Book Notes: Peter Rollins – Insurrection

To believe is human, to doubt divine.  That’s the caption on the front of Peter Rollin’s new book: Insurrection.  And the extra 10 seconds you took to consider that apparant contradiction, is somewhat of a forshadowing of things to come.  One thing that readers might want to know going in, is that Rollins is building his case, not so much on doubt, but on the seriousness of the resurrection story found in Christianity.  And he is doing it with a torch in hand, one dipped in a new sort of reductionist pyro-theology.

If that sounds scary, maybe it should.  Rollins suggests that it is in offering up your religious practices, dogma, and pet assumptions to the flames of scrutiny that one finds an often uncomfortable truth…that Christianity isn’t so much about life after death, but life before death.   It’s about changing this world here…and now.

And if that sounds harder than what you believe, then it might not be saying much, because according to Rollins, belief is easy…

“Getting people to believe is easy precisely because it is so natural for us. Any persuasive human can do it- and even make some money in the process. But to truly unplug from the God of religion [that reinforces meaning and certainty], with all the anxieties and distress this involves, takes courage. Indeed, one could say it takes God.”

This killing of the God of religion is a central theme in this book.  And much of it’s motivating power isn’t directed toward the service of an intellectual loss of faith, but to highlight the abandonment that Christ himself experiences on the cross, and expresses through his cry, father why has thou forsaken me.

He sites Mother Teresa as one who revealed this honest doubt at various times in her work.  It is this sharing in the act of God loosing God, that Christians must come to terms with…and which Rollins sees as flying in the face of our addiction to certainty.

It is in the midst of this uncertainty that the concept of God as a verb seems to emerge.  As a way you act in relation to the other. Quintessentially expressed as unconditional love. Something that is often seen as an attribute by a more traditional view of God, as someone/thing “out there” that we relate to. Not the means by which we perfectly relate to all others.

This has got to be one of the most provocative books I’ve read in at least the past year.  Highly recommend it.