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Grounded: Finding God in the World-A Spiritual Revolution Paperback – February 14, 2017
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“With her usual blend of plain-talking and sharp insight, Diana Butler Bass brings into focus the usually fuzzy realm of the spiritual but not religious, providing a much-needed guidebook for... the often-perplexing but growing turn away from organized religion.” (Religious Newswriters Association)
“I’ve been grateful for Bass’s sharp mind, but upon finishing Grounded, I found myself in love with her mystical heart and gorgeous storytelling. We need to believe that God is with us, in dirt and water and suffering and homes and neighborhoods. God is definitely in this book.” (Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Carry On, Warrior)
“Provocative and well-researched, Grounded is an admirable contribution to the understanding of contemporary American Christianity, which is in constant needs of reformation. May the church listen.” (National Catholic Reporter)
“A profound and literary book.” (Christian Century)
“Bass’ credentials... frequently help bridge the gap between those who practice Christianity and those who research it. ‘What makes her an unusual voice among commentators in American religion right now is that she’s a proponent of hopeful religion.’… Grounded champions a return to nature and an embrace of hospitality.” (Religion News Service)
“In her excellent treatise, [Bass] declares the current state of religion as not dying but transforming…. Bass’s biblical and effusive style, always mixing the personal with the political and scriptural, finds a deeper, more profound register in this latest book.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Grounded is a wise and beautiful book. It is, in fact and in places, almost an anthem to the sacred unity of the physical and the spiritual in the formation of human faith and in the maturation of the human soul.” (Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence)
“In Grounded, Diana Butler Bass brings theology back down to earth. She writes about the environment and about the church in a way that makes sense, feels authentic, and doesn’t put you to sleep. A stunning book that will open up new conversations in the church and beyond.” (Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution)
“I absolutely love this book. I’ve long respected Diana Butler Bass for her intelligent, academic approach to the religious conversation, and never more so than in the pages of this book. Grounded made me love this beautiful world more deeply, and made God’s presence more visible everywhere I looked.” (Shauna Niequist, author of Savor and Bread & Wine)
“An absolutely gorgeously written book about real faith in the real world.” (James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage)
About the Author
Diana Butler Bass is the author of eight books on American religion, including Christianity After Religion, Christianity for the Rest of Us, and A People's History of Christianity. She holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Duke University, has taught at the college and graduate level, and is currently an independent scholar. She was a columnist for the New York Times Syndicate, and blogs for the Huffington Post and the Washington Post on issues of religion, spirituality, and culture. Bass is a popular speaker at conferences, colleges and universities, and churches across North America. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, daughter, and dog. Her website is dianabutlerbass.com and she can be followed on Twitter at @dianabutlerbass.
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Title "God Grounded" would work well for another non-theistic Pantheist book, Diana has the theistic dualism belief with God & Nature and not the Spinoza, Einstein concept of God-Nature being identical; no personal anthropomorphic God. The best thing about her religious thinking is it's not fundamentalism and she clearly understands Christian fundamentalism evidently from her time as an Evangelical.
"Where is God?" is the theme question of the book and Diana points out just what an absentee parent "God" has been to the human race. All in all she makes a great case for being an atheist or a pantheist, while offering wood splinters to the millions of barely afloat believers.
She writes beautifully and for those who are barely clinging to their God belief they will find some nutrition, but I personally think Diana may be a closet Pantheist and would love to come out. I find her to be more "mystical" rather than Christian. (Her word not mine). I've lived both ways and can say the unfiltered brand of living is by far the most wondrous!
My suggestion to Diana is her next project be to research large numbers of atheists/pantheists/agnostics and she may discover that the wonder, majesty, awe, joy, we experience may well surpass what the theist does, as our experience is not filtered. One thing she clearly understands and writes is that "Top down religions are crumbling." Her Wikipedia bio says she was raised Methodist and became an Evangelical, so she was indoctrinated as a credulous child like most of us with the God delusion. She's now heralded as a leading voice of Progressive Christianity certainly a positive evolution away from the Evangelicals.
Her Amazon.com bio mentions nothing about her religious indoctrination, merely says; "For as long as she can remember, she's been interested in spirituality, religion, history, and politics." Clark Kent's bio is more informative than Diana's. I'd be interested about her Evangelical years and why she's now Progressive?
