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January 23, 2004 - Image 47

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-23

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

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embarking on the journey was Sept.
endeavor. The book's second half, "The
11, 2001.
Book of Psalms," the authors chronicle
"When 9/11 happened," Manseau
of their travels and their discovered sto-
recalls,
"we realized the book was more
ries of faith, is every bit as enlightening
important
than we thought. We knew
and eye-popping.
we
had
a
unique
opportunity to find
The two men, who met while both
out the spiritual state of the nation. It
worked at the Yiddish Book Center,
made our responsibility even greater,
shared a frustration in how religion was
even as it made our work easier because
addressed by the press.
people were very will-
In an interview with
ing to talk to us.
the Jewish News,
"We drove about in
Sharlet, the son of a
a
beat-up
car with
Pentecostal Hindu
New
York
plates.
Buddhist and a Jew,
Before Sept. 11, peo-
recalled this frustration.
ple might not have
"[Religion coverage]
been as willing to talk
tends to be either very
to us. But coming
benign — wonderful
from New York, we
bake sales — or it's dan-
had a badge of honor
gerous fanaticism. And
that created empathy
that's not the whole
and compassion, a
story. It's usually both or Jeff Sharlet: "Bn the Jew,
sense of trust."
Peter's the Catholic, but
somewhere in between,
The trip also created
the
one
who's
pretty
Peter's -
but religion is not per-
a
deepened
sense of
good
at
Yiddish,"
says
Sharlet
fume or mustard gas."
compassion
and
of
his
co-author.
The authors decided
empathy
in
the
to go -after the whole
authors as well.
story, to unearth religion
"We were scarred by
as it is practiced in all
it,"
Sharlet recalls. "We
the far-flung corners
were
flip after months
of the country. They
on
the
road; there were
wanted to get at the
times
when
we were
worshiper whose
blasted.
You
would go
house of worship was-
and see people have
n't temple, mosque or
the strangest and silli-
church but something
est beliefs and realize
less traditional — tor-
that it comes from
nadoes, bars, pagan
really profound pain.
festivals.
"It's easy to make
Of their travels,
Peter Manseau: Jews,
fun
[of a man dancing
Manseau, the son of
Anglicans, liberal Catholics,
with
antlers on his
a former Catholic
avowed atheists all agreed with head], but the more
priest and nun, says,
what we were doing, says
we talked the more we
"We came away a lot
Manseau, which was "taking
realized how smart
more in love with all
faith seriously, and not just
many of these people
the different ways
treating it as self-help and
were.
people express their
mindless fiznaticism."
"We weren't search-
faith and faithless-
ing
for religious truths.
ness around the
We were looking for
country. There is so
the ways people explored religion or
much wonderful, moving stuff.
didn't. To speak of Christian or Jew is
"I think it mainly opened our eyes
to miss a lot of these differences.
seeing this country as very polytheistic.
"The people who have the most
It's not that there are a million different
interesting
things to say about religion
faiths, but you have to get out of the
are those who say they have no use for
cities. Jesus here and Jesus there are so
it and have left it behind. Because they
different as to be different gods."
don't go to church or temple, they
Sharlet and Manseau write about a
might give it more thought than
Jewish storm chaser who finds God in
churches or temples allow for." ❑
the patterns of looming tornadoes and
about a pagan festival in Heartland,
Jeff Sharlet and Peter Manseau
Kan., replete with Druids, Wiccans and
appear 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan.
men dancing with racks of antlers on
28, at the Arborland Borders,
their heads.
3527 Washtenaw Ave., in Ann
As coincidence (or Divine interven-
Arbor. (734) 677-6948.
tion or lack thereof) would have it,
Sharlet's last day of work before

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2004

47

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