While I’m sure many of you have already heard about this book, I wanted to add my $0.02 about Samir Selmanovic’s new book, “It’s Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian.” A couple years ago, I ran into Samir at the Everything Must Change event and had a great conversation about the work that he does as a part of Faith House Manhattan. I think the interfaith work and service that they are doing is really amazing and truly an example of the working out of the kingdom of God in the here and now. But that’s not a very popular idea with some. The blog post I wrote about that idea actually caused a job possibility to not work out (which, not that I can look back on the situation, truly was an unexpected gift – I would not have been happy serving at that particular church).
All of that is just to say that I admire and respect Samir for the work he’s doing and was very excited to read his book. Below are just a few thoughts about why you should pick up this book.
One of the things I first appreciated about the book is the way in which Samir owns his story. He has a very unique story – and it has clearly impacted his view of the world and his spiritual journey. I think back to some of my experiences at Whitworth, an evangelical Presbyterian liberal arts college, and I remember being told things like “we can’t trust our experiences.” Or being told that we shouldn’t try to read our experiences into the Bible. Perhaps they have moved away from that a bit – I don’t know – but it’s pretty naïve to believe we can (or even should) come to the Bible or our spirituality pretending we are a clean slate.
Our life experiences, family’s beliefs, relationships with friends, sexuality, experiences with poverty in the world, worldviews – all of these things can and should impact how we live out our spirituality in the world and I think Samir is quite clear about that as well in his book. I want to share with you my two favorite quotes from the book:
“I will try to show that for religion to recapture human imagination, the theology and practice of finding God in the other will have to move from the outskirts of our religious experience to its center. The heart of a religion that will bless the world is going to beat at its edges” (13)
Sarah, my wife, often preaches and writes about our current failure of imagination. I tease her that it’s a phrase and idea that makes it into EVERY sermon she preaches – but if you’re going to have one theme throughout your writing, it’s a good one to have. As is the practice of finding God in the other. I think for many that is easy to do when “the other” shares the same religious tradition, but what does it mean for a Christian to find God in a Muslim? Or a Jew to find God in an Atheist? Or a Hindu to find God in a Christian?
“So herein lies the choice for those of us who are Christians. We can either stay within the Christianity we have mastered with the Jesus we have domesticated, or we can leave Christianity as a destination, embrace Christianity as a way of life, and then journey to reality, where God is present and living in every person, every human community, and all creation” (63).
Again – does that make you uncomfortable to read that God is present and living in every person, community and all of creation? Is that a different picture of God and God’s activity in the world than you are used to? It’s definitely a different picture of God than I had growing up – and one which I find much more comfort in today.
Samir is tapping into an emerging theology for the church today that I think helps bring us one step closer to working on our developing and deepening relationships with others and other religious in our pluralistic world today. There is much more I could say about this book and many more money quotes from the book I could share – but I’ll let you explore it on your own. I’d highly recommend grabbing a copy of “It’s Really All About God” today. It’s also available for the Kindle here.