He Left Christianity Behind In a War Zone. This Is the Story of Bryan Mealer's Path Back to Faith.

Bryan Mealer is the author of four books: All Things Must Fight to Live — an account of his time in the Congo — Muck City — about a south Florida town with a legendary high school football team but a troubled past — The Kings of Big Spring — about his family’s history of surviving through oil booms and busts and leaning on Pentecostalism, and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, an account of a young boy in Malawi who helps his drought-beleaguered town — that book was a New York Times bestseller and was made into a movie directed by and starring powerhouse star Chiwetel Ejiofor, who also directed 12 years a slave and has starred in numerous major films over the past two decades, starting with Amistad.

Bryan grew up in the Pentecostal church in west Texas, left his faith entirely while a war correspondent in the Congo, and then has been writing over the past year or two about rediscovering Christianity in a very different form than the fundamentalism he was raised him.

We talk about the ways that his time in the Congo shaped him and changed him, and about how his work on a book about his family’s roots in Texas and Georgia, and in the Pentecostal church, primed him to turn back to faith.

Bryan wrote about his faith journey for The New Republic last fall, and wrote another piece about it for The Guardian over the winter.

He described Rachel Held Evans this way: "To have her embrace the Bible as a tool for justice, and forgiveness and grace instead of this divine hammer against people we don’t like was just, it was like my salvation."

But Bryan also ended his TNR piece this way: "No matter how angry people like me get at white evangelicals or how many calls to arms we put forth, on its own, it will get us nowhere in the end. To defeat hatred and creeping fascism and begin the healing of this nation, we—all Americans—need a new social gospel, and not just one that makes liberals feel comfortable. It is a gospel forged from the rubble, and it must include everyone. It will be messy and painful, and we must push forward even when our friends ask us, 'What’s the point?' When they ask us, 'How can you speak to those people?' Our big tent must shine like a light unto the world, and it must be a home to all—Republicans and Democrats, Jews and Romans, even to the demons that fly out from the debris."

Bryan describes his experience covering a migrant caravan from Honduras last fall, and how he and his conservative father discussed their differences over immigration policy in light of that. The piece he wrote on the migrant caravan is incredible. Read it here.

Outro music: “U (Man Like)” by Bon Iver

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