The one word that comes to mind concerning this book?
That sounds terrible, but there you go. The book reads, well… everything about Fulwiler: her blog, her story and her credentials? Reads like someone who decided that she was going to become what my husband and I refer to as a “visionary consultant.”
Visionary consultants are people who sell “vision” and “passion” and not a whole lot else.
The idea guy.
People like Vani Hari (The Food Babe) and Chris Guillebeau and Penelope Trunk. Timothy Ferriss.
The author/blogger/speaker. The person who’s “mission statement” always includes something about empowering you.
So, Fulwiler has packaged herself as The Atheist Convert to Catholicism, and she’s selling that product hard in this book, on her blog, and on her radio show, and all the other things she’s got going on.
So, good for her on setting a goal and achieving it.
I still found the whole story frustrating.
The first chapter is beautifully written, and I bought the book based on the Kindle preview of that first bit. She and I are the same age, and she had the same sort of experience I had in Baptoland, Texas. In fact, when I went looking through her old blog, which she claimed was filled to the brim with convincing comments, it turns out I found her and made that same observation in 2006, when I went through my big Catholicism Obsessive Interest phase.
However, going through her old blog just reinforced that word. Calculating.
Fulwiler wanted to be a conservative that believed in God, because that’s what winners in Texas are–conservatives who (at least say they) believe in God. That’s what her husband was. In 2005, when she started the Reluctant Atheist blog, she’d clearly already managed to buy the conservative politics.
So she then went about finding a way to do God.
It’s not that I don’t believe her story. She is, obviously, a convert. It’s that I think she had this book in her head, the entire time she was converting.
The book itself goes out of it’s way to touch on all the apologist’s Greatest Hits. She was “intellectually convinced” that God had to exist, but she never actually says what she found so intellectually convincing–she says who did the convincing (Lewis, Chesterton, Lee Strobel.) God seeks out those who seek him. God exists because beauty exists. God performs miracles and acts of grace, if you only look to see them. As an atheist she’s shallow: she never realized that babies had an incredibly high mortality rate in the past (seriously, that’s not a lack of religion, that’s just being clueless), she is more concerned with houses and hair and tacos than goodness and God. She was blind, and then she saw. And, of course, in a move that is both preserving of her privacy and absolutely perfect for a Christian movie adaptation, the biggest sin she has to confess, when she finally sees the light? Is mocking Jesus as a child. Which, of course, is in that opening chapter that caught my attention in the first place.
So, the book is actually fairly well-constructed. But that is just the problem. It’s constructed.
Do I really think her biggest, most heinous regret is mocking Christ on the Cross at a slumber party?
I think, maybe, using Jesus to achieve your own visionary consulting goals might actually be more bothersome.
But that’s not a particularly rare flaw these days either, right?