Mathematicians strive for simplicity and elegance in a solution? So, "Where is God?" The Pantheist answer is, everywhere and everything' the Universe. This is reality without all the flip flops, cartwheels, verbal gymnastics that always accompany the apologists for the personal God deity; a deity that is incapable of answering for his mythical himself. A common adage is "there are no dumb questions" but there were/are like "Who made the Earth and the stars?' and all the dumb questions believers torment themselves with about their deity like "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Pantheists are freed from all the nonsense.
I await her next book, "Why I'm Now a Pantheist." :)
I enjoyed this book because post-Christian “spirituality” is fascinating, especially when the writers are people who identify as Christians. The mainline/progressive churches have been losing members since 1960, and given the growing number of non-religious in America, the mainlines are never going to recover from their slump, in fact they seem headed for extinction. Progressive writers from those churches have been trying to “spin” the decline ever since theologian Harvey Cox published The Secular City in 1965. This book is in that tradition, with essentially the same message: Christianity (the progressive form of it, anyway) is losing numerically, but since the “spiritual but not religious” crowd is growing, jump on that bandwagon and claim that the decline of churches is all for the best, that God prefers it that way.
Carl Sagan, an agnostic who hated Christianity with a passion, claimed that Christians should dump their theology of sin and salvation and focus on earth spirituality. He would be happy to see that many people who identify as Christians are doing just that, since they no longer believe in the God of the Bible. This book, Grounded, is about earth spirituality – also water spirituality, sky spirituality, and community. In his book Broca’s Brain, Sagan wrote, “Some people think God is an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky.” The author of Grounded repeats that thought – many times, in fact. Problem is, she never identifies who those people are that think of God as a man with a white beard on a throne in heaven. Her book is a pleasure to read just to watch these sorts of groundless assertions – “many people think that…” – with nothing to back them up – a pretty ironic situation for a book titled Grounded. Let’s look at some of these.
“Not so long ago, believers confidently asserted that God inhabited heaven, a distant place of eternal reward for the faithful. We occupied a three-tiered universe” (p 4). This is repeated numerous times, yet she never cites any evidence, nothing from the Bible or any Christian book or sermon. In fact, she has simply repeated a truism that agnostics like Carl Sagan repeat – and it isn’t true. Michelangelo’s famous image of the bearded God is a rarity in Christian art, because God is very seldom depicted (following the Ten Commandments).
“Some stubbornly maintain that a distant God sits on his heavenly throne watching all these things, acting as either a divine puppet master or a stern judge of human affairs” (p 8). Who are the “some” who say this? No Christian has ever described God as a “divine puppet master,” that is the antithesis of Christian teaching. “Divine puppet master” is another talking point from the atheist side.
“Much attention is paid to the growth of fundamentalist religions, especially in the Global South and developing world. But, in some ways, theories of decline and growth are not really the point” (p 9). Here is the contempt for conservative Christianity, which pops up often in the book. Of course the author says that “decline and growth are not really the point” – her own denomination, the Episcopalians, are in swift decline, so (like the Episcopalians’ own presiding bishop a few months ago said) numbers don’t really matter – nothing to worry about. The progressives’ harbor some very thinly veiled racism – the growth in Christianity is taking place in Africa and Latin America – the vigor is among dark-skinned people, while the lily-white Episcopalians dwindle away.
“Whether conservative or liberal, most American churches teach some form of the idea that God exists in holy isolation, untouched by the messiness of creation” (p 12). No citations (again). This is not even remotely true. No Christian believes that God is in “holy isolation.” (That was, however, a belief of the Deists.) Most evangelicals focus on the “personal relationship” with God that is the antithesis of a God in “holy isolation.”
“My soul has a mile-wide mystical streak” (p 12). Whether that is a good thing is left for the reader to decide. By the end of the book, the overall impression is “Whatever I like doing, that’s God.” “A changed conception of God, a rebirthing of faith from the ground up” (p 16). The author never bothers to explain whether this “conception of God” has any connection to reality at all. Progressives fancy that when their conception of God changes, God changes with it.
[Critiques of “cafeteria religion”] “too often smack of intellectual superiority and moral defensiveness, carrying a whiff of judgment if not outright insult” (p 22). This is her “pre-emptive strike,” since the entire book is indeed a hymn to “cafeteria religion.” Her derisive reference to the critics of cafeteria religion is ironic coming from someone whose contempt for conservative Christianity pervades all of her books.
“This revolution rests upon a simple insight: God is the ground, the grounding, that which grounds us” (p 26). How do we know this “insight” is real? The fact that some people like it proves nothing.
