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Help Thou My Unbelief

book review by William Cleary

Religion In Exile by Diarmuid O'Murchu (Crossroad 2000)
241 pp. $15.95

Jerry Springer, now running for the US Senate (where he'd fit right in), produces a degenerate TV show on which disgusting things happen to people before our very eyes, even such gross brutalities as children being told by their mothers that they've been a prostitute for years. Does this not remind you of the bishops role in the clergy scandals? Even worse than the widespread pedophilia among priests, what could be more meretricious than our bishops' -- to keep Mother Church in business -- shifting priest child molesters to new unsuspecting communities? "Whoring" is the name for it.
        But Religion In Exile was written before the recent scandals. It's critique is even more fundamental. I have never read a more fiery and convincing criticism of all religion than this. The author is an Irish priest and psychotherapist, full of novel and radical insights, a prophet full of promise and certainly destined for trouble with Rome. His other books - on Religious life, on spirituality, on evolution - are equally gripping, bright and serious.
        The central contention in Religion In Exile (which - as I said to him recently and he agreed - should have been entitled Religion As Exile) consists of applying the paradigm of "exile" to every institutional religion. For O'Murchu, spirituality is primary and healthy, but religion takes you out of your instinctive spirituality - which should be based on your natural and personal experiences of the sacred - and out of your soul's native land into exile. Can you believe it: our beloved religion - and every other religion as well, says he - was supposedly organized by males trying to keep control of people's lives. The founders of these institutions were no doubt sincere and inspired, he admits, but the institutional forms of them are uniformly patriarchal and alienating, illusion-producing and toxic.
        If you happen to be already living along the fringe-lands of the Church, wondering what to do about religion and spirituality in your life, this book would be helpful. Whatever steps you might take on your reluctant journey out of Egypt, you probably should do it prayerfully - so that you will have as much guidance from God as possible, at least a cloud by day, a little fire by night. I began this journey myself some years ago, with a prayer - as well as I can remember - something like the following. You are welcome to it if it's useful.

"Holy God of my heart, loving creator spirit, it is You I turn to at every important moment of my life. Be with me as I seek to understand some of the mysteries around me, the mystery of your own self and of how you are with us, and especially the mystery of the institutional Catholic Church, the land of my spiritual birth. Since I do not find that land any longer a place I feel at home, guide me through the desert to some other land more full of promise, more congenial to my soul, to my reasoning mind, and to my heart. My faith in You is unshaken; help thou my unbelief. Amen.
         (You can receive daily a similar prayer by Email by a request to dgawlik@wi.rr.com) #

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