Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a 2003 Eastern University graduate published his ninth book this August through Zondervan. It is entitled The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice A Common Faith. The book focuses on the fundamentals of the Christian faith, including “why we fast” and “why we share good news.” In an e-mail Q&A, Wilson-Hartgrove shared information about his new book, and why he credits Eastern for his successes.
Kimberly Zayac: In The Awakening of Hope, you question why God should be at the forefront of our minds. What made you choose this topic to write about?
Wilson-Hartgrove: I’m really encouraged by the passion for Jesus that I see among college students today. I don’t hear people starting with theological ideas and wondering how to put them into practice. Instead, what I see people getting excited about is a lived faith that inspires them–an embodiment of the Jesus Way that seems to bring life and justice into the world.
KZ: You focus on seven areas of Christianity in The Awakening of Hope, such as “why we eat together.” What caused you to choose these seven specific things to address? Have some of these areas of Christianity affected you or formed you in your life?
WH: The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize that these are the practices that have taught me what it means to be a Christian. Or, better, the people who have shown me what it means to follow Jesus, are the people who have done these things with a peculiar conviction and a distinctive vision of the world that has been shaped by the Bible. So for me, there’s no better way to get at the doctrine of creation than to think about why Christians eat together. There’s no better way to understand ethics than to say why we’d rather die than kill. But these convictions are compelling when they’re embodied. So it’s the stories and the people that are so important.
KZ: After attending Eastern, how did you go about fulfilling your dreams? In other words, how did you get to where you are now, and what steps did you take to get there?
WH: Eastern’s President David Black mentored me and showed me what it means to live with a Christian imagination. Phil Cary taught me to read, and I became a philosophy major so I could keep reading good books with him. Dwight and Margaret Peterson became wonderful friends who helped me and (my wife) Leah know what it meant to be married.
The Van Leeuwens were just wonderful; I lived with them before I got married. Chris Hall got me reading the Christian classics, from which I’ve never recovered. Tony Campolo stirred up the fire of justice in my bones. I could go on and on, but I guess what I’m saying is that it’s the wonderful people of Eastern that so endeared the place to me. I’m so glad I went to a school where the faculty and administration had time to take me seriously as a person. I suspect whatever I’ve been able to do as a writer and a preacher is mostly the result of being loved well–first of all by my family and church, but also by the extended family there at Eastern.
As well as working as a writer, Wilson-Hartgrove is an Associate Minister and speaker. He travels to colleges nationwide. He states, “I’ve still not found one I love more than Eastern.” The Awakening of Hope is now on shelves, and a DVD study guide is also available for purchase.