In the past seven weeks—since the publication of my recent book FACING DOUBT (and of the Dutch edition)—I have received lots of comments from readers in the Netherlands, but especially also from the United States and Great Britain, as well as from numerous other countries.
It is great to hear that so many have not only read the book and found much with which they agreed, but have also indicated that the book helps them to deal with their doubts, concerns and insecurities. It makes me grateful and it strengthens my feeling that this is a worthwhile project.
The sheer number of positive reactions has amazed me. Quite regularly I am enthusiastic about books that I read, but I must admit that I seldom write a comment (even when I know the author personally). It has truly amazed me that so many people have take the trouble to get hold of my e-mail address (email@example.com), have sent me a Facebook message or posted a comment on my Facebook page or on the special page dedicated to the book (@facingdoubt), while a few also submitted a comment to the Amazon.com or Amazon.uk websites. But in the process I have discovered two things.
Discovery number 1.
I thought that my book would most of all be of interest to those who are ‘on the margins’ of the church—people who hardly ever attend church and feel increasingly uneasy about the Adventist Church. However, I discovered that this presupposition is faulty and perhaps I should consider changing the subtitle of the book! Many people who are active in the church and do not plan to leave the church any time soon, tell me that they feel the book is useful for them. They are happy that I honestly and openly deal with matters that are not just of concern to their brothers and sisters ‘on the margins’, but are also very relevant for others who are in the midst of church life. Not everybody thinks that I have a fully conclusive answer to the questions I raise (and, of course, I did not pretend that I would have all the answers), but the book, they tell me, helps them to deal more satisfactorily with their questions and concerns. It was great to discover this.
Discovery number 2
My second discovery is that the culture of fear in the Adventist Church is even more widespread that I thought. When the book appeared I sent about one hundred complimentary copies to Adventist church leaders in the US and Europe. From a a few I received a note that they received the book and intend to read it. But for the most there is deadly silence, except some things that reach me through the grapevine. Some apparently feel that, though they cannot agree with everything I say, it is good that I actually try to open the discussions about the questions and concerns many members have. I have been told that one of the top leaders mentioned to a colleague that he felt that all church leaders ought to read this book. But to publicly say something positive about the book is apparently too risky. Doing so would raise suspicion and may well endanger one’s church position. I had not expected that this would play such a major role. Of course, I realize that leaders have to be careful in what they say about controversial topics and will not easily endorse books they fear are not totally kosher. But in the past few weeks my fear has considerably increased that leaders must at all costs stick to the ‘party-line’ and must not get involved in any theological or organizational issues. And this is extremely sad. I keep hoping that in the coming months some leaders will publicly say: ‘This book deals with issues and questions that we must talk about. Let us not be afraid for genuine dialogue. Let us not ignore the large numbers of people in the church who live with doubts and who are worried about present trends in their church, and let us provide them with the pastoral care that all God’s people need.’
I wonder whether in the coming months I will make some further discoveries!