, thinkers and activists. His most recent book is The Secret Message of Jesus.
RM: Brian, when did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?
BM: As a little kid, I said I wanted to be an "arthur"—meaning that I wanted to write comic books, because I loved comics. I also thought about writing nature books, because I loved nature. I later became a college writing teacher, but I didn’t have any specific plans to actually write until 1995 when I was struggling with a lot of issues related to church, ministry and theology.
RM: What is you favorite book-memory?
BM: There are so many. I recently read Dylan’s autobiography (Chronicles) on a transatlantic flight and found myself laughing out loud several times just for the pleasure of his wonderful writing style.
RM: What has been the most important book to you aside from the Bible in the last ten years?
BM: It seems impossible to pick one. Maybe Lesslie Newbigin’s The Open Secret.
RM: What would be three essential books for anyone to read to gain a better understanding of the emerging perspective?
BM: Bolger and Gibbs, Emerging Churches. Pagitt, Reimagining Church. My A New Kind of Christian or Secret Message of Jesus.
RM: On what level would you place the "book" when it comes to spiritual formation? What are the advantages/disadvantages?
BM: For much of Christian history, most people were illiterate and books were rare. So they aren’t essential! But what is essential is a desire to learn, and books are an important way of fulfilling that desire today.
*Dan Kimball is one of the pastors at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA. He is the author of Emerging Church and Emerging Worship. He is currently working on two more books that deal with why people like Jesus but not the Church.
RM: How important have books been to your spiritual journey?
DK: I read somewhere that what you read now is who you become in five years, or something like that. Books have been a major part of my spiritual journey. When I was first searching out what Christianity was about, I would spend hours in a bookstore reading.
RM: What has been the most important book to you, aside from the Bible, in the last ten years?
DK: It is hard to answer that, as it depends on what part of my life I am thinking of being influenced. I can’t think of just one single book—I think of several. In terms of spiritual formation, Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy was a major book. In terms of church and ministry The Missional Church by Darrell Guder was very influential. In terms of the leadership I found Henri Nouwen’s In the name of Jesus an important book. Lots of books shaping different parts of my life.
RM: What’s you favorite book-memory?
DK: Probably the overwhelming rush of first reading Tim LaHaye’s stuff with end times charts and timetables when I was just searching out Christianity. I was stunned reading it was all figured out and had no idea Jesus was coming back etc. Now I look back on that and don’t agree with it, but I definitely remember the weird feeling of reading all about that when I was younger in the faith.
The comment section is open for you to share your best book memory, or list the most influential books in your life so far.