Idiot, Sojourning Soul: Book Review

You may or may not expect a book with the title of Idiot, Sojourning Soul: A Post-Secular Pilgrimage to be the type to make you both laugh out loud and have over 1,000 endnotes. But it is. Justin Rosolino combines tons of scholarly information with his spiritual journey and a heavy dose of wit to make for an informative read that keeps you intrigued: I was hooked by the first page. As the title suggests, he was raised in a secular family with no interest in religion. He converted to Christianity as an adult, first as a fundamentalist Christian seeking certainty but later shifted to a broadly inclusive, theologically astute Christian faith.

Much of the subculture I am part of has taken the reverse journey of Rosolino’s, growing up fundamentalist evangelical and abandoning the faith once they encounter the real world that includes science and critical thinking. I was intrigued to read Rosolino’s journey, going from secularism to Christian faith but minus any rock bottom / prison conversion stories I associate with such paths. His journey is intellectual yet relational, well-examined but heavily influenced by the people in his life who took the leap of faith before him. He emphasizes that faith is beyond knowing a set of beliefs or things about someone/something: it is knowing and being known by that Something.

In the book, he dabbles with theology, history, and philosophy, effortlessly entwining them and bringing in some heavy-hitting names in each of those fields (like I said, there are over a thousand citations). The chapter titles and headings are utterly useless for finding the set of information you’re looking for (more for entertainment than directions), but each section is stuffed to the brim with a funny anecdote and a hearty serving of knowledge. It’s like being served vegetables in your dessert, but when you genuinely can’t tell there are vegetables.

He covers such topics as ancient theologians and scientists, fundamentalism (biblicism, evolution, the Scopes Monkey Trial, and the Religious Right), what the Kingdom of God already unfolding means, and the ever-present acknowledgement that the life of faith is far more than assenting to some doctrines and Bible passages. Faith is necessarily a “leap” and it is a relationship; a willingness to know someone and be known by them.

Rosolino never shies away from the fact that American Christianity in its current embodiment bears very little resemblance to what Jesus seemed to set about to do during his time on earth. He shines light on how this chasm occurred and how to rediscover a Christianity closer to its origins – while never reducing such explorations to intellectual games but part of a robust life of faith.

In Rosolino’s words, if you are dissatisfied with “The Way Things Are,” if you want to learn to enjoy and embody the love of God, and to die to “the wounded, fearful, self-centered, performer self: the false self,” the leap of faith and new life awaits. I highly recommend this read for anyone curious about Christian spirituality, from the newcomers to the jaded, or for those looking to beef up their historical and theological knowledge of Christianity. You won’t regret it!

Rosolino’s website

Find the book on Amazon here

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