Stumbling Towards God: A Prodigal’s Return

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Topics: Spiritual Exploration & Practice. Ages: Adult. Resource Types: Books.

Review & Commentary

One thought on “Stumbling Towards God: A Prodigal’s Return

  1. Review

    Margaret D. McGee, who writes fiction, plays and poetry as well as nonfiction about her spiritual life, tells the amazing story of her spiritual pilgrimage. Her story began when, in Sunday school and day school, she began to experience, as many people do, a conflict between the world of faith and the world of intellect. She writes, "Religion and education – the intertwined roots of my childhood – were revealed as two separate, mutually incompatible beings, each poison to the other." Unable to believe that God is a Supreme Being, she left the Church during her freshman year of college. She described herself as an atheist, although once during the stress of her job she wrote a prayer. Then after a quarter of a century, she began to feel a "lack of the spiritual side of my life." She was, as she puts it in the title of a chapter, "Ready For Revolution."

    But where could she find the right group of fellow travelers for the next stage of her journey? Although she had been brought up in the church, she disapproved of its exclusiveness, its male dominance, and its biblical fundamentalism. She writes, "To embrace a religion, I was afraid I’d either have to embrace a world view that contradicted my personal views, or be surrounded by it, clinging to my little island of rationalist in a sea of rationalizations. I didn’t see how I could do it." And yet she wanted to pursue her quest. Several unpleasant events that occurred in her professional life led her to look for a church. Her criteria was to find a church where she could contribute to its organizational goals and her own personal goals at the same time.

    So she went church shopping. She began with the Methodists, the church of her childhood. Next she tried the Presbyterian, then a fundamentalist church. She was tempted to go to all the Protestant churches and then "drop in" on the Catholics, Jews and Buddhists. But before pursuing that plan, she decided to give two local congregations a chance – the Episcopal and the Unitarian. Alternating Sundays between the two, she describes in some detail her experiences in each of these churches. In summary she writes, "I was attracted to the Unitarians because of the way they were like me in back ground, attitude toward organized religion, and reliance on process rather than doctrine. I liked it that their principles were clear. I have a lot of respect for clarity. I was attracted to the Episcopalians for the sensuality and beauty of the service, and surprisingly, for the desire to argue with them about doctrine-the way they were unlike me.

    She devotes a chapter describing her involvement in both churches, getting to know members of both congregations. She concludes by reflecting on the two groups and "what she got from each: good talk, good soup, some insight, a piece of homemade apricot breakfast bread. Respectful attention and support, a bit of love given and received, a small step closer to God. I was struck how different they were and how much the same, and how I wouldn’t give up on for the other. To go where I wanted to go, I needed both. In the Episcopalians and the Unitarians I had finally found my team." Her next step was to confront and wrestle with the similarities and differences between the two churches. She devotes thoughtful, inquiring chapters to "liturgy, history, and ritual," prayer, myth, and from the Virgin to the Cross.

    In conclusion she writes "In my stumbling path toward God, I went back to church for help in finding answers. To my surprise, the answers I found contained even more challenging questions. I’ve return to the beginning, but not unchanged." She expresses the change she experienced, "I will never again leave the images, symbols, myths, metaphors and stories of Christianity behind. In the process of rediscovering my religion, they have become my stories." This engaging book will appeal to "seekers" beginning their stumbling path toward God. It will also be a resource for readers at various stages along the path to God, who are open to finding challenging questions in the answers. The book contains a Reading Group Guide.

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