The Romance of Religion

The Romance of Religion, Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty

By Dwight Longenecker, W Publishing Group, 2014

 

Rarely have I reviewed a book so loaded with spiritual dynamite, or been so pleasantly surprised by an author’s insights. As a surgeon applies the knife to soft tissue and bone, Longenecker cuts to the chase, or should I say, the quest, in this in-depth overview of the “Divine Comedy” woven between the lines of human mythology.

 

He is a wordsmith, and a word-player of the first order, which at times can shroud his meaning and intentional thesis: “Modern religion has ceased to be a religion at all. It has become a set of table manners.” (p.52)

We’ve settled for milquetoast and marmalade, a colorless, insubstantial, bloodless story of God’s invasion of our privacy over two thousand years ago.

 

He posits his protagonist to be a “religious romantic” who wields the pen as a verbal sword, using words as a weapon to fight for Truth and Beauty. He considers all great literature and the ancient myths the really truest stories, because they point to the “real possibility that the unseen world could intersect this world”. I am reminded that C. S. Lewis wrote along the same lines in his retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth in ”Til We Have Faces”.

 

“How odd of God to choose the Jews”, is an actual remark loaded with truth. The Jews were an ordinary, unremarkable tribe of nomads, yet this “desert trash” has actually incarnated the spiritual and psychological history of the whole human race: “tales of lost children, transit through the underworld, quest for redemption, the salvation from slavery, the passage from death to life, and the hero’s battle with the forces of darkness…these fantastic tales become family saga.”

 

He points out the fundamental flaw of science and materialism is actually a bargaining chip for the poets and religious romantics, who have always seen the unseen world as more real than what the senses can perceive. Modern scientists have ultimately concluded: “the energy that holds the physical world together is the same energy as light, or as one physicist, David Bohm, has said, “Matter, as it were, is condensed or frozen light”, and “Einstein decided that all matter could be reduced to photons-little particles of light” (p.49) Modern man, on the other hand, has been content with dull and boring religion, and forgotten it is really about an encounter with another world, an unseen kingdom. The poet and the priest (Longenecker is both) contend with language and meaning, make new connections, and break open the human psyche to receive more light.

 

This is a wonderful read that must be reread because the author has condensed so much light between the pages. He brings magic, romance and mystery to bear on the heart of today’s religion that has lost it heart, its passion, its power to enchant and capture the dying souls of men.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Question of Sequestering

Sequester 1.to remove or withdraw into solitude or retirement; seclude. 2. to hold in solution especially for the purpose of suppressing undesired chemical or biological activity.

What does being sequestered look like in a struggling author’s life? I was basically put on a media-free diet, did not die, but lived to tell the story.  And here it is.

Yosemite rangers called John with a personnel emergency. They needed to fill a vacancy for a Camp Host. Was he available on such short notice? His whole countenance shouted yes! He turned to me and said, “Mary, here’s your chance to write, and I get to have fun! God must really want you to write this book!” It was such a dramatic answer to the cry of my heart…“Lord, I need some good chunks of time to move this book along.” So I jumped into the river of words.

 

S/W Ver: 96.B0.0AR

 

He was gone the next day, tent and supplies all packed, and Pearl was his companion. It rained constantly and it was cold. The rule: no fires in the morning, only at night. Misery on steroids. John the Marine could cope, but little Pearl needed her customary pampering.

Regroup. John had two days off, and returned. Hank, a fellow Marine, offered his gorgeous motor home, but John was apprehensive about driving this expensive vehicle. I offered to ride shotgun, and help him through this hurdle. Soon his old bus driving skills kicked in, and we arrived safely at #50 campsite, Upper Pines, Yosemite, USA, just in time to face the busiest weekend ever in Yosemite’s history. Memorial Day! And we couldn’t believe how quiet the campers were. Could this be a “desert place” after all?

While John worked, I wrote, and  learned to LOOK UP every day and feast my soul on beauty and majesty. On our left was the magnificent Half Dome that I once climbed. On our right was Glacier Point which made its presence felt by a rollicking rock slide the next day! (Shot me out of the motor home quaking like an aspen tree.) That was the biggest noise we heard

As I sat down to write the second day, I saw God’s fingerprints all over arranging the circumstance and the exchange.  BEING SEQUESTERED BY GOD WAS HIS PLAN. So, I agreed to stay the remaining two weeks with John, even though it meant having to wash undies and socks. Luckily, there were no fashion police to report on our grungy camp wear. Camping is fun and freedom!

The book-to-be, LOVEWALK AWAKENING, loomed large in my mind as I wrested words from the air, my heart and memory. Lord, Help me to describe the wondrous weaving of my life intersecting with John’s. Then I realized I needed John’s daily input, because it was becoming our story. And he took on the role of listener and arbiter. We had to do this together. DUH?

I received an email from Marlene Hyde, the lady in the photo with the green shirt. We became dear friends after a Missions trip together many moons ago. She had recommended “Love Song” to her book club, and would I be available to conduct a phone interview? Wow! It was such a privilege to share with them.

The Bear Valley Book Club ladies who loved my book and photo(53) wanted to hear what happened to my two daughters after I had taken LSD while still pregnant, a fact that took me years to talk about, never mind writing about. I assured them that LSD, a mind-altering drug is not physically addicting, and then gave them a good report.  Q. “What advice would you give Christian women today?” A.“Well, the happiest people I know are those who give of their time to help others, especially those who can’t return the favor!” Q. “How can I help my son who is squandering his time away with pipe dreams?” A. “Someone who smokes pot has chosen to live in a fantasy world. It’s psychologically addicting. Give him a good dose of reality and send him on a Missions trip!” A. “What a great idea!!”

I wrote three more chapters, and moved the story along to when John and I were drawn together by the strong cords of Love.

Q. Mr. Foreman, has the jury reached a verdict?” A. Yes, “SHE IS RELEASED FROM BONDAGE AND FEAR!  Ah! the sweet fruit of sequestering.

“Never worry where you’re headed for….the river always knows the way. We’re forever drifting in between…. tomorrow and yesterday.”                (A song from “Journey to the Nile”)