Jon Ward was a church kid growing up. His parents were part of the Jesus People movement of the 70s, and by the time he came along a few years later they were heavily invested in their church. Ward grew up going to Christian school and church and spending all his time in the evangelical bubble. (I can relate–that was my childhood also.)
Like the hippies around them, the Jesus People had moved on to caring more about materialism and political power, and Ward traces that movement. His life so exactly mirrors the movement of broad swathes of American evangelicalism over the last 40 years that his memoir feels like something more than just one man’s story. And yet it is his own story. He writes of uncomfortable accountability groups at Starbucks, and of watching his father bend to social norms. When he breaks out and becomes a journalist, his friends and family aren’t sure what to do with him at first. He watches in dismay as they all, one after the other, fall into line to vote for Trump, a man who is so diametrically opposed to all that Ward was taught to revere as a child that watching his family members follow him caused some mental anguish (again, can relate) and familial breaks.
Testimony is more than one man’s story, but what makes it so powerful is how personal it is. This is an exceptional book, and very valuable as we struggle to understand the times we live in. For me, it provided the perfect counterpart to Kristin Kobes de Mez’s book Jesus and John Wayne. Kobes de Mez writes as a historian, tracing the bigger movements. Ward shows us what it was like as lived experience. An important book. Oh, and did I mention it’s also compulsively readable and well written? Highly recommended.