In her debut memoir, Christianity Today senior writer Winner recounts her two religious conversions, first to Orthodox Judaism, then to Evangelical Christianity.
The author’s Southern Baptist mother and Jewish father agreed to raise their children within Judaism, although according to religious law the girls were not officially Jews. A bookworm who loved studying and practicing the ins and outs of tradition, Lauren decided to officially convert as soon as she began her undergraduate education at Columbia University. Despite her wholehearted efforts, however—6 a.m. study sessions, her commitment to observe the laws of kashrut—she couldn't ignore the fact that just two years after her conversion, Jesus seemed to be calling her. How? There was the dream about being captured by mermaids, Winner writes, and there was the undeniable appeal of the mass-market, Christian-themed Mitford novels by Jan Karon. As a child of divorce, she may have been seeking the most stable, familial religion, Winner acknowledges, although that argument ignores a central fact: “Conversion is complicated . . . it is about family, and geography, and politics, and psychology, and economics. [But] it is also about God.” When pondering the author’s double conversion, one could also consider the fact that Winner was raised in the Christian South by a Christian mother. This is all secondary, however, to her narrative’s real strength, which is its addictive readability combined with the author’s deep knowledge of, delight in, and nuanced discussion of both Christian and Jewish teachings. Loosely structured around the progression of the Christian calendar, Winner’s text weaves together meditations on the meanings of the holidays, different modes of observance, and the day-to-day difficulties of switching teams and convincing people that this time she means it.
Intriguing, absorbing, puzzling, surprisingly sexy, and very smart.