book reports
May 2015


translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

I spent over two years reading this, and I expect to continue encountering it throughout my life. Anything that calls itself scripture will always be fascinating to me. God is not a building, God is not a book.


The East and the West belong to God: wherever you turn, there His Face is.


Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God

Lauren F. Winner

The introduction to this book is great. Starts out with a short but excellent look at the problem of using gendered pronouns when referring to God, and how since language will always fail in any attempt to describe God, all we have is symbols and partial pictures, and those metaphors matter: "There are also social and political consequences to our images of God. As theologians Mary Daly and Judith Plaskow have pointed out, the characteristics we attribute to God will always be those characteristics that we value most highly in our own society: we will value what we take God to be (and perhaps, conversely, it is what we value that we take God to be). So if we say that a core characteristic of God is mercy, we will value merciful people. If we imagine God as one who nurtures, we will value nurturing. If we pray to a God who is a property owner (as in the parables of the vineyard), we will admire people who own houses and land. If we focus instead on God as a homeless man (as in Matthew 8:20 and Luke 9:58), we might accord homeless people more esteem." It then claims that the rest of the book will be a discussion of overlooked metaphors that the bible uses for God: God as a beekeeper! God as a tree, a dog, a drunk, as water - what could be better! None of those images are discussed though, and of the six metaphors that were focused on, only one - God as a woman giving birth - was especially interesting to me.

What I did like about this book though is that the introduction did something in my brain that made me start looking for metaphors everywhere. I remembered when I had a cat, I often thought that in our relationship sometimes I was like God and sometimes the cat was. My friends who have become parents have said similar things about their kids. Trees and mountains and flowering vines and lions and gravel roads and old women making bazlama are not God, but when they are in some way like God, they can help us understand God. Huseyin and Kubilay have both frequently said and done things that have startled me towards new and clearer ways of seeing and thinking about God, and I have even a few times startled myself. Sometimes these things make me feel so insane but I usually just feel so good: "I used to wonder where you are, these days I can't find where you're not."



other books I read this month:
THE ETERNAL HUSBAND - Fyodor Dostoevsky