A few weeks ago I was sitting with a friend, watching a trendy new sitcom that featured a Christian character. Five minutes into the episode, my friend said, "She fits all the stereotypes, huh?" The character was uptight, more concerned about what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms than about the plight of refugees in the Horn of Africa. When we turned off the TV, I said, "Shows like that make me wonder if the writers know any actual Christians."
Not that Christians are never holier-than-thou or hung up on sex. But things aren't so simple for most of us. Along with smug feelings of moral superiority, we also experience shame. We're trying to live up to our ideals for sexual behavior, but many of us are also fretting over how best to support aid efforts in Haiti—or our neighborhoods. While we're worrying about justice, we're also asking ourselves how to have hope despite heartache. The question is, how do we invite outsiders to walk a mile in our shoes? How do we describe what belief feels like from the inside?
That's the question driving Francis Spufford's book Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense (HarperOne). Rejecting the need for yet another defense of Christian ideas, Spufford tries instead to paint a picture of what it's like to be a believer. He describes how emotions that are "deeply ordinary and deeply recognizable to anybody who has ever made their way across the common ground of human experience" are precisely the emotions that make up the Christian life.
A novelist and instructor in creative writing at Goldsmiths College in London, Spufford seems incapable of writing a pedestrian ...