Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine by Eric Weiner

This past September I unearthed a list of “Twenty-Five Things you Should do Before you Die.” It was one of those things I’d been dragging around for ages, but had never actually read. Most of them were about what you would expect. The one I scissored out before trashing the rest was this one:

“I believe one thing all people should do in their lifetime is to come to terms with their own spirituality, examine their beliefs, and really know why they believe what they do. Armed with that deep understanding, they will be able to clearly communicate that belief to someone else.”  The Reverend Billy Graham

I was laid out like a beached whale on a sofa a few nights ago as the first wave of chills and fever  hit. Buck was channel-surfing and hovered for a moment on the PBS Newshour. Ray Suarez was just beginning an interview with Eric Weiner about his newly-released book, “Man Seeks God: My Flirtation with the Divine.” I raised my left hand, a signal to Buck to stay on that channel.

“You want to see this?” he asked.

“Yes,” I croaked.

One of the insidious and diabolical, yet fantastic, things about e-readers is instant gratification. Within minutes, Weiner’s book was downloaded, ready to read.

Raised as a Southern Baptist, confirmed as an Episcopalian at the age of 39, like Weiner, I am about seven-eighth’s there, but still inhabit a pew close to the exits.  I want to know what I believe about God — for myself, not anybody else. I’m not an atheist or even agnostic, and have strong spiritual leanings. Weiner’s book is one of many I’ll be reading this year with spirituality as a theme. I’ll also be working on developing some spiritual muscles by acting like a full-fledged member of my local parish rather than a dilettante who shows up occasionally. Should be interesting.

One thing Weiner cleared up for me: I am definitely not a Raëlian.

Oh, and I’m reading the Book of Mormon because, whether or not the United States has its first Mormon president after the 2012 elections, there will surely be a lot of talk about Mitt Romney’s religion. As is always the case with loose political talk, I’m also sure there will be lots of “mis” and “dis” information. I find the idea that Jesus Christ visited the American west after his resurrection wild and colorful, an irresistible story. I don’t see any harm in it. I’m not offended by it. I have a practical nature, and this may have been an absolutely brilliant way to get rough-edged pioneer men and women to coalesce around an idea greater than themselves that helped them to pull together and survive harsh weather, difficult terrain and hardship and build thriving cities. Anyway, I like to go to the source rather than get my information solely from the news media or partisans on either side.

7 thoughts on “Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine by Eric Weiner

  1. Whew. Where to start as a comment? I will think about all of this and perhaps get back to you! Those are some heavy thoughts to have and intentions to pursue/keep. I would say that my spirituality fluctuates from a deep, abiding sense of the divine to a belief in the randomness of fate.

    As for Mormonism — I have been a bit obsessed the last three years or so with Mormon mother bloggers. They are a fascinating people whom I can’t wrap my brain around — however, I think of Mitt Romney as more of a corporation embodied than a Mormon!

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    1. Elizabeth, you are one of the most deeply spiritual people I read — not only in some of the artistic depictions and classic creative works by others that you post, but most especially (to me) in your own writing when you rage and shake your fist against injustice. Holding that “deep, abiding sense of the divine” in the same moment with a “belief in the randomness of fate” seems an almost necessary part of the mystery, at least for me. What I’m really trying to say is that I know, and you know more than most people on the planet, that a belief in randomness is more palatable than the idea of a personal God who picks winners and losers from the moment of their birth. I am extremely awkward even trying to talk about this; feels like a mine field, and I don’t have words for the muddle in my brain on this subject. Yet.

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  2. I love this account of your journey, and your thoughts on Weiner’s book–that is a great interview you linked to, too. You have such a wonderfully benign sense of Mormonism, too, and it tempers my own impatience and makes me realize probably most of them are there for the same reason I am often in church: wanting to be with others gathering together to worship what’s good. To me, their very presence and their intention are embodiments of God.

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    1. Thank you, Richard. I thought Ray Suarez was an excellent interviewer. Weiner’s book, by the way, does have a lot of funny moments. His selections of which “religions” to flirt with is undeniably quirky, but that may be part of the reason I found his account engaging.

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  3. I’m old enough to remember what a hubbub was raised over JFK being Catholic. We had never had a Catholic president, and the rumors were mind-boggling! As a teenager at the time, I heard he would make us go to school on Saturdays, but what that had to do with his religion is beyond me.

    I see my religion/spirituality as a personal thing, and I’m most comfortable with anyone else’s religion when they’re not trying to convince me it should be mine. I finally settled on the guidance of the Tao, precisely because there is no savior, no leader, no rules. I am deeply touched by my the way my sister-in-law lives her Catholic beliefs and the way my Pentecostal aunt is guided by her heart.

    Thank you for this post, Beth, and for your willingness to put your thoughts and feelings out here in the great matrix that is the Web.

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    1. Oh, yes, I remember the big deal about JFK and Catholicism. In our little Baptist church in central Florida, it was like the Antichrist was coming to town. The Pope would be running the country. All that silly stuff!

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