A deeply meditative gathering of essays that reflects on one man’s lifelong wrangling with his spirituality.
Writing as a minister rather than an academic theologian, debut author Howard recounts his quest for a more inclusive and less doctrinally rigid religious tradition. He grew up in a Presbyterian church but eventually left to experiment with the Baptist tradition, which he initially believed emphasized the personal elements of faith over the unwavering adherence to a catechism. He eventually became disillusioned with the Baptist faith and its own set of restrictions on his freedom, and he reformulated his own “personal theology” that focused less on belief and more on faith and spiritual experience. This exploration eventually led to his ordination as a minister in the Unitarian Universalist Church. Both a memoir and a philosophical investigation, the book centers around his understanding of faith: “Belief is one thing. Faith, on the other hand, is something much deeper and more elemental to who we are. Faith is the [sic] our orientation to life and our way of engaging in the world. It encompasses hopes, and it manifests ultimate concerns. Under this understanding, faith is universal to the human experience. It doesn’t have to be overtly religious.” Howard’s cogitations push him to consider a wide swath of topics and authors, including more intellectual sources, such as Martin Buber and George Santayana, and elements of popular culture, including John Lennon and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (2001). The author thoughtfully considers the scholarly rigor of agnostic philosopher Betrand Russell as well as the limitations of the intellect as articulated by Gandhi. A highlight of the work is a discussion of St. Paul, one of the principal architects of Christian theology and, by extension, Western civilization. The author explains his view of the failings of Christianity as traditionally conceived and also the reasons he never quite fully departs from that tradition. Each essay stands alone, but as a whole, they comprise a searching consideration of human spirituality.
A profound, moving take on faith in an age that often vehemently challenges it.