“A few hundred years ago, our ancestors decreed that the earth and all therein were ‘resources’ to be used for profit” (p 35). WHEN was this did our ancestors “decree” (how was that decree issued?) that everything was to be used for profit? No examples, not one. This is a classic straw man argument – “I care about the earth, but those nasty old conservatives, all they care about is profit.”
“An atheist friend of mine is fond of saying, ‘I just don’t believe that God is an old man sitting on the throne in heaven’” (p 52). Actually, Christians do not believe that, either, but apparently this author who claims to be Christian thinks that atheists know exactly what Christians believe. Interesting that the author relies on atheists and agnostics to tell her what conservative Christians think, when there are millions of actual conservative Christians in America who would gladly correct her stereotypes.
“If ‘unclean’ and ‘being soiled’ become the dominant metaphors for sin, it is just a small step to the demonization of real dirt” (p 57). For pete’s sake, who “demonizes” dirt? I’m guessing the author bathes regularly just like most people. Is that a sign that she demonizes dirt?
“John 3:16 is not a call to personal salvation or revivalist fervor. Instead, it offers a glimpse of Christianity’s central cosmology . . . the verse essentially says ‘God so loved the universe, that God entered into the cosmos in the form of a gift, the gift of Jesus, that we might trust in this divine presence and experience abundance’” (p 122). So, we’ve been getting John 3:16 wrong for 2000 years? Nice of her to clear that up.
“A conflict that runs through the texts of the New Testament: Was Jesus the Jewish Messiah or the Savior of the whole world?” (p 146). Actually, no conflict at all, the whole New Testament states plainly that Jesus is both.
“My grandfather was as much a patriarch as it was possible to be in the 1960s. . . . Truth to be told, he was not very nice. . . . The family history was one of hierarchy, authoritarianism, bigotry, exclusion, sexism, and racism—everything I came to reject and work against in my own life” (p 148). Her contempt for the males in her family is very obvious in the book, so her charge of “sexism” is a bit ironic. Progressives generally love the narrative of “I came from backward, reactionary stock, but, by gum, just look at ME and how well I turned out!” Bashing one’s own family is in very bad taste. Also, one would think that someone her age would have lived long enough to understand that ALL families are flawed. It’s typical of the people stuck in the 1960s to diss the old folks, especially those in their own families. I wonder if the author realizes that she is just as bigoted as her grandfather is, but toward different groups of people. Hating blacks is evil, but she’s OK bashing fundamentalists (and not just white ones, because she expressed contempt toward the growth of Christianity in the Global South, that’s millions of black and Latino fundamentalists).
“I had what my father’s aged aunts called ‘gumption’ (a most undesirable quality in a girl)” (p 148). I never heard anyone, male or female, claim that gumption was an undesirable quality in anyone, male or female. This is tipping her hat to the feminists.
“Ruth, an illegal immigrant who seduced her future husband” (p 157). Ruth was an immigrant, no hint in the Bible that she was “illegal,” and to say she “seduced” Boaz is bizarre reading of the text.
“The shockingly unmarried rabbi Jesus (son of a teenage unwed mother)” (p 171). If there is any “shock” about Jesus being single, the New Testament failed to record it. And Mary was not an “unwed mother,” she married Joseph. Progressives had a knack for reading the Bible looking for their favorite objects of affection – “Ooh, look a single guy, I bet that shocked people back then!”
In the 1970s, the patriarchal family, which had already been stretched and strained in many directions, gave way to a new vision: that of the family of mutual exchange, created around the values of shared love, empathetic participation, and freely accepted obligations. This was the contemporary family, built upon affection” (p 173). Oh, please. Families were not loving and empathetic before the 1970s. Oh, and that little matter of “freely accepted obligations” – that worked out in something called “huge increase in divorces.” People who “freely accepted” their obligations discovered they didn’t have to have any obligations at all. Divorce, shacking up, kids bounced from one home to another, frequently raised by a single mom with various boyfriends in and out. Sorry, but her glowing description of the “new and improved” family is propaganda, not reality.
“Home-centered violence can be so destructive that some social scientists refer to it as ‘intimate terrorism’” (p 177). And yet, just a few pages earlier the author was extolling the “new and improved” family of the 1970s and beyond.
“To transform home is to transform the world. Domestic revolts are spiritual and political ones as well” (p 189). Seriously? Growing your own tomatoes and baking your own bread are transforming the world? How?
