Friday, July 10, 2015

Religion to nourish engagement with daily life

Yesterday Erin Smith, associate professor of American Studies at the University of Texas, Dallas writes "What would Jesus read?" for the Houston Chronicle. In this piece about religious bestsellers in America, she slams Thomas Moore's book, Care of the Soul, yet in this survey of historical offerings, Smith uncovers the current weaknesses of traditional religions that Moore discusses in his latest book, A Religion of One's Own. Smith suggests:
"But what these books really show us about America is more complicated. Their practicality has been so popular in part because they fill spiritual vacuums that organized religions in America fail to address. Religions are divided by doctrinal differences, whereas popular books are mostly "untheological." Most churches are male-dominated, whereas many popular books focus on women and their concerns.
After all these years, I finally get what was up with my friend and Care of the Soul. She was raised Catholic. She hadn't attended mass in years, and dismissed the Vatican as irrelevant, but there was still a Catholic ritual-sized hole in her daily life that Moore (a former Catholic monk) filled with secular practices — music, poetry, art, myths, and sacred stories from across the world." 
Smith concludes, "Moore just wasn't a good fit for me, I guess. My ancestors were Puritans. If I was going to have an encounter with the Divine, I was going to do it in an empty room, sitting on a hard bench in silence."