I've identified as Christian in one way or another pretty much my whole sentient life, but up until recently I didn't have much use for Christian writers. My impression was that they were all smug, self-satisfied superhumans who spend their days in a state of ecstatic communion with the divine (in between washing the feet of lepers and feeding homeless teenagers, natch). Kind of hard to relate to, for a girl who drops the f-bomb when she spills hot coffee on her lap.
The thing is, I don't want to hear from people who have their shit together. Annabel Porter-type Christians don't have anything to offer me or my decidedly imperfect life. Their books are like women's fashion magazines, but instead of shaming me into doing butt-toning exercises, they make me afraid to ask questions and make mistakes.
Anne Lamott has been publishing her personal religious musings for years, and for a long time she seemed to me like a lone purple unicorn in the thoroughbred world of Christian publishing. She was the only author I'd found who would openly admit that living in the world in a Jesus-following way is freaking hard, and sometimes just sucks balls.
But then, as it so often does, the Internet intervened and saved me from the illusion that Anne Lamott is the only Christian writer who gets me. (We're still soul sisters for life, Annie, whether you like it or not.) It turns out there are other people out there who are talented writers, devoted Christians, and honest about their doubts and fears. Now that's what I call the trifecta.
I stumbled upon all three of these lady authors by way of their blogs, which serve as great introductions to their individual styles and sensibilities. Browsing their archives should give you a pretty solid idea of whether or not these gals are your speed. I love them because they come across as real people, not plastic saints whose only response to doubt is to hide it behind a smile and a potluck meal.
NBW is my jam. I snapped up her book Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint in hardcover as soon as it came out back in 2013 (you can see my recommendation for it here). She's a Lutheran pastor based in Denver, but she's the least preachy preacher I've ever encountered. She also has kickass tattoo sleeves. If you have a few minutes, this video of her speaking to a youth gathering is worth a watch or five.
Rachel Held Evans
Evans grew up evangelical in small-town Tennessee, but her naturally inquisitive nature caused her to question much of what she was taught to believe. Instead of abandoning her faith, she blazed her own trail through the religious wilderness. She explores topics like the tension between fundamentalist beliefs and scientific evidence, the definition of a “Biblical woman,” and LGBTQ inclusion within the church. Her third book, Searching for Sunday, out this month, deals with her struggle to find meaning in attending church when the values of modern Christian churches seem so divorced from Jesus's teachings. Because “Thou shalt build a 10,000-square-foot worship center” isn't in any Bible I've ever seen.
Sarah Bessey is the crunchy, baby-wearing earth mother of Christian writers. A Canadian and a mom of four, her writing centers around women and our place in the church. Spoiler alert: she believes women are able and called to lead. Her upcoming sophomore release, Out of Sorts, is about leaning into and wrestling with tough questions of faith. Bessey is a lovely, lyrical prose stylist who leaves me feeling proud of and strong in my femininity. Girl power!
Who am I missing? Do you have any go-to Christian authors who aren't afraid to question their faith and admit they're not invincible? Get at me!