By Charles Gibbs
Chris Stedman’s Faitheist is a fine, compelling book written by a deeply faithful person, who by his own admission is more interested in building something than in tearing something down. His faithfulness is not to a set of religious beliefs but to a search to understand and honor his unique humanity and the unique humanity of others in ways that contribute positively to life on Earth.
In clear prose, with often disarming honesty, Steadman chronicles his sometimes turbulent and anguished journey toward a self-identity he can embrace, regardless of what the larger society reflects back. This journey includes a collision between his identity as a born-again Christian and his awakening sense of himself as gay man that led him to the brink of suicide. It includes his stint as an atheist doing graduate work at a Christian seminary, and an internship at the Interfaith Youth Core, one of the U.S.’s preeminent interfaith organizations.
Woven throughout his story is Steadman’s passion for constructive, life-affirming, boundary-crossing community, a compassion for those that mainstream society marginalizes, a high ethic of service, and a deep commitment to building a future “where the mutual goals of love and service remain at the forefront of people’s thoughts and actions…” (p.179) This stance in life would be praiseworthy in anyone. In a person whose identities – as a gay man and an atheist – make him the target of indescribable bigotry that all too often explodes in hatred, this stance is both unexpected and inspirational.
Steadman is a courageous pioneer who models the following words from the charter of the United Religions Initiative – We listen and speak with respect to deepen mutual understanding and trust. For Chris Stedman this principle is the platform from which to create engaged community that welcomes all in a spirit of appreciation and inquiry and seeks to engender a shared commitment to cooperative action to make our world a better place for all life, especially for the most vulnerable.
If you’re someone who is concerned about the increasingly polarized state of our world and the serious challenges that face our Earth community – poverty, environmental calamity, and the wanton disregard for life evident in the escalation of militarism and violence, to name a few – I urge you to read Chris Steadman’s book.
Beyond that, I urge you to follow his example and reach out to those you are inclined to view as the “other.” If you do, I guarantee you’ll discover there are no other people in this world, only a marvelously and confoundingly diverse humanity waiting to be discovered, respected and invited to travel together on a shared journey whose destination is our fullest humanity and the good of all.