Wednesday, May 01, 2013

You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism by Brad Hirschfield

You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism by Brad Hirschfield is an obvious title choice for a church book group. Hirschfield is a rabbi with a somewhat fanatical past who is now an advocate of open dialogue among adherents of any religion. His book about his own faith journey is filled with ideas and quotes that merit discussion by spiritually minded readers. Some of my favorites follow below.

When faith simplifies things that need to remain complex, instead of giving us strength to live with complexity, when it gives answers where none exists, instead of helping us appreciate the sacredness of living with questions, when it offers certainty when there needs to be doubt, and when it tells us we have arrived when we should still be searching - then there is a problem with that faith. (page 9)

… I always try to accept, deep inside myself, that no matter how passionately I feel about the position I'm taking, I may be completely wrong. (page 56)

In a more just and forgiving world we would realize that the people who hurt us have often been hurt themselves. We would remember that those against whom we struggle are actually "us," not some wholly other "them." It's not that we would never have to fight against certain people and specific things. We would. But how would those fights be different, how much more slowly would they be entered into and how much more quickly resolved if all those involved acknowledged that their intended victims were their own relatives, and they were actually fighting against themselves. (page 67-68)

It is so easy to forget that the system that is right for you, even one that you believe God wants for you, may not be right for everyone. After all, how could the will of an infinite God ever be made so small as to fit into one finite system? Ironically, when it comes to our spiritual lives, we should be making the most room for one another, but it seems that instead we make the least. (page 112)

When the existence of the members becomes more important than their experience of membership, something is wrong. (page 113)

There are more quotable passages throughout. Still, our church discussion group was not totally satisfied with the book. Some members thought it was all rather easily said and predictable. Some thought Hirschfield told too many stories about himself for the book to be taken seriously. Someone else thought his stories were the best part of the book. In any case, it is a fairly short book and quickly read, which is important for many discussion groups. I also believe that imperfect books open up more discussion and think it is worthy of consideration for groups that have not already read it.

Hirschfield, Brad. You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. Harmony Books, 2007. 271p. ISBN 9780307382979.

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