American history is full of contradictions. This is particularly true when it comes to the interweaving of history and religion. As an immigrant (and a seriously– probably permanently– lapsed Baptist), I have seen both the good and the bad of how faith plays a part in the national discourse. Regardless of your individual position, you can’t really examine America’s history without looking at faith, religion, and everything that goes with them.
That brings us to this weeks interview with Anthony Cleveland about his book, Roots of Faith.
So who’s Anthony Cleveland when he’s home?
Anthony (Tony) Cleveland is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Jackson College in Jackson, Michigan. He has a B.S. In Chemistry from the University of Toledo and an M.A. In Counseling Psychology from Moody Theological Seminary – Michigan.
Professor Cleveland spent 25 years in the private sector holding positions in R&D, Operations, Sales and Marketing. Seeking a deeper career fulfillment, he enrolled in a Christian seminary where he encountered the healing power of applied psychological principles integrated with a Christian worldview. While serving as a clinician Cleveland discovered his passion and true calling as an educator and has been at Jackson College since 2002. In 2012, Professor Cleveland received the Outstanding Faculty of the Year award, after being nominated by numerous students and colleagues.
Anthony and his wife of 42 years have two daughters and two grandchildren. Roots of Faith, published in May of 2017 by Lighthouse Christian publishing is Professor Cleveland’s first novel written in the genre of Christian historical fiction.
What is the book about?
Roots of Faith is an intergenerational saga following four southern American families from their ancient roots in Great Britain through their immigration and settlement in the United States. Each of the 17 chapters highlights a specific period of time where one of the families must adapt to the dynamic political, economic, sociocultural and technological forces at work in their lives. The book is of course about the ever evolving Christian religion and it’s direct impact upon these families. The book is indeed a journey of faith as it attempts to highlight the universal human experiences of doubt, fear and confusion in each of the principle characters as they grow and develop in their relationship to their God. It is a story about people whose faith bends but does not break.
Roots of Faith is also in an indirect fashion about the impact of the Christian religion upon the development of the United States. Hopefully, readers of the book will have a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of the need for a Constitution which guarantees the free expression of religion and the right of every citizen to worship (or not worship) God in a manner they deem appropriate without fear of retribution by the government. Nor shall our government establish (and enforce) a national religion.
Roots of Faith is also about the power of love. Romantic, familial and spiritual love that stands the test of time through difficult and seemingly overwhelming trials.
What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?
Quite simply, I wrote this book for my grandchildren. The four families I write about are my ancestors. I wanted my grandchildren to know of the sacrifices their ancestors made in coming to America and the importance their faith made in that endeavor. The book, of course, is historical fiction. I attempt to weave together an imaginative yet informative blend of history and myth, fact and fiction, that will help guide them through their lives after I am long gone. I do pray reading this work will help them remember not only the history of their ancestors but of our nation. God willing, it will somehow inspire them to stay strong in faith, follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and, ultimately, “run the race well”.
Without giving away spoilers, what is your favorite scene or event in the book?
That’s a tough one to answer. As you might imagine, this was truly a labor of love. I suppose if I had to select something, I would mention three events; the dialogue between William Cochrane and his grandson while standing outside Paisley Abbey in Scotland, the encounter of Isabel (who has been accused of witchcraft by the elders of the local Kirk) with the vision of Jesus, and finally, the tearful departure from his father of the indentured teenager, Alexander Cleveland, at the docks of Bristol, England as he boards the ship heading for the Colony of Virginia.
Where can people find you and your book?
The book is available at Amazon or at the Lighthouse Christian publishing website. I am also a Goodreads author where you can read my blog, the “Historical Foundations of Roots of Faith”. Also, I have an author’s Facebook account at Roots of Faith by AJC where you can find photos of many of the places I write about.