Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Naked Spirituality

Naked Spirituality is Brian McLaren's newest book. It's also one of his best. Naked Spirituality is for anyone who wants to strip away the clutter of traditional religious trappings and dive into a deeper, purer, and more meaningful spirituality. Reading it feels like a quick dip in a cool pond on a hot day. For those of you who didn't grow up on a farm, that is a good thing! Totally refreshing. 

Let me allow McLaren to introduce the book. In the Preface of Naked Spirituality, he says, "This book is about getting naked - not physically, but spiritually. It's about stripping away the symbols and status of public religion - the Sunday-dress version people often call 'organized religion.' And it's about attending to the well-being of the soul clothed only in naked human skin" (ix). Then, in an interview on my blog, McLaren said: "In a single sentence, I hope the book helps a wide range of people become more vulnerable to a genuine and transformative experience of God's presence in their lives." Indeed, it does that. Naked Spirituality invites people to leave behind the masks and pretences that most of us drag around. It then helps us to find practical ways to enjoy a better, more authentic, and more spiritual life.

Naked Spirituality is focused around twelve meditative words that serve as spiritual practices: here (opening to God's abiding presence), thanks (expanding our sense of gratitude and enoughness), O (soaking up the joy of life and God), sorry (living honestly and transforming wrongs), help (empowering ourselves to ask for help from God and others), please (relying on the support of God and others to get through difficulties), when (aspire after a better life and world), no (allowing ourselves to acknowledge pain, lament about our troubles, and refuse a problematic life and world), why (allowing ourselves and others to ask God the difficult questions that arise from pain and doubt), behold (mindfully noticing and appreciating the indescribable goodness of God and the world), yes (joining and engaging in the sacred mission of God) , and [...] (enjoying moments of silence and contemplation).

McLaren weaves together pithy writing, evocative Scripture, powerful stories, intriguing quotes, enriching poetry, thoughtful song lyrics, etc. in order to help the reader dive deeply into these spiritual practices. Straight up prose would have been too dry - and boring. Thankfully the many different kinds of writing that McLaren uses keeps the spiritually thirsty reader both satiated and engaged. He also provides an appendix with suggestions for group practice, body prayers, and spoken prayers.

This book is not a cheesy self-help book that provides the 10 easy steps to spiritual enlightenment. Those books are a dime a dozen. Instead, Naked Spirituality provides 12 meditative concepts to consider, and then allows each reader to develop the spiritual practices that will best help them embody the spiritual ideas. In other words, McLaren dignifies the reader for having a brain, heart, and context that might be different from his own - and other readers. Instead of spoon-fed religiosity, McLaren invites others to dive in and explore the waters with him.

To conclude this review, here is a taste of how McLaren describes the spiritual life:
"There is a river that runs like a song through this world, a river of sacredness, a river of beauty, a river of reverence and justice and goodness. I know that some people have only rarely seen or barely sensed it. But I also know that you and I are learning to live like green trees along its shore, drawing its vitality into us, and passing it on for the healing of our world. Its waters are clear, refreshingly cool, and clean, and if you care, you can strip naked, dive in, and swim" (237).
Naked Spirituality is full of quality writing like that quote. If you want to connect more deeply to God and your own authentic self, treat yourself to this refreshing, rejuvenating book. It will help you strip off the rags of tired religion and dive into the Healing River of God.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, sounds an intriguing book, one I hadn't heard of; indeed hadn't heard of the author either and just stumbled across the book on Amazon! However I am now going to buy it! Thanks again