I am (not) inspired by Pete Rollins…

I have been reading another of Pete Rollins’ books on and off through this past year- this one- ‘The fidelity of betrayal’.


It has some great stuff in it, but to honest, I have struggled a bit more than I thought I would to get through it. This surprised me, as I devoured his last book- ‘How (not) to speak of God’.

Perhaps I did not give it a fair crack of the whip, as I read it in something of a piecemeal fashion.

But I think too I may have seen a bit too much of his gig. It goes something like this-

The life of faith is a life of contradiction. Therefore all things we think we know about God, when we really stop and think- we do not really know after all.

All the tenets of faith we were given as absolutes are (not) true.

Faith is formed as we learn to become faithful betrayers of our inherited traditions.

Faith is formed as we  learn our status as (A)theists.

Now I kind of see where he is going with this, and I think the commentary on faith is important and thought provoking. But I can not help feeling just a little weary with the ‘let’s turn this upside down and then see how it looks from the other side’ kind of style. I find myself kind of seeing it coming, then chuckling to myself when it surely arrives.

But then again, I do think this man is an important contributor to the theological and philosophical debate in our time. Let me quote a passage for you to kind of illustrate my dilemma with this book…

In a chapter called ‘forging faith communities with/out God’ (there he goes again- get it?) he has this to say-

…once this is understood, and people are invited to begin to deconstruct their religious systems, individuals will either be brought to a deeper understanding and appreciation of their faith, or they may find they never really had faith in the first place. In the former case the deconstruction will enable the individual to delve deeper into an appreciation of his or her faith, while in the latter the individual will leave such things behind. Both of these are preferable to either mistaking the true miracle of faith for a system of thought or of using that system as a way of hiding from oneself a lack of faith.

Well I guess… I certainly have found myself to be in the former case most of the time, although I have to acknowledge that some of the time I perhaps slipped towards the latter.

Rollins goes on to give some consideration to the creation of spaces that allow people to explore and deconstruct.

Following on from this there is a need to continue the long Christian tradition of forming spaces in which we collectively invite, affirm and celebrate the miracle that lies behind the miraculous, beyond magic, beyond the sacred, and beyond the secular. We need to continue forming places that can render these ideas accessible at an immediate level- a level that does not depend on the contingencies of one’s education or the ability to think in abstract ways (this from Rollins?!)

The question here is not “how do we make these ideas intelligible”, for the miracle itself can be rendered intelligible only as unintelligible. What this means is that the miracle of faith is a happening, an event, that defines reduction to the realm of rational dissection…

…In contrast to forming space that will make sense only to people who are highly educated, we must endeavour to form spaces that make sense to NOBODY, regardless of the level of education- spaces that rupture everyone and cause us all to rethink


Again- I get it. Faith discovered/encountered/inspired/agitated through performance art. Or as Rollins calls it- Transformance art.

And then I think of my own community, and our experiments with worship curation. The process that Rollins describes seems so far beyond us. It is too hip, too serious, too absorbed in it’s own rhythm somehow… and I find myself slightly and surprisingly alienated.

And I find myself longing for something much simpler- where deconstruction is not the only language we use, but we also construct things that are small, but beautiful.

But I still think we need Rollins- and I am looking forward to what Ikon have to offer at Greenbelt festival this year…