A Paulist priest examines physical, emotional and spiritual comfort.
Hoover (Pastoral Studies/Loyola Univ.; Soundbyte Spirituality, 2002, etc.) opens the final chapter of this book-length homily with the admission that “this journey into comfort turned out differently than I expected.” He had planned to pile up stories demonstrating a contemporary “comfort gap,” in which “affluent cushiness” produces indifference toward the world’s have-nots, but he found the evidence more nuanced. The result is a comprehensive survey of the pursuit of comfort in all spheres—at home, work and play, alone and with others, around the nation and abroad, ancient and modern. In different hands, this well-written account might have turned pedantic, but Hoover is unfailingly generous and never pious. Sub-chapter headings like “Shit and Angels Happen” and “Psycho-God” will delight or disappoint different readers. Some may find his reliance on personal anecdote a tad heavy, but the widely traveled Hoover draws liberally from diverse acquaintances and experiences and balances these musings with evidence from anthropology, sociology, psychology, history, literature and every major religion. Sources range from scripture to Mark Twain, scientific journals to Mae West and the U.S. Census Bureau to Malcolm X. Lurking always in the background is comfort’s shadow, discomfort. Hoover uses a light touch to make his points about the dangers of too much comfort and too little challenge.
An interesting—and yes, comfortable—read, but fundamentalists of all stripes and those who cannot sit still for a long sermon may want to pass.