About ten years ago I became fascinated with religion. Now, I have always attended church as a matter of fact I have been a member of my current church for over thirty years and even served as an elder. But I wouldn’t have described myself as overtly religious or even educated about what it is or was that I “believed” in.
That changed when I heard Philip Yancey speak about his book The Jesus I Never Knew. What Mr. Yancey and his book encouraged me to do was ask questions about my faith and myself. You see I was attending church not because I was looking for answers but because it was the right thing to do for myself and my family, something expected of me.
So I started with the most obvious and handy book available, the Bible. After about two weeks of reading I didn’t feel like I had any better understanding of the “story” than I did when I started. So I asked my minister for his help he suggested I buy The Oxford Bible Commentary to read along as a companion for my new-found interest.
After several months and many more highlighters I completed the task of reading the Bible cover to cover. Along the way I jotted down notes of questions that I had and some of the characters that I wanted to explore further.
Now I am a Presbyterian and Presbyterians place a huge value on education, think Princeton and Harvard Seminary. As such, my Church has an extensive library of books that address all manners of the Christian faith, both the traditional and the radical. We also have books about other faiths, such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and all the other “ism’s” out there. We are, in a word, a very progressive Church.
The other avenue that I have at my disposal is a wonderful used book store. What I have discovered over the years is that people buy a lot of religious books and apparently, based on the incredible condition I buy them in, don’t ever read them.
I spent three years reading and buying books about Christianty, Jesus, Paul, Peter and James. I amassed a collection of books, a mountain of books of various thoughts and opinions about the faith and these four very important individuals. Each book, each author lead me to another. Each idea, each explanation sent me searching for another answer. I emptied highlighters and tested my wife’s patience with the places I found to store all of my books.
From Christianity I jumped to Judaism and from Judaism I jumped to Buddhism. It may not seem like a natural progression but you would be surprised. And once again, more books. Books that were easy to navigate and others that made my head hurt. Theories, thoughts and ideologies that were new and different beyond anything that I could have ever imagined.
I don’t know if I am any smarter today than I was when I started ten years ago but I do know this, I got a lot of books and I have been building them a new home. If any of you remember I like old doors, and I have built a bookcase fashioned from two old wonderful doors I found at the thrift shop for ten dollars. Rather than having my books scattered all over the house in every nook and cranny I can find I will be able to have them all together arranged by topic. I am sure as I begin collecting them, and find the ones my wife has hidden in the closet I will discover gems that I will need to read again which will uncover more questions, more thoughts and eventually more books.