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January 12, 1990 - Image 53

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-01-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

JUST ARRIVED... BRAND NEW STYLES!

Making Room For God
In Our Busy Lives

With the phenomenal
success early this decade
of his best-selling, When
Bad Things Happen to
Good People, Rabbi
Harold Kushner discov-
ered, to "my great sur-
prise, that I have a na-
tional audience out there
receptive to what I've
been telling my congrega-
tion in Natick, Ma., for
the last 23 years."
Six years ago, commit-
ted both to writing and to
being a congregational
rabbi, Kushner became a
part-time pulpit rabbi. "I
didn't want to give up the
congregation," he said in
a telephone interview
from his study at Temple
Israel, "and I didn't want
to turn down all the entic-
ing offers," such as ap-
pearances on the Phil
Donohue show or nicely
paid speaking engage-
ments.
Kushner's new book,
Who Needs God, is an ex-
position on the purpose
and usefulness of religion
in contemporary life. As
Kushner writes in the
book's introduction, the
book is about "what we
lose when we become too
intellectual or too modem
to make room for religion
in our lives."
Kushner's thesis is that
"our souls remain stunted
and undeveloped" without
the proper spiritual
nourishment. He uses
extensive quotes from the
Book of Psalms, but also
from African mythology,
Bertrand Russell, Freud,
the sociologist Emile
Durkheim, Elie Wiesel, a
Unitarian minister and
many personal anecdotes.
Who Needs God is noth-
ing if not eclectic. As
Kushner said over the
phone, "I like to think
that the voice I articulate
is unmistakably a Jewish
voice, but the message is
one everyone can relate
to."
"First and foremost,"
writes Kushner, "religion
is a way of seeing. It can't
change the facts about
the world we live in, but it
can change the way we
see those facts, and that
in itself can often make a
real difference."

At one point in his life,
Kushner said, he did not
view life through the lens
of religion. Upon leaving
home to attend Columbia
University. "a whole new
ambience opened up upon
entering a wider, secular
world. - In this heady in-
tellectual world, he recall-
ed, "the window of agnos-
ticism was opened brief-
ly."

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Harold Kushner: Addressing "what
we lose when we become too in-
tellectual or too modern."

But the window shut
quickly and hasn't been
opened since. Kushner
has three degrees from
the Jewish Theological
Seminary and four
honorary degrees.
One of Kushner's cur-
rent concerns, which he
addresses in Who Needs
God, is the sustained ap-
peal of "New Age" reli-
gions, whose world-view
he describes as "a strange
blend of partially digest-
ed Buddhism and post-
Einsteinian physics. ' He
is especially critical of the
New Age canon that God
is a more or less neutral
"energy" rather than a
"morally demanding
force" as Kushner be-
lieves.
To some extent, the
New Age idea also gives
its adherents an illusion
of self-sufficiency. This,
and not disobedience or
lust, writes Kushner, is
original sin, and to counter
that we need to cultivate
the humility necessary to
find God. E
— A. J. M.

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

53

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