About Jesse

    A veteran newspaper reporter, Jesse tells stories of regular people living with passion, struggling against injustice or simply practicing their faith. Through songwriting, magazine journalism and essays, Jesse aims to describe the human condition, especially the search for transcendence.


    The Atlantic


This Littler Light

Purchase This Littler Light in paperback or as an eBook


“Religious people sometimes worry what might happen if people knew the truth about them. But the deepest truth of the gospel is that light shines in our darkness—even the littlest light. Jesse DeConto is shining the gospel light in the humble truth of this story that doesn’t hide the mess, but trusts that grace is bigger than it.”

— Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of Strangers at My Door


“Compelling, sparse prose, studded with delightful anecdotes, and braced with sheer honesty. Driving the narrative throughout is the underlying movement … to seek out the agenda of an unexpected God. Entertaining, moving, and challenging by turns.”

— Douglas A. Campbell, Duke Divinity School


“For anyone who is trying to sort out faith, life, the big questions, and even the Trinity, this book helpfully articulates the many impasses and guides the reader toward a gentle and faithful resolution.”

— Kae Evensen, co-pastor, Mercy Seat Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN

“[DeConto] is a vulnerable narrator, allowing the reader to see deep inside the joys and pains of his own life. … This is a fantastic read for anyone who has struggled to follow conscience without severing community ties. … This is a thoughtful book made all the more meaningful by its modest aim. There is no pretense, and in that lack of pretense is the very heart of a vision for discipleship that invites us all to participate in God’s Gospel.”

— Peter Schwich, worship leader, Redeemer Church, Park Ridge, Ill.

“DeConto’s writing draws me to reflect on my life and the judgments I have made along the way. In my sixth decade of life, I have fewer convictions than ever before, but I am more convinced of the need to be honest and both offer and receive grace. … I don’t just need good news for salvation; I need good news every day. What an honest and refreshing read!”

— Page Cvelich, Urban Hope Leadership Team, The Navigators, Durham, NC


“The vulnerability and candor of his writing opened me to share in his struggles, failures, insights and accomplishments and ultimately his understanding that it’s not about our power and ability (or the guilt and shame that comes with believing it is) but simply the gift it is to reflect the grace given to us.”

— Nate Houge, community art coordinator, Humble Walk Lutheran Church


“He is a wonderful story-teller with extraordinary gifts of observation and interpretation and he draws us into an adventure that is both deeply personal and significantly communal. It is a story that is at times heartbreaking yet full of hope, funny and refreshing, and profoundly thought-provoking.”

— Susan McSwain, executive director, Reality Ministries, Durham, NC


“This memoir is an invitation to deeper personal and communal reflection on what it means to live a life of faith.”

— Sarah Stockton Howell, assistant minister Centenary United Methodist Church, Winston-Salem, NC

“Jesse DeConto is unusually honest about his struggles. … Both the reader and the author have earned their joy and have their joy enhanced by the knowledge of all that has come before. 

–James Snowden, lawyer, lit scholar

“DeConto’s brave, brutal honesty about the confusing swirl of his pride and faithfulness, his insecurities and earnestness, and his desire to change the world for himself and for the world, make for an alternative vision for how to change the world: walk humbly, share yourself truly, build earnest friendships, and trust that God will take care of changing the world.”

— Tommy Grimm, director of family ministries, Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church, Durham, NC


“DeConto may not want to change the world, but he makes you realize that if you try to better your small corner of it, you’ll go a long way toward achieving that goal.”

— Lars Trodson, novelist; editor, Block Island Times

“Jesse James DeConto fights his way from the prison-house of self-righteousness to find that our infinite God cannot be made to conform to the simple precepts and formulas we impose. His fascinating journey tells the story of how a passionate desire to follow the teachings of Jesus inevitably leads away from the closed circuit of literalism and towards embracing the radical otherness of the Divine.”

— Vincent Rocchio,film scholar and founding member of the Ekklesia Project


“It seems an unexpected thing to write a book about, the realization of how little you know. So many books are about the author claiming to know something more than the reader does, and then showing how he got to that point. But This Littler Light turns that on its head, and if there’s one thing this world needs more of, it’s that.”

— Reilly Capps, journalist, author of couch-surfing memoir, Sofa So Good

“Readers are invited to share Jesse James DeConto’s poignant exit out of religion. Whether you’ve walked in his tight churchy shoes, or if you’ve been offended by those who have, this well-written, at times laugh-out-loud narrative will delight readers. DeConto’s creative telling illumines a deeply moving passage from the shadows of religion into light and life.”

—Margot Starbuck, author of Small Things With Great Love



Like other evangelical kids, Jesse James DeConto felt called to shine the light of truth into the world. His job as a journalist and his young marriage, though, would radically change him. First, he learned that Christians have no corner on truth: Working out in the world, trying to be the “Roaring Lamb” he’d been trained to be, he met atheists and agnostics who seemed to do better at embodying Christian love than many Christians did. Confessing the church’s failures was one thing, but the author had to face his own weakness the hard way, when the cheap threads that held his marriage intact finally snapped.

Jesse found himself at the end of his twenties with a broken bank account, a broken body, and a broken family. In the midst of that pain, he discovered his brokenness better equipped him to share God’s grace than his striving ever had. He learned to say with theologian Karl Barth that “his importance may consist in his poverty, in his hopes and fears, in his waiting and hurrying, in the direction of his whole being toward what lies beyond his horizon and beyond his power.”



Not only a journalist and author, Jesse is also the lead songwriter and frontman for the indie pop band The Pinkerton Raid and founder of Durham County Beer & Hymns at Fullsteam Brewery. He has released a series of This Littler Light excerpts like this one, paired with live music videos of songs that helped to shape his story.



In 2014, he hit the road with his sister Katie and brother Steven, both members of The Pinkerton Raid, telling stories and playing songs. In February, they recorded their entire hour-long program at Convergence, an artistic spiritual community in Alexandria, Va.