Friday, August 14, 2009

Find out who needs God – a book review

For those who are looking for or who have turned away from God…
The issues and content in the book Who Needs God by Harold Kushner are rooted in the author’s personal frustration. He tells his readers that he wrote this book because he had to.

Kushner, a rabbi, says that people look away from God to find identity and meaning in work, family and retirement. His frustration comes from having spent nearly 30 years attempting to show his congregants "how much more fulfilled they would be if they made room for [God and] their religious tradition in their lives…."

With frustration in tow, the author sets out to marry his to two loves: his love for religious tradition and love for his congregation. In doing so, Kushner sets out to subtly and serendipitously answer the rhetorical question that the title of this work poses – Who Needs God.

Kushner takes all nine chapters to argue everyone's need for God. He contends that our souls crave spiritual nourishment. Without it, he says, we become spiritually "stunted and underdeveloped."

To receive spiritual fulfillment, Kushner contends, we need to enter into a kind of communion. This communion is often not accessible because "the world is so noisy and full of distractions, we are so dazzled by our power and success or religion in the late twentieth century is often badly packaged or presented by people we cannot trust or admire."

Throughout the book, he consistently and systematically takes to task our post-modern insatiable appetites for more power and more things in light of God’s covenantal relationship.

Creating a tension between sacred tradition and lack thereof, Kushner points his finger at modernization as the culprit to our inability to realize our need for God.

In Who Needs God the author presents an important debate about this need for God, a debate that often appears to be non-existent in today's world.

Who talks about this need? Where do you go to learn more about it? How do you even know if you need God?

This book evokes larger questions about how we approach this need for God in congregations.Is the absence of talk about needing God contributing to the declining rolls in mainline Protestant churches?

Kushner writes, "In a century which encourages us to use computers and makes it so hard for us to write or read poetry, it is so easy to put out the sacred fires which have been tended to for a hundred generations."
2009 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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