Text Messages

Today is my last day with Beliefnet, and my last day as the author of this blog. The Text Messages archives will remain live at this location, but posting will cease. 
If that sounds gloomy, it’s an accurate reflection of my mind this afternoon. I’ve chosen to pursue new opportunities, but I’m not without pangs of regret. I’ve loved the conversation on this blog, loved sharing my interests with you, and most importantly, loved my tenure as an editor for Beliefnet. I’ve worked here for three years, which I’m told is an eternity in online media, but it felt like a spark. (It’s also not an eternity for Beliefnet–good people tend to stick around this place, not least because there are so many good people who work here.) 
I’m tempted to link to my favorite interviews, essays, blog posts, videos and feature packages I’ve had the pleasure of developing during my time here. But I’d rather point forward. If you like this blog, I hope you’ll follow the rich conversations that are happening at Jesus Creed and The New Christians, Crunchy Con and Idol Chatter. I love Steven Waldman’s blog, too, and Therese Borchard’s, and the Blogalogue, and the entire slate of voices Beliefnet is developing. Stay tuned. 
Also keep an eye on Beliefnet’s Christian channel, and the soon-to-be-transformed community site. Good stuff all around. 
Me? Well, I’ve a PhD to complete, and (in related news) a book on Christianity, violence, and Hollywood. New projects abound, with fingers crossed. 
I can be reached at pattondodd (at) gmail dot com. 
Thanks for reading, and thanks especially to Beliefnet. 


Why do people stop going to church? This big question is the subject of Julia Duin’s small book, Quitting Church: Why teh Faithful are Fleeing and What To Do About It. Duin is not a disinterested observer of the phenomenon of church-dropping; rather, she’s a churchgoer who wants churches to work well, and also a skilled reporter who knows how to apply the tools of her trade. 
The result is a book that makes for uncomfortable reading for anyone invested in good church ministry; Duin is straightforward in her examination of the myriad ways churches can fail Christian believers. But she’s not without hope in American churches and their ability to find a way forward. 
Duin took on some questions via email. Our exchange appears after the jump. 

ryanfisher.jpgI’m overjoyed that my good friend Rob Stennett has won the Award of Merit from Christianity Today for his novel The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher. (Here’s CT’s review of the book.) Stennett’s hilarious book is about a real estate agent who joins a suburban church in order to reach the Christian home-buying market, and then has an even better idea: He’ll plant his very own megachurch! (The working title for the book was The Impastor, and I’ve yet to forgive Rob’s publisher for nixing it.) 

A.J. Jacobs, the author of The Year of Living Biblically, calls it “equal parts Tom Perotta and Rob Bell.” Couldn’t be a more apt description of what Rob is able to accomplish in his writing: it’s a kind of pastoral satire. 
The merit award is a runner-up prize. CT’s top fiction award went to some writer named Marilynne Robinson. Who? What has she ever done worth doing?

Slate asked for an essay on Ted Haggard’s spiritual restoration. I’m okay with what I came up with for now, but the more I think about it, the more I think we need better thinking on what restoration looks like for very public, outspoken, influential men and women like Haggard:

Most people who fail need only redeem themselves with their most immediate friends and family. They can ask forgiveness of every person they’ve wounded. How could Haggard ask forgiveness of 30 million–or even the 14,000 members of his former church? Sitting across from Oprah is no substitute for sitting across from those you’ve hurt. But he can go away quietly, do the work of atonement, and let tales of his renewed life spring up naturally, Profumo-style.

Read it all