Meet the Author: Olivia Jackson
We interviewed Olivia Jackson, author of (Un)Certain. Read what she had to say below.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Having committed to evangelical Christianity at the age of 14, I joined an extremely charismatic missions organisation after university, spending 10 years overseas. When I returned to the UK I did a Masters in Public International Law before working for another, very different missions organisation, then as a human rights consultant for a number of years. At some point within all that, my own faith - once so certain and specific - began to unravel. What I had been taught simply wasn’t matching up to how life actually seemed to work, and some things seemed cruel, exclusionary or exploitative (often in the name of love). Discovering others who were asking the same questions was a huge relief.
How did you come to write the book?
Somewhere on my own deconstruction journey I became frustrated at the lack of literature about deconstruction, and certainly material which was not American-based (while the American evangelical scene overlaps with that in other countries, certainly in culture and theology, there are also huge differences). And somewhere in the first lockdown I thought ‘Well, I should write that material’ (and then panicked and changed my mind). As I started doing more and more research, however, it did seem that there really is a lack of material reflecting the experiences of ordinary people from a variety of backgrounds - and material which did not set out to push the reader towards a particular landing place.
I have always loved hearing people’s stories, and, perhaps due to a combination of the isolation of deconstruction and the isolation of that first lockdown, I felt strongly about having a sense of the collective. And so the idea of writing a collective memoir was born - now I just had to find people willing to tell me their stories! With help from a couple of friends, I created an extensive survey which I put online in April 2021, expecting a few dozen people might fill it in and perhaps 20 or so would volunteer to be interviewed. Within a couple of months, I had 400 responses and nearly 200 offers of interviews. I ended up interviewing 140 people, each with a unique story, a unique perspective (I’ve been overwhelmed by the response and by people’s willingness to be vulnerable - I only wish I could have included everyone’s entire story). I have structured the book around the clear themes which emerged, and woven pieces of people’s narratives and reflections around that framework.
What would you like the impact of the book to be?
One of the most common experiences of those going through deconstruction is isolation. Many people come from church backgrounds where questions or alternative viewpoints are strongly discouraged, and they may find themselves wondering if they are the only ones going through this. Some are ostracised or forced out of church, or may choose to leave, and find themselves without what has been an all-encompassing community (often having been repeatedly told how lonely and unhappy people outside their particularly church are). This book is for anyone who has felt the isolation and spiritual homelessness of deconstruction: my hope is that by bringing together the voices of ordinary people asking questions and finding our way, others will see themselves in our experiences and find a sense of solidarity and hope for the path they are on.
Order your copy here.
Olivia Jackson spent nearly 20 years working for mission agencies in the UK and overseas, and then as a human rights consultant with a focus on violence against women and girls, all of which fed into her own faith deconstruction. She lives on the side of a windswept hill with two dogs.