In her junior year of college, Andrea Palpant Dilley scraped the Christian fish decal off the bumper of her Plymouth hatchback, a symbol of her discontent with the church and foreshadowing her eventual departure from it.
Dilley, a documentary writer, director and producer, read from her recent book, “Faith and Other Flat Tires: Searching for God on the Rough Road of Doubt,” in the Weyerhaeuser Hall Robinson Teaching Theatre on Sept. 21. Her book is the memoir of her abandonment and subsequent return to faith, God and the Church.
Dilley was raised in Kenya, the daughter of Quaker medical missionaries. She grew up visiting patients that died the next day and attending funerals. Even the hospital morgue was only 50 feet from her front door. Her later childhood was spent in the Pacific Northwest as a member of a committed Presbyterian church. For college, she stayed in the Northwest, attending Whitworth where she obtained degrees in English literature, writing and Spanish.
“She was someone who other students looked up to, which was a very unique position,” said Maggie Wolcott, Whitworth English professor and former classmate of Dilley. “She was very kind, with a sarcastic edge.”
Being surrounded by intelligent, conscientious Christians gave Dilley room to struggle with faith and God. She asked questions that vex doubters and believers alike: Why does God seem so distant? Why does the church feel so dysfunctional? Why does God allow suffering?
At age 23, Dilley walked out of the Church with no intention of going back. For two years Dilley wanted nothing to do with faith or God.
Yet at age 25, Dilley found herself returning to the Church for the same reasons she left.
“I had to believe in God to believe in justice, which is anchored in objective morality,” Dilley said.
Senior Shaina Whittlesey said that doubts in the faith are often seen as something to be ashamed of and thus not shared.
“I liked the honesty she used when talking about doubt,” said Whittlesey.
Dilley said she believes that doubt belongs in the sanctuary of Church. All her questions belong in the Church; it is the only place that offered her the space to search for God.
“I’ll always have demons, but I might as well take my demons to church,” Dilley said. “Sitting in church every Sunday, my doubt is my desire — to touch the untouchable, to possess the presence of God,” Dilley said.
Luke Eldredge Staff Writer
Contact Luke Eldredge at email@example.com