“My walks became a spiritual practice” (p 223). It appears that whenever she is thinking, something “spiritual” is taking place.
Page 224, she claims that at a local farmers’ market, she buys lamb from a Mennonite, who buys his herbs from a Muslim. “Mennonite and Muslim interfaith cooperation at the farmers’ market. The world, I thought, could learn a lot right here. . . . This was an experience far different from shopping at the chain grocery store” (p 224). Did it occur to her that the employees of the chain grocery store were also a diverse group of human beings? “I know now where my food comes from and how rainfall and sunlight and temperature have an impact on the crops” (p 224). She had to hang around a farmers’ market to learn that the weather affects agriculture? “The contrast with the farmers’ market could not be more obvious: it is a community, and a lively spiritual one at that” (p 225). Engaging in a sale with a person of a different ethnicity makes one “spiritual”? Further, the farmers’ market “is a model of reciprocity, of mutual exchange.” So is a supermarket—that’s what buying and selling are all about, reciprocity and mutual exchange. “The market has become a spiritual practice for me. . . . More and more congregations have begun to host farmers’ markets, trying to make overt the relationship between food, neighborhood, hospitality, and spirituality” (p 226). So, locally grown food is more “spiritual” than food from far away, which would mean that if you buy pineapple or papaya, you are not having much of a spiritual experience. “The market is also connected to larger issues of poverty and social justice” (p 226). Of course it is. Anything that interests progressives, no matter how mundane, is always connected to “larger issues.”
Page 234, she claims she “gasped audibly” in church on Sept 11, 2011, when the preacher had the nerve to mention the four thousand lives lost ten years earlier: “Hoping not to make a scene, I slipped out of the pew and left the building. I sat down on the stairs outside, trying to let my sorrow and fury subside. . . . As I took in the scene [an arts festival outdoors], I thought of a story from the New Testament in which, during a street festival, the Spirit of God descended on a crowd of magnificent diversity (Acts 2:1-13). When the Spirit came, the boundaries of language, nationality, and religion that had separated all those gathered dissolved, and a new community was created, one of a unified humanity.” In fact, all the “diverse” people in Acts 2 were of ONE religion, Judaism. The story in Acts is about the Spirit empowering people to evangelize in other languages, not about a “global community.” “For years, the church had kept me safe inside a building. All the while, the Spirit was out here on the streets” (p 236). So, the upshot is, she walked out of church because the preacher dared to lament the American lives lost on Sept 11, but outside at the arts festival, the Spirit is moving, as proven by the fact that people are different skin colors. Later, on p 266, she says that “a sermon of exclusion chased me out of the church and onto the street.”
My favorite quote: “Religion abandoned a prophetic and creative vision for humanity’s common life in favor of an individual quest to get one’s sorry *ss to heaven” (p 237). Apparently the apostle Peter, mentioned on the previous page, was wrong in telling listeners to “save themselves from this crooked generation.” I think it’s safe to say that she herself does not have a “sorry *ss,” nor her friends, just those nasty old fundamentalists who believe in an afterlife.
“In the last two centuries, religion has allowed itself to become privatized” (p 237). Actually, nothing is more private than the “spiritual but not religious” religion that she lauds. “Religion has been reduced to ‘me’” (p 237). Actually the various mystical and “spiritual experiences” she recounts throughout the book are totally me-centered, her own little private “I feel so spiritual right now” moments, as on p 238: “Spirituality is about personal experience—the deep realization that dirt is good, water is holy, the sky holds wonder.”
“As my friend Jim Wallis says, ‘There are no ‘non-neighbors’ in this world’” (p 260). Both of them openly despise evangelicals, whom apparently are “non-neighbors.”
“Although I have written about this from a largely Christian perspective, it is not distinctly Christian” (p 271). In fact, it isn’t Christian at all. She quotes non-Christian sources more often than she quotes the Bible, and when she does quote the Bible, she “spins” the verses in her own way.
This cafeteria religion only has one item on the menu: ME. If you are that darn wonderful and special, why speak of God at all? When you’re madly in love with your own emotions, God is not needed. For someone who speaks often of “community” and who claims to detest “privatized” religion (especially people who are concerned about getting their souls into heaven), she wrote is the most narcissistic book I ever read, very typical of someone still stuck in the mud at Woodstock.
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This is one of the central points of Diana Butler Bass' book, GROUNDED.Read more