To me, Gordon Atkinson will always be the Real Live Preacher (RLP). Even though he no longer holds a position as a church pastor, he is still preaching the word, to me at least. This book, Foy: On the Road to Lost
, is yet another example of his still preaching.
I first got to know Gordon Atkinson (aka RLP, as I'll call him during the rest of this self-indulgent excuse of a "review") when I discovered his web site back sometime around 2005 or 2006. I had a lot of dead time in the lab waiting for things to happen (I was slowly heating things up until they exploded) and so, I spent some of that "waiting" time surfing the web. I believe he began the site in 2004, so I got on board, so to speak a year or two after he began that site. At the time Gordon was the pastor of a small (I think) Baptist church in Texas.
I didn't know much about Baptists then, although some of my Kansas cousins on my maternal grandfather's side were Baptists. He and my mother's people were Methodists. Anyway, what I thought I knew of Baptists was the most obvious, and odious, form of them, the Southern Baptists. If rank-and-file Southern Baptists are anything like their more prominent "leaders"—e.g. Al Mohler, Robert Jeffress, Richard Land, Franklin Graham, etc.—they would be a more ignorant and bigoted group of people than you could ever hope to meet. An object lesson of all that's opposed to the Jesus' "good news". My guess is Southern Baptists are, by and large, wonderful people who just got stuck with the dregs of humanity populating their leadership ranks. [sorry for the digression; on to RLP]
But RLP, as I'll refer to Gordon—I hope he'll forgive me—was clearly cut from different cloth. He, like my other favorite Baptist, Fred Clark (a.k.a. Slacktivist
), was a thinker and questioner. RLP (and Slactivist), understood that the human condition was complex, that the questions about what came first and what comes last were not straightforward. In short, RLP was one of the most honest thinkers of the human condition I had yet encountered.
So, anyway, RLP would post various musings about life and spirituality, musings that resonated with me, a lowly UCC (pronounced uhck; allegedly it stands for United Church of Christ; sometimes people refer to UCC as "Unitarians considering Christ", or occasionally, to our "old" New England name, Congregationalists). Along with his musings about this and that, RLP also posted stories about a guy named Foy Davis. That is the genesis of this book. It seems that RLP has written some 41 stories about Foy, although I'm not sure they were all posted on RLP.com back in the day. He's still writing/revising them. He has collected 25 of them into this volume. Another volume is to come out later in the year. There may be more to follow, it's not completely clear. RLP is being coy, but does promise a finale of sorts.
What we have here are a series of vignettes in the life of Foy Davis. His life from beginning to end is to be sketched out in these vignettes, although not chronologically. When we're done, after another volume or two, we'll find out that Foy, like most of us, was an authentic person who had his failings all the while trying to be a good person. Something like that.
Atkinson is a gifted writer. He is very good at helping us see into the mind of his character, by relating universal, albeit trivial, instances in day-to-day living. I was blessed with an advanced copy of this book, and I can't wait for the next.
Normally, I read on Kindle, so am not generally exposed to decent typography. But, I read the dead-tree version of this book, and one of its great features was the typography. The typography in this book is better than you find in most dead-tree books, and certainly way above anything one could reproduce on a Kindle. I think the type face was something like Caslon Antique. Whatever, it gave a particularly graceful look to the telling of Foy's life. So, even if you aren't interested in reading about the all-too-common struggles of Foy's attempts to find meaning in his life, read this book for its presentation.