In late 2012, I created a character called Arthur Lough and introduced him to readers in my final blog post for that year. At the time, I never dreamed Arthur would become the instrument through which I would tell my story to all who were interested in knowing more about my pilgrimage, but here we are, more than three years later, and Arthur is more important than ever to that enterprise.
In the fall of 2014, I published my first book, an autobiographical novel in which Arthur Lough becomes my alter ego and the subject of the narrative. I created a back story for Arthur so that I could think about him as a person distinct from myself throughout the process of writing the book, but that would be, as the philosophers say, a distinction without a difference. Arthur is mainly me, and his story is mainly my story.
My autobiographical novel is called The Long Road from Highland Springs. (See additional information below.) It begins with the love story that brought together Arthur’s father, an American soldier from West Virginia wounded during the Normandy invasion in World War 2, and his mother, a Red Cross nurse from Northern Ireland caring for wounded GIs at a military rehab hospital in England. After Arthur’s birth in 1949, the book tells of his formative years in a fundamentalist Christian home in Northern Ireland, the family’s relocation to the US (West Virginia), and Arthur’s preparation and ministry in response to what he perceives as a call from God.
Along the way, Arthur moves from Christian fundamentalism to more mainstream evangelicalism. As an evangelical, he is attracted to the emphasis on serious discipleship, including pacifism, which he encounters in the Anabaptist tradition, and spends more than a quarter century in ministry among Mennonites. Finally, as a man in his early sixties, he finds himself inexorably drawn to the beauty and mystery inherent in Christian worship in the liturgical tradition. Without fully leaving behind the spiritual benefits he derived from previous traditions, Arthur is ordained an Anglican priest in 2011. The book ends on the eve of Arthur’s sixty-fourth birthday in late 2013. There remains, however, much more of Arthur’s story to tell.
The Long Road… explains how a man who started his ministry as a fundamentalist could move through evangelicalism and Anabaptism to the liturgical tradition of Anglicanism. Most of that story has to do with the way theological and spiritual themes have shaped religious traditions and the changes that come about in Arthur’s life as he responds to different ways of “doing church.” But the change in Arthur’s perception of truth and reality is far deeper than most people realized in late 2013. During the past two years, some seeds of change that were sown more than a decade ago have taken root and are beginning to bear fruit.
That story is currently being compiled into a second book, tentatively titled A New Way of Seeing, which picks up where The Long Road… leaves off. If all goes according to plan (and, of course, it never does), I would hope to release the new book around Easter 2017.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to use this blog as a means to address some of the ways my thinking has changed most fundamentally and most profoundly in the past few years. Specifically, I will begin that process with a series of posts to be published during the forty days of Lent this year. I’m not sure there will be forty posts, even though I had previously committed myself to that number. I’ve recently learned that daily posts may yield counterproductive results in terms of expanding the blog’s readership. More important is the quality of the content and the care taken in presenting that content in a systematic fashion and with an irenic tone.
Most readers will not be surprised by what I write here, even if many of the concepts are spelled out in more specific terms than I have used up to now. A few readers will no doubt want to offer corrective counsel in an effort to help me see the error of my way. Most of that impulse will be felt by conservatives and mainstream evangelicals who will take what I write as evidence that I have abandoned the true faith. No matter how strongly you may feel the need to try to make me see the light, I urge you to resist that temptation. It will accomplish nothing except to put unnecessary strain on our friendship.
I was a conservative evangelical for more than forty years. To my conservative friends I say, with all the humility I can muster, there is no argument you can marshal that I have not already considered, at immense length and in great depth. I do not merely understand the conservative and evangelical perspective on these issues; I once, not that long ago, embraced it with enthusiasm and sought to propagate it with vigor.
What I will write as posts to this blog between now and Easter, I write as information only and not with the goal of convincing anyone to agree with me. Some may very well be persuaded by what I write. Even more, I imagine, will be all the more convinced of their opposing viewpoint. That’s okay. I hope we will love each other anyway.
Now, let me wrap up this introduction to the upcoming series and try to tie together some disparate strands. I mentioned Arthur at the beginning of this post because the format I have decided to use for this series of blog posts is an exchange of emails between Arthur and one of his former students. I’ll introduce the fictional character of Kathryn Moyer in tomorrow’s post. I considered a variety of formats for the series—from simple, straightforward essays to an involved narrative that could be transferred into the new book nearly verbatim. In the end, I settled on a pattern that I hope will be easier to read than essays and yet more concise and content-rich than a running narrative would be.
I hope you will come along for this journey, Arthur’s Lenten journey, the Road to Easter. At least give me the opportunity to earn your loyal following by reading the first two or three posts. If, at that point, you determine the endeavor not worth your time and energy, feel free to direct your attention elsewhere.
See you tomorrow.
Here’s what others are saying about my autobiographical novel, The Long Road from Highland Springs: A Faith Odyssey. (Tap the title or the cover image to go to the book’s order page on Amazon.com.)
“In Eric Kouns’ debut novel, a man looks at the progression of his religious faith as he tells the story of his life. Kouns has created a character called Arthur Lough, whom he identifies as his ‘alter ego,’ as a way to examine his own doubts and struggles. His reflections are consistently compelling. This is a personal novel that presents an engaging examination of doubt, change, and faith.” –Kirkus Reviews
“This is an absorbing memoir… the tender story of a life tormented by disappointment and depression, yet sustained by the unshakable hope for the kingdom of God.” –From the back cover blurb by David Swartz, Assistant Professor of History at Asbury University and author of Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.