Paper God is Andy Nash’s story of his failure in business and success as a Christian — to put it simply. It’s the story of how he pursued a dream — in this case, the dream of starting a family-values-oriented magazine in post-9/11 America — to the point where it became an all-consuming passion in his life, and the unexpected paths he found himself travelling in pursuit of that dream.
I’ve followed Andy Nash’s career with interest, as they say, since I’ve enjoyed almost everything he’s written (but particularly his memoir Growing Up Adventist). I dimly recall the announcement that he and Chris Blake (another writer I greatly admire) were starting this magazine called The Front Porch, then never hearing another thing about it. I assumed it had failed, like so many bold little business projects do fail, and never really thought about it beyond that. Paper God is the inside story of what it feels like to put your heart and soul into a project like that and see it fail — and what you can learn from the experience.
The obvious parallel here, for me as a reader, is to Phil Vischer’s Me, Myself and Bob — the most powerful book I’ve ever read about business failure from a Christian perspective. (To be fair, it’s not like that’s a large category — actually these are the only two books I’ve ever read about business failure from a Christian perspective). Nash’s story lacks the depth and epic sweep of Vischer’s, but then, his businesses never achieved the dizzying heights of success that Phil’s little Veggie Tales idea did, and as any good student of Shakespearean tragedy can tell you, the story of a man’s fall is fascinating in direct proportion to the heights from which he fell.
So, it may not be Shakespearean tragedy or even Vischerian tragedy, but there’s a lot to be learned even from a small story, well told, and Andy Nash tells it well, with appealing openness and humility and still some of his trademark good humour left despite the hard times. I think it’s important, in a culture where spiritual growth is so often equated with material wealth and worldly success, to be reminded that God more often teaches us through the hard times than the high times — a lesson Nash seems to have learned. Paper God is a quick read and a thought-provoking one.