As the Book Review Editor for Hollywood Jesus, every week I am inundated with new titles coming out. Since our volunteer staff, including myself, has had very limited time recently to review books, the vast majority of these go ignored. But every now and then a title comes across my path that piques my interest to the point that I feel I need to give it a look.
The promotional blurbs for Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After were intriguing enough to grab my attention. As someone who is not afraid to examine his beliefs, I have an interest in books that examine Christianity in a thoughtful way. This book was also a bit different in that it is touted as “Theology in Story,” and is about a young man who has a crisis of faith.
Examining theology through novel is not exactly a… well… novel approach. But doing it well without being cheesy is difficult. Trevin Wax is up to the challenge. I was impressed by his attention to detail, giving the reader the impression he is present, watching the events as a semi-omniscient fly on the wall. And, while not being afraid to tackle some deep issues, he is also not afraid to let the reader come to his own conclusions. Nor does he attempt to tie everything up in a tidy bow at the end of the story. The characters feel real, and the story is believable.
Clear Winter Nights follows a few days in the life of Chris, who is on the verge of marriage and becoming a leader in a new church being planted. However, Chris’s doubts, exacerbated by revelations about his father, cause him to break the engagement as he reexamines his faith. He ends up visiting his grandfather, Gil, an retired preacher who is recovering from a stroke, and his honesty about his doubts sparks a lengthy conversation over a few days.
The book has much to say to Millennials who are wondering about their faith, and to those of us in older generations who are seeing the church change. There is a paragraph in the book which means so much to me as a father of four Millennials, and I hope many who read it, from every generation, take it to heart. Near the end of their time together those few days, Gil says this to his grandson (p. 129):
I’m proud of the young man you are becoming. You’ve come face to face with some devastating sin and hypocrisy. You’re asking big questions and wrestling with important things, and there’s no shame in that. You want to own your faith, not satisfied to go through the motions of a faith you’ve inherited. That’s admirable, if you ask me.
I echo these words to my own Millennials. I don’t say it enough, but I admire each one of you. Keep being real.