You probably know Mike McHargue as ‘Science Mike’ – co-host on The Liturgists podcast. Or maybe you know him from his own podcast, Ask Science Mike. Maybe you’ve seen his blog, caught some of his appearances or interviews on other platforms. Maybe you recognize his name, maybe you recognize his ability to take anything simple and make it incredibly complex by providing a scientific, logical definition with lots of big words (or is that just me?), maybe you recognize his calming voice with the southern lilt. I used to know him as all those things, too, but now I know him as another thing: friend.
No, we haven’t met. Although he was gracious enough to chat with me on the phone last week (on the morning of his book release, no less!) and I follow him on Twitter, I doubt he would consider us very close. But after reading Finding God in the Waves, it’s impossible to walk away and not feel as if you just gained a new friend.
Mike (we’re on first-name basis now, obviously) takes you on the journey of how he lost his faith. For any of you Liturgists fans, it’s a story you might be somewhat familiar with. It’s not a hurt-feelings-turned-exit and it’s not a story of mere anger at a particular pastor or church – it’s real, true loss of something he held so dearly. A loss not born out of looking for a bone to pick with Christianity, but a loss born out of earnestly seeking truth – and finding faith to be lacking. It’s almost traumatizing, as a Christian who grew up in the church, to read, and yet so necessary.
If you know him as ‘Science Mike’ you know of his incredible breadth of knowledge, his vast understanding of how this world functions. “In the beginning, God said ‘Let there be light’” becomes “In the beginning, there was a rapid expansion of a Singularity. Around 380,000 years later, there was light. There was also hydrogen and helium and four stable, fundamental forces of physics. Atoms and those forces worked together to birth the first stars from massive clouds of gas, and those stars lived for hundreds of millions of years before they died in explosions that spread their matter across the sky in clouds of gas and dust – now with heavier elements than what existed before” in Science-Mike-speak – remember what I said before about taking simple things and making them complex (pg 204)? The little snapshots of scientific explanations during the very mundane, very normal makes an already riveting story utterly fascinating. Yes, I know it’s hard to talk to people of other beliefs, but I didn’t know how our brains are actually wired to dismiss facts that might challenge or undermine our own views. I knew prayer tends to change the way I see things, but I didn’t know the region in your brain that tracks our immediate surroundings and sense of physical presence basically shuts down during prayer. This isn’t a science book, it’s a story – and yet you walk away so much more knowledgeable, so much more insightful.
It’s a story, but it’s also a love letter. I think all the best books are.I read this as Mike’s love letter to the world – explaining where he’s at with his faith and how exactly he got there. He tells us of where he’s been – the scary, the hurting, the loss – and then also shares with us the journey – the unknown, the searching – and then spreads his arms open wide to welcome us where he is now. He explains the character of the God he knows, how that Bible fits back into his life, how he found a home again in an American church. A love letter not written to explain away all your doubts or to force feed you the right answers, but to share with you his journey because he knows others are on a similar path.
Mike told me why he wanted to make this into a book, after so many podcasts and blogs and speaking events already share his story – because a book offers a unique, in-depth look into how he came back to faith. Many know the story of how he lost it, of his encounter with God in the waves of the Pacific, but few know the intricacies of the aftermath. As he puts it, it was no happily ever after on the beach. He dives into how he came to terms with prayer, wrestling with who, historically, Jesus was, and his journey of accepting scripture. In book form, he’s able to explain, step by step, how he has also encountered God in waves of gravity, the waves in our brains, sound waves and electromagnetic waves. It’s utterly fascinating yet also strangely healing – I’ve been part of the church for 20+ years and I learned so much about faith through these pages. His insight on the Bible, in particular, was a breath of fresh air for me. And the way he describes the crucifixion is hands down the most beautiful I’ve ever heard.
I think this book is riveting, educational, redemptive. It touches on things the Church (big C, people) has been running from: scientific truth, doubt, honest questions, real conversations with real atheists. This isn’t apologetics 101 (in fact, he proves how that’s basically useless…), this isn’t a guidebook for an atheist to become a Christian in 10 easy steps, this isn’t a book you give your doubting friend to fix them – this is honesty. Something the Church – and the world – could use so much more of these days.
“Science gives us fact. Faith gives us meaning. These two lenses, so often set up in opposition to each other, are most powerful when used together.”