As a budding materialist (for info on what that means, see these posts) and philosopher, I’m not typically interested in books on spirituality. This is probably a fault of mine, but I openly admit it. However, when I first read about Steve McSwain‘s book The Enoch Factor I was intrigued for a couple of reasons. First, I read the Book of Enoch in college and remembered him having been an interesting character of the Hebrew Bible. Second, McSwain’s take on the type of shallow spirituality professed in many churches today seemed right on, and I wanted to hear him out. Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.
What initially drew me to this book is also what carried me through to the end–McSwain’s unapologetic critique of the type of Christianity that requires assent to key beliefs or dogmas. McSwain himself has clearly undergone a very real transformation after which he understands truth, religion, and faith not as a set of dogmatic statements or theological litmus-tests, but as a journey that could take on many forms. As one who attends an “emergent” church with openly gay ministers on staff, it was absolutely refreshing to hear a former Southern Baptist pastor articulate his understanding of faith as constantly expanding and evolving and his understanding of other religions as equally possible paths to the divine reality. McSwain’s book is truly brave in this regard–he embraces his gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and affirms that while Christianity is his chosen path, it is not the only path to knowing God.
The reason I tend not to read books on spirituality is that all too often these books focus on extra-worldly concerns, leaving aside the issues that face us everyday in the world we currently inhabit. I don’t, however, think this is the case with The Enoch Factor. Aside from a couple of statements (which I may have misinterpreted), I think that the type of spirituality McSwain models could in fact be one that renews human individuals in order for them to focus on addressing real-world concerns with new vivacity and a renewed sense of purpose. Knowing God, the way he articulates it, is a journey that can lead each person to a better space, a better personal awareness, and toward a healthier means of living and being in the world. McSwain writes: “Unless there are profound changes in human consciousness–that is, changes in how we look at each other and treat each other, there is little hope for humanity’s survival.” This statement from the beginning of the book signals his desire to address the problems inherent in the physical world we call home through a vital spiritual quest that calls us to give up on “religion” in favor of a life of faith with an acute awareness of the divine and a clearer understanding of our role on this earth.