Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Review of 'Breaking Up With God: A Love Story' by Sarah Sentilles

"'I broke up with God.  The break-up was devastating.  It was like a divorce when  all the friends you had as a couple are forced to choose sides and end up not choosing yours.'

Sarah Sentilles's relationship with God was not casual.  When it began to unravel, she was in the ordination process to become an Episcopal priest, a youth minister at a church, and a doctoral student in theology at Harvard.  You might say they were engaged and that the wedding was all planned.  Calling it off would be more than a little awkward.  But in the studying of the religion she'd been raised on and believed wholeheartedly, one day she woke up and realized... it was over.

In this powerful memoir of faith, Sentilles reveals how deep our ties to God can be, and how devastating they can be to break.  Without God to mold herself to and without religion as her script, who was she and what was her purpose?  Her relationship with God had been connected to everything-- her family, her friends, her vocation, the places she frequented, the language she used, and her way of being in the world.

Not unlike after a divorce, she had to reorient her life and face the future that felt darkly unfamiliar.  But this beautiful, brave book is surprisingly filled with hope, a coming-out story that lets others know it's safe to come out too and that there's light on the other side."

I had seen a few reviews of this book around the blogosphere, all with varying ratings, but after reading the description, I felt like this was something that I needed to read.

Story Time:  My pseudonym is Jude Rosenberg and I'm agnostic.  I can't remember exactly when I began struggling with my faith, but I know that I began to seriously think about it in the months before I was confirmed in the Christian faith.  I wrote my faith statement saying that I had made my choice and I was choosing God.  But in the months that followed this day, my mind was still reeling with thoughts.  Questions.  I'm not talking about questions about the Bible, but questions about myself.  Thoughts like, "Do I really believe in God?"  "What does this all mean?"  "Did I make a mistake on my confirmation day?"  I realized that on the day I was confirmed, everything I said was true, but now something had changed in me.  I was angry that I had said that I truly believed in the same God that everyone else did.  But I noticed that there were some different definitions.  People were using God and their religion to discriminate and hurt groups of people.  I didn't want any of that.  I don't think it's in any way right.  The thing that really stood out to me was "love your neighbor" and I just wasn't seeing that.  Not in everyone.  This led to frustration which led to me removing the source and finding bigger things to worry about.  Religion wasn't that thing.

End Story Time.  I'm basically trying to say that reading this book was good for me and it really articulated my thoughts in a way that I've had trouble doing for so long.  Until now.  I really identified with Sarah Sentilles.

I liked reading a book like this.  Not that I've read very many books pertaining to religion, but I've at least heard of many titles about spiritual journeys and getting closer to God... it was that much more isolating.  While I'm sure those books are interesting on some level, it was nice to see a "falling out" story.  To me, it says, "it's okay to think the way you think.  Don't let anyone else rip you apart.  You're not alone."

I liked that this book had the power to make me really angry and frustrated or very hopeful, depending on what was happening.

The only real complaint that I have is that there were a number of seemingly random asides that didn't appear to go anywhere until you reached the end of the point.  Also, one of the characters wasn't introduced upon our first encounter with them.  I didn't really like shifting my focus from what Sarah Sentilles was saying just so I could figure out who the heck person X was and how they were related to Sarah.

Overall, a very eye-opening memoir and completely worth the read, even if it's only to understand a new perspective of life.

I give "Breaking Up With God":
Please excuse the rather long post.  I promise that not all of my reviews in the future will be as personal as this one.  I would also like to point out that just because these are my views doesn't mean that they have to be yours.  Please respect my beliefs as I will absolutely respect yours.

Thanks for reading!



  1. heres my stance on religion-dont hate the game, hate the player. that is to say that if someone is being a douchebag in the name of god, thats not gods fault, its THEIR fault. i always remind people that it says "love your neighbor" not "love your neighbor as long as they're straight, white, christian middle-class men" or whatever. I was actually questioning my stance on the subject of christianity for a while, and this is the conclusion i came to.

    but this book sounds pretty interesting.... i just might have to read it.

  2. That's actually a good stance to have. I like yours very much :)

    I guess my dealio is that I think it's cool to see other people engaging in things like this (like, I find someone praying to be quite peaceful) but I hate the "shoving religion down my throat" side of things, if that makes sense.

    It's a super testy subject and I hope that I'm not coming off as one of those douche-bags.


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