Published by Baker Books on June 1, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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It's no easy journey disentangling the good news of the gospel from the toxic theologies that have rendered Jesus unrecognizable. It's no wonder the church has sent many walking.
In The Road Away from God, Jonathan Martin reimagines Luke's story of two disillusioned disciples walking the Emmaus road away from the holy city where they had watched their hope die a gruesome death right before their eyes.
For anyone who is feeling their faith unravel, reckoning with religious trauma, or walking the long road of deconstruction, Martin speaks compassionate hope into the journey of today's disillusioned disciples, revealing that the resurrected Christ is profoundly present with them--even on what seems to be the road away from God.
With "a pastor's heart and poet's touch," as Rachel Held Evans once wrote of Martin, this is a book to help you feel seen in your spiritual journey and all its complexities, and to find resurrection even where you least expect it.
The past half-decade, and probably longer, has seen an increasing number of people raised in the church pack their bags and leave. The reasons are multifaceted but the result is the same. Many are leaving the communities they’ve been a part of and aren’t sure what their next step is. Using the story of Jesus speaking to disciples walking on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection, Jonathan Martin offers a loving, compassionate, hopeful, and thoughtful look at how the path away from the God we thought we knew just may lead us to Him in a fuller and more authentic way.
The Road Away from God: How Love Finds Us Even as We Walk Away is a beacon of light on a dark road, providing not just a proverbial hope of a light at the end of the tunnel, but illuminating the present journey. In the early chapters, Jonathan Martin talks about what may have led people to this road and validates their journey. It’s been my experience that those who have left their church communities—a trend sped up by the COVID-19 pandemic—have often been shamed and berated by those who remain. Many are turning their back on the church because of its nationalism, racism, militarism, white supremacy, and lack of concern for the marginalized. But where is Jesus in all of that? Martin suggests that, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus—walking away from the Holy City of Jerusalem, feeling defeated in their faith because their messiah was dead—Jesus is right there on the journey as well.
Interweaving his own experience with stories from others, Martin is able to tell his readers that they are not alone on this journey. Not just that Jesus is there, walking with us, but that’s a whole church of wanderers walking away from what they thought they knew and into the unknown. There are a lot of books about “deconstruction” and explanations of faith that lie outside of conservative American evangelicalism. The strength of Martin’s writing is the love and compassion that exude through every sentence of the book. Martin’s message is not just that Jesus cares—but that he cares and that there’s a whole community of people that care—and are willing to support you on your journey. For many The Road Away from God will be a mirror, showing them their own story. Reflected in the background will the faces of so many others, showing the reader that they are loved, that they are valued, and that they are not alone.
One of the things I appreciated most about The Road Away from God was that Martin does not paint the church as irredeemable. He does not tell those walking away from the church that they should not feel conflicted. Instead, he acknowledges the difficulty of the decision, understanding that staying would have been easier, that it would have had its own benefits. He allows space for lamenting what was lost, even though it was necessary. By the end of the book The Road Away from God shows how the road away just might lead toward, how what we were really moving away from was a toxic or harmful expression of faith. The book provides hope that movement away is also movement towards something else—and that something might be Christ in a fuller and realer way than what you left.