A Belfast-born writer who has excited many Jesus followers in the emergent church movement and disquieted many others will be sharing his provocative thoughts at four Eastern Mennonite University venues tomorrow (Sept. 24).
The titles of Peter Rollins’ books offer clues to his stream of thought:
• The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction (2013)
• Insurrection: To Believe is Human; to Doubt, Divine (2011)
• The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales (2009)
• How (Not) to Speak of God (2006)
• The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief (2008)
In his amazon.com bio, Rollins is characterized as “a provocative writer, lecturer, storyteller and public speaker who has gained an international reputation for overturning traditional notions of religion and forming ‘churches’ that preach the Good News that we can’t be satisfied, that life is difficult, and that we don’t know the secret.”
In an interview posted at religiondispatches.org last April, Peter Rollins said: “Some of my critics say I’m telling them to doubt, but that’s not it. I’m saying you’re already full of doubts. It acts the same way as alcohol abuse – the alcohol makes you feel better about yourself, but then you have this hangover where you realize you’re just covering over some sort of brokenness.
“I’m saying when you’re in church around people who believe the same thing and you’re reading all those books, it feels great, but then, at night over a drink with a friend in a bar, you feel like that there must be a better way. It [i.e., the usual form of church attendance] prevents us from encountering our own brokenness and working through it.”
This interview sparked 50 online comments, with the readers strongly debating each other.
Rollins will be the chapel speaker at 10 a.m. in Lehman Auditorium, followed by a “talk back” at 10:45 a.m. in the student-run coffee house, Common Grounds in University Commons. At 4 p.m. Rollins is speaking at the University Colloquium at the MainStage Theater on “the idolatry of God.” He wraps up the day with a 7:30 p.m. conversation with members of EMU’s Free-Thought Coalition in Strite Conference room of the Campus Center. All of these events are free and open to the public.
In his religiondispatches.org interview, Rollins called for people to “create a place where there is no Jew or Gentile, no male or female, atheists or theists, gay or straight.”
He added: “That’s the good news of Christianity for me. It’s not that you can be happy and whole, but rather that life is crap and you don’t know the answers. It’s good news to be freed from the oppression that there’s something that’s going to make it all better. When you’re free from that and begin to work through your brokenness and suffering with a set of rituals, practices and sacraments that help us encounter our humanity, I think we become more loving, more beautiful, more grace-filled people.”
Educated at Queens University in Belfast, Rollins holds degrees in scholastic philosophy (BA Hons), political theory (MA) and post-structural thought (PhD). His EMU visit is sponsored by the Bible and religion department.