By Lindsey Kay Hurtt
Last week, Anne Lamott, author of Traveling Mercies and Bird by Bird, and Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, were at Baylor together for the first time. The two arrived amidst controversy over Baylor’s endorsement of the event. Protestors with their mouths covered in red duct tape, bearing signs emblazoned with Lamott’s more controversial quotes, stood at the foot of the steps of Jones Concert Hall, where the lecture took place on March 15. Dr. Greg Garett, associate professor of creative writing and literature, explained the controversy: “The two of them here brings together two exciting strains of Christian faith that are active and moving in the world right now and that are both, in some ways, in reaction to mainstream evangelical thought, which is why there’s been controversy about the event.”
The event, titled “A Conversation on Faith and Writing,” was part of the Intersections Lecture Series — discussions that explore faith, culture, politics, art, literature, and learning — sponsored by the Department of Student Activities, the Department of Student Life, and the Honors College. Many in attendance were enthusiastic to discover the personalities behind the books firsthand. “I enjoyed hearing more about what they believed personally because that’s something I wondered from their books: who they are as people,” said Jamie, a 2010 graduate from Waco.
Miller and Lamott answered questions about personal faith, internal healing, freedom from addiction, the importance of hope, and the willingness to fail and learn from it. “Anne and Donald were extremely vulnerable, humbly sharing their struggles and presenting what they know about writing and faith, not as ultimate answers to life but as their own personal discoveries during their life. It felt more like a talk at a coffee shop than an official university event,” said Evan Weppler, a Cypress senior. Miller explained that such vulnerability establishes trust with his audience.
“We’re going to show up as we are. That’s a Jesus thing. It’s a come-as-you-are party,” Lamott added.
Garrett was enthusiastic about Lamott and Miller’s speaking engagement, in part, because of their willingness to talk about the hard things of life. “Both of them are people who profess faith in Jesus and are trying to live out that faith in their lives and are willing to talk about it in a world where a lot of times people are not willing to share their faith,” Garrett said.
Lamott and Miller openly discussed their struggle with “addiction to self” and substance. In discussing the journey to freedom, Lamott said, “That’s how I believe Jesus is with me, militantly and maternally on my side. I can’t heal my mind with my mind, but I believe in miracles.” Both Lamott and Miller found they must stop the introspection and seek a higher reality in the process of recovery. “You don’t overcome yourself through self-analysis; you do it by becoming fascinated in something else,” Miller said.
“They both have struggled throughout their lives, but I liked that message because I think a lot of people try to live that ‘perfect Christian life’ and go in the order everyone tells them but fail to realize that people mess up. I was inspired to record things I go through as a way to help others through those things,” said Chicago sophomore Madline Mohr.
Miller would be pleased to hear that. “I thought, maybe if I just tell people a story, that might help somebody,” Miller said. It seems that it already has.