"I live in the sharp fragments of shattered stories. I walk among them, picking them up, trying to make sense of them even while being cut by their sharp edges."
---Kyle Cupp, Living By Faith, Dwelling In Doubt
One of the things I love most about my friend, Kyle Cupp, is his belief in the virtue of "hospitality." I don't think I've ever met a human being who is so open to other human beings who challenge his ideas, even his foundational beliefs, and treats them with more equanimity, courteousness, good humor, and openness than he. He's a really smart guy, with an academic foundation in philosophy, so he defends his beliefs with gusto, but never (or seldom ever) with rancor. In other words, he's the perfect "anti-Kevin."
In his new book, Living By Faith, Dwelling In Doubt, Kyle explores his "crisis of faith" that was precipitated by the death of his newborn daughter hours after her birth. That Kyle and his wife, Genece (an artist in her own right), had known for months that their beloved Vivian Marie would die either before her birth or shortly thereafter, due to a birth defect, only added to their emotional pain and grief at her death, a grief that made Kyle call into question whether he any longer held the belief in the Christian God that had informed and formed his adult life.
With that event as the catalyst, Kyle's book explores the tension between faith and doubt on levels that are both intensely personal and all-embracing. His meditations on the meaning of life, the existence of or nonexitsence of God, and, ultimately, the power of love to transcend time, space, and human existence itself, simultaneously pull the reader into his world and prompt the reader to explore his or her individual, unique perspectives on these animating issues in new, and I found, enlightening ways. His call for humble acceptance of the limits of our individual perceptions and, even more critically, for our respect for the perceptions of others, struck a nerve with at least one reader.
I think Kyle's wonderfully warm, insightful observations on questions with which most of us wrestle will resonate with other readers, especially those who may daily cry out, like the healed boy's father in the Gospel of Mark, "I do believe. Help my unbelief." There may be few who can, as do Kyle and some of his post-modern philosophical influences, dance along the razor's edge of belief and unbelief on a daily basis and maintain a steady course. However, even nonbelievers will find value in Kyle's arguments for the penultimate belief in the power of love, and the humor and often self-deprecating wit he employs along the way.
It is rare to read a book that speaks to your own life, and that challenges you to question whether your embrace of certainty, at least to the degree that it becomes destructively judgmental, is, as a woman close to me not long ago asserted, something that may not be a virtue. This was one of those books.
From the concluding paragraph of Kyle's "Eulogy for Vivian Marie," written shortly after her death:
My wife and I are broken and will remain broken, but our hearts are, we hope, full of love, and we will hope and strive to keep our faith alive. Daily we will think of Vivian. Daily we will ask her to pray for us and to intercede for us. Our love for her and her love for us was not constrained by time, nor is it now, nor will it ever be. Our love knows no time constraints. Indeed, our love knows eternity, and because our love knows eternity, our love overcomes death.