KEEPING FAITH: A Skeptic's Journey

Fenton Johnson, Author . Houghton Mifflin $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-618-00442-3

Spiritual homecoming stories are often predictable in both form and content, but Johnson's account of his passage from skepticism to faith is exceedingly refreshing and pure in its honesty. Raised in a Kentucky community that is home to the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani, Johnson, a novelist (Crossing the River and Scissors, Paper, Rock) grew up in a Catholic family that was intimately acquainted with the monastery's monks. But in leaving home and living as a gay man, he closed the door on religion only to come face to face with it again at Gethsemani in 1996. When, as an invited observer at an international gathering of Buddhist and Christian monks and lay contemplatives, Johnson was unable to lift his hand to join in making the sign of the cross, he became aware of a deep anger within. To delve into it, he set out on "a skeptic's journey" in which he explored both Buddhist and Christian monastic life. His quest recalls that of Thomas Merton, Gethsemani's most famous monk, who was known for his interest in Buddhist monasticism. Johnson's sensitively written tale is also notable for dealing with homosexuality in the Kentucky monastery, even as some Catholic leaders discuss banning homosexuals from priesthood. Because the faith Johnson has found departs from certain official church lines, this memoir is unlikely to resonate with traditionalist readers. However, its authenticity and depth will appeal to a varied audience of skeptics and believers. (Apr. 16)

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Paperback - 324 pages - 978-0-618-49237-4
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-544-10688-8
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