A.J. Jacobs wrote a wonderful book entitled A Year Of Living Biblically. For the sake of full disclosure, I admit here that he sent me a free copy of that book, after I referenced his earlier book, The Know-It-All, in my parish newsletter which was later posted on the church website. I think I have made up for that free gift with all the copies I purchased as gifts for friends and family. It has a few swear words in it, to complete my full disclosures, but is a fascinating book about Jacob?s attempts to live out all the rules of the Bible for one year, hopefully with the result for himself of gaining a deeper understanding of the Scriptures and also of people who seek to live their lives by them. Walking with him though the months is educational, at times hilarious, and always intriguing.
There is a lot of talk these days in the Episcopal Church on all levels about what we should do to reach out to modern Americans. Dozens of books are being published about how to understand contemporary ways of spirituality, church structures, worship, and similar matters as people inside the church try to understand and effectively reach people outside the church. Reading A Year Of Living Biblically for me was like reading original source material on a different culture across the globe, even as it unfolds for the most part in New York City.
Jacobs is wonderfully honest and self revealing about his views and experiences of his own and others? spiritual experiences. He chronicles how both of those change through the year, and writes not with broad strokes but sees many of the nuances of modern spirituality. Perhaps this book works for me because it is not trying to be anything more than one person?s working through questions and issues that people have grappled with since the first biblical stories started to be told around the fires in Sinai, or wherever they were first shared.
His book also gives me a peek into the "gotta do it myself" trend in American spirituality that is expressed both within and outside the historic religious institutions of our country, though currently that trend seems to be most scrutinized by the press and scholars as it is expressed in the emergent church movement. Folks are making their own choices about what they believe, how they worship, what ethics they live out, without worrying about whether that set of decisions makes them Episcopalian, Jewish, Unitarian, or none of the above. Perhaps the most likely answer if pressed would be ?all the above, and more.?
Certainly the scholars, theologians, and published leaders of current spirituality movements have many valuable words for me to read and hear (and my Amazon.com bill can back up that statement all too fully). But do not miss the opportunity to hear directly from a seeker who stepped onto the road of Biblical spirituality and now is a fellow traveler on our journey, though very much walking in his own sandals and to his own harp tune.
And this blog is not an effort to get a free copy of his next book...