Multi-award-winning singer/songwriter/recording artist and college professor, Dr. Jason Lee McKinney, has added author to his list of accomplishments with the unveiling of his debut book, Deconstructing a Disciple's Doubt, recently released to retail from WordCrafts Press.
Perhaps better known as the founder and frontman for the acclaimed Americana roots band that shares his name, McKinney has spent more than a decade cementing a reputation for himself and The Jason Lee McKinney Band in the competitive world of modern-day roots music, resulting in worldwide recognition, national and international tours, and a number of industry awards, including a 2021 Josie Music Award for R&B/Soul Entertainer of the Year, a 2019 Josie Music Award for R&B/Soul Vocalist of the Year, and a 2014 Independent Country Music Association Award for Artist of the Year.
McKinney's independent artistic creativity drove him to pursue multiple academic degrees, including a BA in Management, an MBA, an MA in Philosophy and Apologetics, and an Ed.D. in Leadership and Professional Practice.
Q: Jason, thanks for doing this interview with us. Congratulations on the release of your new book. You refer to your book, Deconstructing a Disciple's Doubt, as "one-half philosophy of religion textbook, one-half autobiography, and one-half pop culture fish wrap for easy digestion." Can you expand on that definition?
A: It is my pleasure to do the interview. I describe the book that way because I try to strike a balance between the theoretical side of philosophy and how that relates to the world we live in. To speak of the philosophical complexities I deal with in the book, I have to at times use precise and technical language. However, to leave it there without applying it to our culture and our daily lives runs the risk of it not actually helping anyone. That is why I also incorporate stories and situations from my own life, as well as references to movies and music.
Q: What made you decide to write about this topic?
A: Writing about doubt and deconstruction comes from two places. The first is my own life. I struggle and have struggled and will struggle again with doubt. Faith is not easy for me. I have said often that philosophy did not give me my faith (Jesus did), but philosophy has talked me back into my faith in Christ over and over again. The second place is wanting to help other doubters like me. If I can help the ground stop shaking under another person's feet long enough for them to reencounter their faith again, then I have done something significant.
Q: How will this book help those who are struggling with doubt?
A: My aim is for this book to help other doubters in two ways: 1) To help them not to feel so guilty about doubting, and to not accept the shameful stigma about it. John the Baptist doubted, Thomas doubted, Peter doubted, so it surely is okay for the rest of us to doubt. 2) To help doubters to doubt their doubt. In other words, I aim to help them talk themselves back into their faith, and to become assured that everyone is a person of faith, and that placing their faith in Christianity has, at a minimum, equal reasoned and intellectual footing with any other belief system, and in my estimation, stronger footing.
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from Deconstructing a Disciple's Doubt?
A: For non-Christians, I hope they come away with a newfound respect for how reasonable the worldview of Christianity is, and that they will at least take Christians out of the fools-who-believe-in-fairytales category. For the Christians who are going through a major deconstruction, I want to challenge them to look just as critically at the worldview they are moving towards as the one they are moving away from. Finally, for the church as a whole I want to challenge the belief that all deconstruction is bad. Every time Christians say they want young people to "own their faith," they are asking for them to deconstruct from their parents' faith in order to own it themselves. The disciples themselves deconstructed from their worldview of what the Messiah would be in order to come to faith in Jesus.
Q: Besides your new book, you also have a new album. Why did you entitle the album One Last Thing?
A: Often in conversations when someone says "Oh, and one more thing," it is the most important thing they will say. We called this album One Last Thing because we as a band feel it is by far our deepest and most meaningful album, both musically and lyrically. It is the most important thing we have had to say.
Q: How is this new record both different and similar to your previous albums?
A: One Last Thing is similar in that we are still being very true to our style. We call our music "soul-infused folk and blues," and One Last Thing stays true to that. It is also similar in that we are very committed to an organic recording process. Just like our previous albums, we were all in a room together, playing and recording at the same time.
One Last Thing is different in its lyrical approach. I took a much more historical style to the lyrics. Many of the lyrics vacillate between being written in a hymn style and an African American spiritual styling. The lyrics also deal with big topics that the book deals with as well, such as cosmology ("Freedom") and the problem of evil ("Sing On") or doubt ("Doubters Prayer") and the simplicity of God ("Without End"), etc.
Q: What were some of the highlights for you in the making of this album?
A: For me, two highlights stick out. 1) My kids did a lot of the background vocals on the album. We are a blessed family musically. My oldest sons are twins. Zeke is the lead singer and bassist for the Tooth N Nail band, Idle Threat, and Zion is one of the worship leaders at Lifepoint Church in Smyrna, TN. My daughter Zakyra is a music theater major and my daughter-in-law Juliana is a middle school choir director. Having them sing on the album was a really proud moment, especially on the song "Promises," which is about being committed to being a good husband and father. 2) The ending section of the song "When I'm Gone" was recorded in one take, the first take-guitar solo and everything. It was one of those moments that just happens every now and then. I actually said on the vocal "That is as good as this band is going to play that" (We cut that in the mix, though).
Q: With new music and a new book, how do you balance your time between the two?
A: I don't really think of them as separate. Almost all of the songs from One Last Thing are referenced in and thematically tie into the book so much that, to me, they are almost one creative project. In fact, we would love to start coming in and doing whole weekends at churches: a Friday night concert, followed by a Saturday apologetics seminar, and then leading worship/ teaching on Sunday. In my mind, they are parts of a whole.
McKinney released his debut book, Deconstructing a Disciple's Doubt, on May 5, 2022, and One Last Thing, his 11th studio album with his band, on March 18, 2022. For more information about Dr. McKinney, visit jasonleemckinneyband.com.