Here are some of the recent appearances made by The Light is Winning.
Man, a book launch comes at ya fast. Seems like only yesterday my book, The Light is Winning, was still only an ethereal concept, drafted, edited, submitted, but not yet a reality. Now, it's out in the world, doing its thing. Here's a running list of what the book's been up to:
I contributed this piece over at ChristianWeek about the difference between artificial Christian positivity and believing the light is winning:
I have a sort of gag reflex to artificial Christian positivity. Whether it comes in the form of happy-clappy worship leaders rousing the congregation to sing rollicking praise tunes, or pastors with pasted-on smiles and peppy radio-host intonation delivering inspirational quips, or congregants doing everything they can to follow suit by oozing everything-is-amazing and God-is-the-best all over you during the mingle time—this stuff repels me, sends me running in the opposite direction. While perhaps this kind of syrupy positivity was the hallmark of a once-effective Christian movement called the seeker-sensitive movement, it leaves me and others like me seeking something else entirely.
Here's what Leroy Seat at the Englewood Review of Books has to say about The Light is Winning:
Hoag’s changing worldview through the years wasn’t just in the realm of religion. His political views also changed, as he steered away from being a talk-radio conservative to a critic of right-wing Christianity linked to the “American Empire,” which he uses for the title of Chapter 4. That empire, as he perceives it, is closely linked to the “military consumerism” that he now sees as standing in opposition to the Gospel of Jesus. By the end of the fifth chapter, Hoag confesses that because of his rejection of the schisms in Christianity “wrought by pathological ambition, empire building, and authoritarian control,” the only demographic he could see himself belonging to was “the dones.”
This review of the book by Nathan Smith over on Medium is personal and heartfelt, and I'm super grateful:
To say he’s seen it all would be an understatement. In his book Zach weaves a story, from his childhood in a fundamentalist cult, into his brief foray into Calvinistic thought, and his rocky church plant attempt. Zach has tasted failure. He has seen the apocalypse, but he has not lost hope.
The story Zach tells is heartbreaking. If you’ve been hurt by church or become burned out, the experiences Zach speaks of will be all too familiar. Yet despite all that, this man hangs on to redemption. His own faith is not merely resuscitated, it is resurrected.
I'm honored to have this excerpt from the book over at Shawn Smucker's place:
The process of moving from one perspective to another that was underway in my life accelerated to the moment of impact in the end of our church. And that end laid waste to not only the faith-structures around me but those within me too. I had no idea what wilderness awaited me when I preached about the Israelites being liberated from the Egyptian Empire only to feel lost in the sojourn that followed. I didn’t know that my necessary suffering would parallel my preaching, that my ego would have to die even as I identified empire business all around me. I was unaware of how deeply I would soon descend into the desert of the real.
It was an honor to appear on my friend Luke Norsworthy's podcast to talk about The Light is Winning. We dug a little deeper into my story and, I hope, stepped a bit further into the light as a result. Also, we talked about Dexter and True Detective, because what's more important than TV?
Another piece at BibleGateway, this one a sort of exegetical excerpt from the book that makes a really important (and little known) argument about what it means to be "lukewarm":
Jesus’ words here, rather than a call to hot personal commitment and revival, confront a social sickness in the church that springs from embracing the lifestyle of the wealthy and elite. This sickness is especially hard to detect because the church appears to be numerically healthy and self sufficient. But with respect to the gospel and the kingdom mission, it is “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
To be spiritually healthy is to be either cold or hot. To be spiritually sick is to be lukewarm.
I had the absolute best (read: most hilarious 😂) time recently on Melanie Dale's Lighten Up podcast! She's in the midst of a summer series that takes things to even funnier places than usual, and I'd say we succeeded in that regard.
So often authors write about their successes. What I love about Zach is he’s given us a rare and precious opportunity to witness his apparent defeat, allowing us to watch as he wrestles with his upbringing in an authoritarian cult and his subsequent journey through denominations and church planting.
I had the opportunity to be interviewed over at BibleGateway, and got to express some of the core message of the book:
You see denominational downsizing and the increasing number of people uninterested in church as being an apocalypse. What do you mean and why do you consider it in a positive sense?
Zach Hoag: Well, it isn’t positive on the surface, and that needs to be acknowledged first and foremost. Numerical decline in the church and tectonic shifts in the culture (towards increasing secularism and pluralism, for instance) bring about a very real suffering as congregations, denominations, and institutions lose their ability to sustain and have desired influence. It’s a death of sorts.
But that’s precisely where the gospel “flip” takes place: Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Death and resurrection is not only a one time event but the pattern of life in Christ (1 Peter 2:21). And in that sense, this death and decline present an opportunity for the church in American to see what it might be revealing—and then move towards reflection, repentance, and resurrection.
I had the distinct privilege of chatting with Steve Wiens on his podcast - and let me tell you, Steve is an incredible interviewer with an incredible heart. Here's his take:
I loved my conversation with Zach. He's humble, funny, brilliant, and I sincerely believe he's on to something really rich here. The Light is Winning is a story of death, resurrection, and a brilliant new beginning. It's the story of how the church will resurrect, revive, root down and find true flourishing.
I had an excellent time chatting with the brilliant gents of StoryMen - covering everything from religious decline, to denominations, to The Leftovers. So yeah, it was pretty much my favorite.
Over at FaithGateway, you can catch an excerpt from the book all about some of my death-and-resurrection journey:
Over the next months, and really the last couple of years, I found myself letting go of the things that had bound me in the dark. Slowly but surely, I was both coming to terms with the real hurt and pain of my authoritarian upbringing and my failed ministry, owning up to my season of empire business, and releasing bitterness toward those who had wronged me. I was also learning to accept myself for who I truly am despite all the contrary messages I had internalized — to finally believe that I am inherently valuable and truly enough, and to walk in my unconditional belovedness before God.
Really honored to be included in this great list of summer reads! Thanks to Chris Smith and Relevant:
Zach Hoag offers a unique mix of memoir and cultural commentary in The Light Is Winning. By telling the story of his own faith journey, Hoag illuminates the challenges and opportunities that face American Christianity today. He makes the case here that religion is what we need in the 21st century to lead us deeper into the sort of flourishing that God intends for humanity.
So that's some of what the book's been up to so far. And it occurs to me that while this launch seems to be traveling so fast, almost at the speed of light, there really will be a lot of good work happening to share the book's message with as many people as possible all summer long - and beyond. In that sense, the speed of The Light is Winning can build slowly in order sustain over the long haul, in keeping with the spirit of the book itself.
So, keep checking this post over the next months - I'll be sure to update it with all the latest Light-happenings.